Enneagram type Two: The Helper

Driving force: Shame being suppressed

Spotting Enneagram Type 2s

2s have a drive to help and care for others. They think in terms of and are oriented toward people and usually have a friendly, chatty demeanor and praise people freely. It’s not hard to see their affection and “mushy” feelings. Problems interpersonally are the worst for them and drive them to seek comfort and stay on the good side of “their people,” whether community, family, or chosen few. Sometimes there’s a stark divide between how they treat those people and how they talk about others in private or with whom they’re in opposition in some way. 2s see themselves in terms of relationships and roles. It’s not uncommon for older female 2s to think of themselves primarily — as culture has suggested to their generations — in terms of being somebody’s wife or mother. Younger female 2s have the meme of the “mom friend,” but their primary self-definition is more likely to be about being in a more general sense supportive, loving, or “a good person.” Male 2s often identify with an idea of helping that feels masculine to them, such as being chivalrous or a community leader, or relating themselves to a hero figure such as Superman, and are just as resistant to leaving defining relationships as female 2s. The stereotypical “mom” behavior may be less clear compared to women, but it is apparent that they are unusually “soft,” kind, and effusive men. The 2 with a 3 wing is a more strongly extroverted character with charm. Manipulation can be quite blatant. Feelings are clear, although not necessarily all authentic. The 1 wing is still personable but can have, on the positive side, a more quiet grace, or, on the negative side, more condescencion and sanctimoniousness.

Type 2s may make things worse for themselves by:
Overextending themselves, giving away their energy, and wearing themselves out
Becoming resentful when others don’t appreciate their efforts
Prioritizing others’ opinions of themselves, especially negative opinions

Type 2s may make things worse for others by:
Assuming incorrectly that they know what others want or need
Being pushy or invasive
Two-faced or counterproductive ingratiation

Why Do They Do That?

Like the other image types 3 and 4, 2s are driven by a root belief that “by default, if I do nothing, I’m not worthy to exist.” 2s make signs of others liking them the arbiter of their worth. Typically many people like the 2 quite a bit, but don’t signal it as frequently or definitively as 2s would like, and a small hint of disapproval, to them, renders all positive regard moot. The thinking is, “why would someone ever dislike me if there weren’t something (objective) to dislike?” Pushy and intrusive behavior seems normal to them because how others are doing takes up so much of their mental landscape — if you think about a loved one’s concerns all the time, it’s natural to act on them. They don’t see why they should be entitled to their time and energy any more than others are. After all, they believe, it’s the neediest person who needs it most, and that’s definitely not them. They also believe that they know others’ needs, therefore others can easily know theirs, and therefore, if they deserved something they wanted, they would have been given it. This full chain of reasoning may be unconscious.

What It’s Like To Be A Type 2

Their idea of what those around them need is prominent in their minds, whether accurate or not. As they become self-aware, they see others more clearly. This does not mean that 2s’ inner lives are vacant. Rather than forgetting themselves, they’re consciously deciding that others’ needs are more important than theirs. They have a strong self-concept, a rich feeling life, and plenty of opinions. Furthermore, people and relationships are complex and provide a lot to think about. All of 2s’ relationships have emotional meaning to them and they genuinely care about others. They can also care very much about sentimental objects, places, and stories. Although we talk about 2s unconsciously giving to get, and they can become resentful if others don’t give them what they feel they deserve, helping others doesn’t feel calculating to them. It feels necessary and good, until they reach a point of burnout.

You can make type 2s feel heard by:

Accept that it’s important to them to continue to be helpful and on top of others’ needs and not be needy themselves.
Accept that it makes sense for them to feel like others pushing away their help and friendship is an attack.
Accept that others’, perhaps current or perceived, happiness makes sense for them to prioritize.
(You can still gently push on these things, but get into their position first and push from there.)

Thank them and reassure them that they’re appreciated. Even if you don’t take their advice, acknowledge that you heard it and they thought of you. Be warm and show you’re thinking of them. Celebrate occasions with sentiment. Be unreserved in sharing what’s going on in your life, but don’t let the focus stay on you. Probe for things that might be bothering them even if they say “I’m fine” the first time. Give them permission to care for themselves early and in a healthy way: “You deserve some self-care right now.” Complaints of physical problems are usually their way of saying they need a break.