Answering Your Enneagram Questions: Part 1
Answering Your Enneagram Questions: Part 3

Answering Your Enneagram Questions: Part 2


Photo by Chris Knight on Unsplash


A couple of weeks ago I asked people on Facebook and Twitter to submit their questions about the Enneagram.

Part 1 ran yesterday.

If you're not familiar with the Enneagram, read my overview post



I often hear people say “I’m a # and super stressed so now I’m a disintegration #.” What do the types look like as themselves and not just “now I’m that.” (Clarified: people are viewing themselves as the number they disintegrate toward i.e. 1 disintegrates to 4 so they say they're a disintegrating 4 vs. being an unhealthy (their type.))


I wish I understood more about my stress "point" or "line" (Not sure what's proper terminology. We didn't cover that much when I first got my assessment. So I'm curious as to how to relates to my type and wing. 

Once you know how your type functions, which includes unhealthy tendencies, you can explore the arrows of integration and disintegration and see how they manifest themselves.

Besides wings, each type is connected to two other types via arrows. When healthy and balanced, you move toward your Arrow of Integration and take on the positive or healthy quality of that type. It goes in this order: 1-7-5-8-2-4-1 and 3-6-9-3. There's an element of choice involved in the arrow of integration. As we become healthier individuals, we often seek to become healthier still and out of this work, we'll notice the positive qualities of our arrow emerging. The more we lean into these positive qualities, the more we grow. (Taking on the positive qualities of our wings is another way we become more balanced and healthy.)

The reverse direction is your Arrow of Disintegration and shows how you respond when you’re stressed or unbalanced This is what happens when your usual way of dealing with stress doesn’t work anymore and it's a stopgap measure- a sounding of the alarm- before you descend to the truly unhealthy levels of your type. You take on the negative or unhealthy quality of that type. 1-4-2-8-5-7-1 and 3-9-6-3. This all tends to happen on a subconscious level. When you're stressed, do what you can to avoid falling into these negative traits.

I want to point out the bolded words in the previous two paragraphs. You take on the quality of the type your arrows moves toward. But you do not become that type. While the behavior might look similar on the surface, it's still coming out of your type's motivations. Think about it this way: each type has big issues so becoming like another type won't do you any favors. Taking on a type's qualities doesn't change us at our core. We're still who we are but we can learn from the other types. We really do need all nine types and the arrows- both positive and negative- show us why. 

Example: When Ones take on the positive qualities of Seven (arrow of integration), they become less critical and more accepting of themselves and others, they're naturally more optimistic, enthusiastic, and joyful, they'll be more spontaneous, and they'll do fun things for the sake of enjoyment. They can relax their guard and they're more able to learn from and relate to other people's perspectives.

When Ones take on the negative qualities of Four (arrow of disintegration), they feel like no one understands them or how hard they're working, their anger turns inward and they become moody and withdrawn, they feel unloved and unlovable, and they long for what they don't have and feel hopeless about ever obtaining it.



I’ve heard that type 6 has sub-types—would love to hear about that concept. 

I clarified this question is about the Six's phobic-counterphobic tendencies. All types have subtypes but the phobic-counterphobic distinction is unique to the Six.

Sixes have both phobic and counterphobic facets. You may see some Sixes more on one side of the spectrum than the other but in most cases the tendencies coexist. More phobic Sixes tend to be outwardly fearful and seek approval, whereas more counterphobic Sixes tend to confront their fears and be more reactionary.

For this reason, Sixes can be a mess of contradictions. They can be both bully and bullied, believer and doubter, leader and follower. 

Sixes tend to lean on whatever or whomever is influencing them in the moment. They don't trust their inner guidance so they lean on their Inner Council instead, looking for assurance and whatever will guarantee their sense of security. They'll look outside of themselves first for something to believe, then resist if it doesn't hold up, then look for some other solution. It's a push-pull. More insecure Sixes tend to simply accept others' ideas but they can also subject them to a good deal of testing and scrutiny. 



I think we need more resources about how the Enneagram interacts with mental illness. So many people have depression and anxiety and more... how do such common struggles interact with or throw a curveball into how we work with the Enneagram? 

I would love to see more resources on this topic! I haven't come across much exploration but I do know mental illness can throw a curveball into figuring out your type, particularly if it's been untreated or is not yet in maintenance mode. 

For the sake of simplifying this, let's consider people with untreated mental illness. They'll likely be operating out of the unhealthy levels of their type and in many cases may be so fully entrenched in their patterns, they're uninterested in learning how to get out of them, much less figuring out their Enneagram type.

If someone with mental illness does want to figure out their type, this is when those pesky arrows of disintegration might throw us off.

Riso and Hudson write, "When our personality is under stress for a long period of time, we may begin to shunt [to the Direction of Disintegration] so habitually that we may appear to be the type in the Direction of Disintegration. For this reason, people who have been suffering from emotional difficulties or major crises in their ives will often misidentify themselves as the type in their Direction of Disintegration rather than their basic type...We also have observed that people who have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or who have significant borderline features in their personality, tend to move in their Direction of Disintegration more often and more easily. Their personalities have more volatility and are less strongly grounded in the basic type, and they therefore intensely shunt to the Direction of Disintegration" (p. 90, The Wisdom Of The Enneagram.)

How do symptoms of mental illness intersect with a type's behaviors? Riso and Hudson have made some correlations, which you can see in the levels of development for each type, showing the healthy, average, and unhealthy behaviors.

It might be most helpful for the person to figure out their Enneagram type with the help of their counselor or psychiatrist.