What is it like being a 9?
I was introduced to the Enneagram only a few years ago and I am now in my sixties. Initially I did not like my score. I took the test a few times and I scored high on a variety of scales. I thought I could be any of these personalities. My highest scores besides 9 were typically 3 (i.e., my drive to succeed) or 7 (i.e., my enthusiastic nature). I liked these types better, but I kept coming back to what is more me, a 9. This is definitely more true of me during my college years when I had not done much emotional or spiritual work. What I do not like about the 9 is my typical sin of “sloth.” I know that “sloth” in the Enneagram does not mean lazy. I am definitely not lazy, but it identifies my tendency to check out when life gets messy. It is an image of me as too passive and too adaptable. Those are images of me that I dislike. Whenever someone says those things about me, I get defensive. I know that reinforces in me that I am a 9.
I am a peace maker. I am good at seeing all sides of a situation. I can be on most anyone’s side. I used to think of my adaptability as a gift. I tried to carry a laid-back California vibe when I went to grad school. I thought I was a cool, relaxed dude, and I was, but I also had issues with anger, something that 9s typically are not aware of. Thankfully I became more aware and began to work on my anger over the years. I have also received messages that I am too passive, that I need to step up more. That, too, has been good work for me. I have stepped up and grown into more of a 3 (i.e., more achievement oriented), but underneath it is still my growth edge, to step up, a part of me that I still sometimes struggle with. I know that my adaptability saved me as a kid growing up in boarding schools. I coped by adapting and I made it into a virtue. I coped by working hard at understanding my various guardians and teachers, so as to keep the peace. In the same way I worked hard to understand my peers, both those who got made fun of and those who were popular. As a result, I fit in well with others and missed out on the bullying of some of my peers. Getting good at keeping peace was my salvation growing up and it has been my struggle. It has often kept me in the background. Deep within me is the longing to be seen, known and accepted, but I can go to invisible. To the degree I have stayed in the background and not been seen, I am not really known and I do not impact the world around me.
Can you share a personal story of your number in action?
As a mental health counselor, my style has helped me many times connect and mediate conflict in marriages that I serve. I am good at seeing both sides and helping others be heard and understood. And to the degree the two sides get heard, I believe, is the degree that people are able to make peace in their relationships. I have made this skill into a successful career.
How has the Enneagram helped you in the process of personal or spiritual growth?
Identifying my growth edge as a 9 has been very helpful. I see my growth edge as my need to be present and stay present. When I am present, I am passionate and powerful. My challenge is to step up and be the person God created me to be. My mission is to create an alive, free, authentically loving world. I do that by courageously sharing my story. In wisdom I create safety and extend grace. I inspire. I do this when I am at my best. And, I can also easily check out, stick my head in the sand and just adapt. That is my default mode. When I do that, I am invisible, and I inspire nobody. My other challenge as a 9 has been to acknowledge and work on my anger. I was never allowed to be angry growing up. By not acknowledging my anger, it leaked out over the years. It worked for me on the football field in high school and on the rugby pitch in college, but not so much in my relationships. Owning my anger and working on it has given me an awareness of my underlying feelings of sadness and fear and my underlying needs for comfort and my need for value. By acknowledging my anger, I opened the door to my heart and my needs. Owning my anger has given me the energy to be more present and share what I have to say. It is still my growth edge, to be more present with what I have to offer this world. It helps to keep in front of me the shadow that is so common for 9’s, my tendency when things get difficult to check out. As I keep that shadow out in front of me, I can choose to do life differently. I can be courageous and be present, or I can choose fear and check out. I am committed to being present. As I do so, I choose life.
How has the Enneagram impacted your relationships (e.g., spouse, kids, etc.)?
My ability to mediate as a 9 has been a gift to me vocationally. But the downside of the 9 is my default mode of checking out when things get difficult. I have worked hard at overcoming this, but it is and has been my default mode. In marriage when my wife and I get into conflict, my default mode is to check out. I can get mad and walk off in a huff and disappear. My work in marriage has been to commit to come back and get back into relationship with my wife. As I have done that both I and my marriage have grown. My wife’s challenge to me all along has been to be more present with her. It is her love language. My tendency to pull away has been difficult for her. I believe she would say that at times I checked out, especially when we were in conflict. My natural tendency to pull away hurt those closest to me. At work those who know me best have always encouraged me to step up, and when I do, what I do and say has been valued.