Article - Entry and Intermediate

Finding Compassion for the Types

By Megan Biffi | 21 June 2019 |

“We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.” ~ Anaïs Nin

It is a human truth that all of us judge the people we interact with through our own filters, seeing their behaviour through the lens of our own personality and experience. Rarely, if ever, do we stop and consider what might be behind their words or actions, to wonder about what might be motivating them to say or do what they do.

It is only when we realise that everyone has their own story and is fighting their own battles that we can begin to see the world through eyes of compassion.

As the Dalai Lama has said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” His remarks capture a simple truth: despite popular belief that happiness depends solely on you, the way to achieve it may not lie just within yourself, but in your relationships and interactions with others.

Through the core teachings of the Enneagram, we can gain a greater understanding of ourselves and others. By developing our ability to see other people’s points of view, we cultivate and grow our compassion, thereby improving our relationships and interactions with others.

Understanding the Types

By understanding each Type’s unique perspective on the world, we begin to see how they might apply these same judgements to themselves, not only to others.

Enneagram Type 1

Enneagram Ones are judgemental of others, quick to point out mistakes and often nit-pick over even the smallest details in ways that undermine other people’s confidence. However, Ones have the same impossibly high standards – often even higher in fact – for themselves. Ones might seem like they think that nothing you do is ever good enough, but almost certainly they judge themselves in the same way. Ones have an over-active inner critic who refuses to allow them to relax and constantly points out their failings. Ones need to make friends with this inner critic before they will be able to truly transform how they relate to others.

Enneagram Type 2

Enneagram Twos tend to help and rescue others, which may feel disempowering to others, as it inadvertently suggests they are incompetent in resolving their own issues. In reality, Twos’ hidden fear is that they themselves are not good enough or valuable enough and thus must work harder to earn approval. Twos are known to occasionally become angry and blame others, especially when others are not appreciative enough for what they do, or that others are not loving or caring. Internally, however, Twos feel that they themselves are not as loving or caring as they should be, which is why they are driving themselves to fill this role for others.

Enneagram Type 3

Enneagram Threes’ competitiveness is often one of the first things that others notice about them, experiencing the Threes as being in competition with them. In reality, Threes compete with themselves even more than they do with others, constantly stretching themselves further. At a deeper level, people criticise Threes for their habit of not being fully truthful, managing their image instead of allowing the truth to shine through. However, it’s not that Threes purposefully hide or conceal their real thoughts and feelings from the rest of us – they conceal or block these from themselves first, making them often unable to share these even if they wanted to.

Enneagram Type 4

Enneagram Fours often hear the feedback from others that they are intense or overwhelmingly deep in the way they feel and communicate, making it hard for others to feel clear or calm in their presence. Why can’t Fours just leave their drama at the door and be easier to deal with? However, this pattern reflects Fours’ internal habit and defence of introjection, taking emotions deep into themselves and engaging with them openly. Fours are as much a victim of their drama as others are, often feeling overwhelmed or lost in their dark, complex feelings.

Enneagram Type 5

Enneagram Fives are known for being intelligent, penetrating seekers of knowledge but their way of engaging is known to frequently make others feel unknowledgeable, under-informed or even stupid. The secret of Fives is that they often make themselves unintelligent, often feeling confused about how the world around them works and fearing that they do not really understand as much as they need to. Others may also find Fives stingy with their knowledge or resources. This arises from Fives’ fundamental fear that they will not be enough or have enough, which also drives them to be stingy with themselves. Fives often deny themselves indulgences; preferring to rather preserve resources for possible future demands.

Enneagram Type 6

Enneagram Sixes often find that others react poorly to their constant questioning, scanning and worrying about what might happen, which makes others feel that Sixes do not trust them. But Sixes typically find it hard to trust anyone, including their own inner voice. They constantly second-guess and question themselves; this spills over into others. Counter-phobic Sixes often receive feedback that they are intimidating or that they make others feel afraid. It is useful to remember that One-to-One (SX) Sixes force themselves to respond to fear with bravery, often by scaring themselves with dire predictions of what terrible things will happen if they don’t stand up and be brave.

Enneagram Type 7

Enneagram Sevens are known to be somewhat oblivious or insensitive to the experiences and realities of people and teams outside of their own; so impatient and busy in their fast-paced lives that others can feel unimportant or rushed and pushed beyond their capabilities. However, Sevens’ disregard actually begins with their own needs and capacity. Sevens force themselves to ‘get over it and get on with it’ and to be ‘fast and fine’ even when they are not. As long as Sevens are leading from the front, they tend to expect others to keep up with them. They will have to slow down and develop compassion for themselves before they can extend this to others.

Enneagram Type 8

Enneagram Eights are known for being forceful; controlling the people around them and sometimes bullying others to do things. However, Eights’ avoidance of vulnerability makes them even tougher on themselves, pushing and driving themselves on and forcefully controlling any feelings of weakness or fear. Eights often bully themselves into ignoring or denying pain, illness or fear. This is based on their fear that if they are not strong and in control then they will be vulnerable, and others will harm or take advantage of them.

Enneagram Type 9

Enneagram Nines often receive negative feedback for their habit of ‘tuning out’ from their environment, including the needs and demands of others. This habit can lead Nines to seem uncaring, dismissive or disinterested, when in reality their inner experience is not as calm as their surface might suggest. Nines struggle with the vice of ‘self-forgetting’, meaning that they tune themselves out first, in response to the belief that their problems or feelings are not so important, and that keeping the peace is more important than getting satisfaction or gratification.

A path towards compassion

Carl Jung said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” To put it another way, whatever we resent each Enneagram Type for doing to us, they are often doing to themselves, probably to a greater degree.

When the behaviour of others acts as a mirror for us, it can bring up our own self-judgements, frustrations, and dogmatic beliefs, leading us to judge these qualities that we dislike in ourselves through the medium of others.

As Jerome Wagner explains, referring to the Enneagram One, “If you project your inner rebel or delinquent onto others, then you will have to police them, reform them, excommunicate them, or throw them in jail. Now, not only have you gotten rid of your demons, you’ve found something to do in your spare time!”

Simply put, we project our own judgements and perceived shortcomings onto others and then say to others what we really think we need to hear ourselves. For example, the One tells themself that they have to be better and then resents others who do not live up to the high standard they expect of themselves. The Eight bullies herself into staying strong no matter what, then struggles to trust and respect others for not doing the same.

Self-compassion is the spring of the river of compassion

Compassion for self is the starting point. If we cannot have compassion for ourselves, how can we expect to develop compassion for others?

“We see only that which we are. I like to think of it in terms of energy. Imagine having a hundred different electrical outlets on your chest. Each outlet represents a different quality. The qualities we acknowledge and embrace have cover plates over them. They are safe; no electricity runs through them. But the qualities that are not okay with us, which we have not yet owned, do have a charge. So, when others come along who act out one of these qualities, they plug right into us.” ~ Debbie Ford, “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers”

All of us have our own faults, our own vulnerabilities. Often, though, instead of recognising them in ourselves, we find it easier (and safer) to spot them in others. Then, rather than acknowledging that we share these traits, we criticise the very people we should be treating with compassion. To have compassion is not a fault or a sign of weakness; it is a gift. Only when we are able to feel compassion for ourselves can we truly feel compassion for others.

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” ~ Dalai Lama

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