Driving force: Anger being repressed
Spotting Enneagram Type 9s
9s come across as easy-going and self-effacing and don’t ask for much. They may be content on their own, but don’t guard their privacy, or they may be “just glad to be with” their friends, a gathering, or a beloved person. Even more so than other types, there are all different flavors of 9s, but they have key things in common. To some extent they reflect what’s around them. 9s often relate to several type descriptions. They see multiple sides and mediate and bridge gaps between others. They readily “agree to disagree” and would rather have peace than maintain that they’re in the right. They consider themselves not to get angry. It’s not strictly true that they don’t, but they are not explosive or direct unless pushed very far. Cool, blunted anger instead is characteristic. 9s with an 8 wing express assertiveness and conflict playfully and generally back down quickly if they notice someone is bothered for real. It’s not uncommon to find this type in a leadership role. 9s with a 1 wing are quieter, more tactful, and more serious, although 1ish criticalness may also be expressed by softening it with a tongue-in-cheek tone.
Type 9s may make things worse for themselves by:
Going along with others’ wants and ignoring their own
Putting off what’s important
Settling for less
Type 9s may make things worse for others by:
“Checking out” of relationships and situations
Passive-aggression and non-acknowledgment of their behavior
Unwillingness to confront problems
Why Do They Do That?
9s like to sink into and lose themselves in others or a pleasant environment. They also sometimes feel the need to pull back from others to see their own selves without other things bleeding into their self-concept. 9s wish for harmony, and the specter of anger feels viscerally like a threat to that. They numb their feelings to avoid how much all the conflict in the world hurts them and push their own anger out of awareness. However, unconscious anger builds as they let others have their way. To a greater or lesser extent, 9s internalized a message in childhood that they don’t matter and that asserting their will is unlikely to work and likely to cause conflict. Claudio Naranjo described 9s with the self-preservation subtype as “steamrollers” and with the sexual, or one-on-one, subtype as “steamrolled.” Seeing asserting their will as unlikely to work is a cause of both. This childhood disappointment comes to function as a defense: there is no need to take charge of your life, because it won’t work anyway. 9s’ unacknowledged grumpiness and withdrawal represent real hurt in the past and perhaps present. It can be a response to slights, signs of conflict, or feeling overlooked in a relationship or the world.
What It’s Like To Be A Type 9
The experience of type 9s’ focus of attention has been compared to a dream state, riding a bike on a sunny day, and a radio drifting from station to station. The world seems to flow together. Leaving the self out of the picture lets them see others clearly, and therefore perspectives fade in and out. They feel like they are choosing not to make a big deal out of things. Their thinking can be quite dreamy or quite practical. 9s try to maintain their happiness but don’t always succeed. They can be more resigned than they let on and even quite depressed without others realizing. Confiding fully in someone else requires not only reaching into the fog of negativity to grasp the problem but conveying it across the distance between the self and others, which feels increasingly insurmountable to an unhealthy 9. It also carries the risks of rejection, feelings of not mattering, and turning the atmosphere negative, which 9s very much breathe on an emotional level. Minimizing their feelings and focusing on something else feels easier. Depressed 9s often feel that they are not understood anyway.
You can make type 9s feel heard by:
Accept that it’s important to them to continue to be easy to get along with and not cause anyone trouble.
Accept that it makes sense for them to feel like disharmony and conflict between others is a threat.
Accept that their environment and the interactions around them going smoothly makes sense for them to prioritize.
(You can still gently push on these things, but get into their position first and push from there.)
Help keep the atmosphere nonconfrontational and low-pressure. Don’t escalate or get angry if the 9 expresses disagreement. Ask about their opinions, preferences, thoughts, or feelings without turning it into an expectation. Time and exploratory questions help 9s figure them out. Show interest in them when they put themselves in the background. Appreciate contributions and qualities that might have gone overlooked. Be patient as they talk. Don’t let anyone keep interrupting them. Maintain fairness even when one party is asking for more. Don’t express surprise or put them on the spot if 9s’ persona changes. 9s often access their feelings kinesthetically. A 9 who is upset is particularly likely to “need a hug.”