The Enneagram: Pathways, not boxes
As coaches, we know that the Enneagram is so much more than a set of categories to be ‘sorted into’. It is a rich, complex, psychodynamic model for understanding how people operate, develop and integrate. Once you understand the 9 Types, you begin to develop a deeper understanding of the Lines that run to and from each Type.
LINES OF INTEGRATION/DISINTEGRATION VS LINES OF STRETCH AND RELEASE
Each Enneagram Type is connected to two other Types by Lines which indicate the tensions and relationships between the different Types. While a person’s Core Type or ‘home base’ remains constant, they can travel or be pulled along these connecting Lines.
Some Enneagram authors and practitioners refer to the Lines in terms of integration and disintegration. This theory suggests that each Type follows an inevitable pattern of disintegration or ‘falling down’ to the low, unhealthy side of one connected point, or integration that allows them to access the higher side of a ‘healthy’ connected point.
For example, this theory suggests that an Enneagram 7 will ‘disintegrate’ or ‘fall towards’ Ennea 1 under stress or pressure, becoming critical, sharp and dissatisfied – but in a healthier state will ‘integrate’ to Ennea 5, bringing depth and an awareness of managing their resources and energy.
At Integrative Enneagram Solutions, we prefer a more developmental approach that refers to Lines of Stretch and Release. In our experience and research, we find it just as likely that people can move towards and integrate the higher or more positive influences of the so-called disintegration point, or take on less-useful qualities of the integration point.
For example, an Ennea 7 under pressure may take on certain unhealthy characteristics of Ennea 5, trying to detach and compartmentalise to cope with the stress. This same client could also make a healthy movement towards Ennea 1, exercising the qualities of discipline and discernment to make wise choices.
A POSITIVE VIEW OF THE LINES
This more positive view appreciates that each Line represents an energy flow, a polarity to be lived into and integrated. The Lines offer beautiful opportunities to stretch into powerful ways of being that can balance a person’s natural style or comfort zone. They bring fresh resources to a person’s Core Type, as moving along the Lines offers a significant shift in perspective, which allows people to step out of their typical style and reactions and create new ways to respond to the world around them.
"Here is the main thing: the lines are the basic building blocks of the Enneagram, not the points. An Enneagram line is an archetype, a collection of themes, like a novel or a life. These themes are meant to be engaged, participated in, and wrestled with". - Michael Goldberg, Enneagram Author
The two Lines have a different degree of challenge for the client - moving towards the Release point tends to offer some balance or relief from strain, whereas moving to the Stretch point takes clients out of their comfort zone, challenging them to explore new behaviours.
The Lines of Release
This Line represents the direction of security, possibility or release, indicated by the sequence of 1-7-5-8-2-4-1 and on the inner triangle, the clockwise sequence 9-3-6-9. Moving along this Line explores the higher aspects of the connected Type, opening the door to self-actualisation and releasing stress.
For example, if an Ennea 2 under pressure can tap into the positive characteristics of Ennea 4, such as connecting to their own emotions, needs, creative expression and discernment they may step into a different way of being, get a different perspective on the situation and find some release from their stress and internal conflict.
The Lines of Stretch
This Line represents the direction of stretch or challenge, indicated by the sequence of 1-4-2-8-5-7-1 and the inner triangle’s anticlockwise sequence of 9-6-3-9. This Line offers a challenge or stretch that offers powerful avenues for personal growth. Intentionally accessing the higher, healthier aspects of the Line of Stretch may also help balance the less effective tendencies or reactions of the Core Type.
For example, if the Ennea 2 consciously accesses the high side of the 8, they intentionally step out of their comfort zone and connect to their personal power. Expressing their anger directly and appropriately, they worry less about how others react. For an overburdened ‘Helper’ 2, experiments in this direction may be developmental and help them become unstuck.
The Lines enable opportunities to either intensify or alleviate pressure, to increase or create energy for change. When working with the Lines, remember to stimulate a positive sense of the Types along the Lines and access the higher, more resourceful aspect of each connected Type and not the lower, less resourceful or fixated side.