The past few weeks at The Enneagram Institute have kept us all quite busy. Among other things, the Faculty Read more...
The first book to integrate the Enneagram with spiritual & psychological exercises.
The basic introduction to the Enneagram with the scientifically validated RHETI, v. 2.5.
The complete text of Enneagram theory and descriptions.
“I have returned!” These words were addressed by General Douglas MacArthur on October 20, 1944 to the people of the Philippines as Allied forces landed at Leyte and began the offensive against the occupying Axis forces there. With perhaps a bit less fanfare but with (maybe?) equal fervor, we at The Enneagram Institute are happy to announce “The EnneaThoughts have returned!”. Read more...
What a bumpy ride this website transition has been! We know this is a major problem for many of you. We deeply regret this. We are working–and will continue to work—behind the scenes and with you until we have made it all right. If there is anything we can do for you, please contact us. Read more...
While being especially preoccupied these past few days with Barn renovations, contracts, and webpage switchovers, I realized that something had been missing—I was not receiving my daily EnneaThought—that brief, but often very insightful, message that starts my day and which frequently forms a part of my morning meditation and examination. Read more...
This week we are celebrating two significant events here at The Enneagram Institute: First, the unveiling of our new and updated webpage and, second, the execution of the general construction contract for rebuilding the Barn. Read more...
For years, we have received many requests to begin offering advanced and ongoing courses—often from students who have completed the Training program and are seeking something more.Read more...
The connection between genius and madness has long been debated. These two states are really poles apart, the opposite ends of the personality spectrum. The genius is someone who fuses knowledge with insight into the nature of reality, someone who has the ability to see things with utter clarity and with awe-inspiring comprehension. What separates the genius from the madman is that the genius, in addition to extraordinary insights, has the ability to see them correctly, within their context. The genius perceives patterns which are actually present, whereas the madman imposes patterns, projecting erroneous perceptions onto every circumstance. The genius may sometimes seem to be out of touch with reality, but only because he or she operates at a more profound level. The madman, however, is truly out of touch with reality, having nothing but delusions to substitute for it.
The Five is the personality type which most exemplifies these extremes. In the Five, we see the genius and the madman, the innovator and intellectual, the mildly eccentric crackpot and the deeply disturbed delusional schizoid. To understand how these widely diverse states are part of the same personality type is to understand the Five.
In the Thinking Center
Fives are members of the Thinking Center. Their potential problem results from the fact that they emphasize thinking over doing, becoming intensely involved with their thoughts. Fives think so much that their mental world becomes all engrossing, virtually to the exclusion of everything else. This is not to say that Fives do nothing at all, but that they are more at home in their minds, viewing the world from a detached vantage point, than they are in the world of action.
All three members of the Thinking Center—Fives, Sixes, and Sevens—focus their attention on the world outside themselves. This may seem to contradict the statement that Fives are engrossed in their thoughts, but it actually does not. Fives focus their attention on the external world for a variety of reasons, one of the most important of which is that the material they think about comes through their sense perceptions—the accuracy of which they can never be completely sure of because they are not certain about what lies outside themselves. The only thing they know with certainty is their own thoughts. Hence, the focus of their attention is outward, on the environment while identifying with the thoughts about the environment. The source of many of their problems is their need to find out how their perceptions of the world square with reality so that they can act in it—and do things with confidence.
Problems with Security and Anxiety
Like the other two members of the Thinking Center, average Fives tend to have problems with insecurity because they fear that the environment is unpredictable and potentially threatening. Further. they feel powerless to defend themselves against the world’s many dangers: they believe they are not capable of functioning as well as others and so make it their number one priority to acquire the skills and knowledge they feel is necessary for them to be able to operate adequately in life.
This fear of being helpless and incapable influences their behavior in significant ways. Fives believe that their resources and capacities are limited, so they respond to their anxiety by downscaling their activities and needs. The more anxious they feel, the more they minimize their needs. While this can be a sensible approach to problems at times, anxious Fives may reduce themselves to living in extremely primitive conditions in order to allay their fears of inadequacy. Naturally, given this orientation, Fives feel easily overwhelmed by others’ needs as well, and try to avoid situations in which others will expect more from them than they feel able to give. As their fears increase, Fives begin to “shrink away” from the world and from connections with others.
When Fives are healthy, they are able to observe reality as it is and are able to comprehend complex phenomena at a glance because they are participating in life and testing their perceptions. In their search for security, however, the perceptions of even average Fives tend to become skewed. Their thinking becomes more convoluted, self-referential and increasingly fueled by anxiety. As they withdraw from the world, it only heightens their fears that they cannot cope with it. Eventually, even basic living requirements seem overwhelming and frightening. And if they become unhealthy, Fives are the type of persons who cut themselves off from most human contact while developing their eccentric ideas to such absurd extremes that they become obsessed with completely distorted notions about themselves and reality. Ultimately, unhealthy Fives become utterly terrified and trapped by the threatening visions which they have created in their own minds.
Their problem with anxiety, one of the issues common to the personality types of the Thinking Center, is related to their difficulty with perceiving reality objectively. They are afraid of allowing anyone or anything to influence them or their thoughts. Because they doubt their own ability to do, they fear that others’ agendas will overwhelm them. They fear that others are more powerful than they are and will control or possess them. Ironically, however, even average Fives are not unwilling to be possessed by an idea, as long as the idea has originated with them. Nothing must be allowed to influence their thinking lest their developing sense of confidence be diminished, although by relying solely on their own ideas and perceptions, and without testing them in the real world, Fives can become profoundly out of touch with reality.
The upshot of this is that average to unhealthy Fives are uncertain whether or not their perceptions of the environment are valid. They do not know what is real and what is the product of their minds. They project their anxiety-ridden thoughts and their aggressive impulses into the environment, becoming fearful of the antagonistic forces which seem to be arrayed against them. They gradually become convinced that their peculiar and increasingly dark interpretation of reality is the way things really are. In the end, they become so terrorized that they cannot act even though they are consumed by anxiety.
The basis of their orientation to the world is thinking; personality type Five corresponds to Jung’s introverted thinking type.
Introverted thinking is primarily oriented by the subjective factor….It does not lead from concrete experience back again to the object, but always to the subjective content. External facts are not the aim and origin of this thinking, though the introvert would often like to make his thinking appear so. It begins with the subject and leads back to the subject, far though it may range into the realm of actual reality….Facts are collected as evidence for a theory, never for their own sakes. (C. G. Jung, Psychological Types, 380.)
Although they correspond to Jung’s introverted thinking type, Fives are perhaps more precisely characterized as a subjective thinking type because the aim of their thought is not always introverted (that is, directed toward themselves); rather, it is directed often outward toward the environment, which Fives want to understand so that they can be safer in it. The impetus for their thinking comes, as Jung says, from “the subjective factor,” from their need to know about what lies outside themselves, as well as from their anxiety when they do not understand the environment. This is why thinking is the method Fives use both to fit into the world and, paradoxically, to defend themselves against it.
One of the results of the way Fives think is that even healthy Fives are not very deeply rooted in visceral experience. They are the type of people who get a great deal of intellectual mileage out of very little experience because they always find something of significance where others see little or nothing. This may lead to great discoveries. However, when they stop observing the world and focus their attention on their interpretations of it, Fives begin to lose touch with reality. Instead of keeping an open mind while they observe the world, they become too involved with their own thoughts and dreams. This leads them further away from the world of constructive action—the very arena in which their self-confidence needs to develop. They may spend a great deal of time playing around with ideas or visions of reality which have almost no practical impact on their lives, leaving them more fearful about themselves and feeling more vulnerable to the predations of the world.
As a result of their formative experiences, these children became ambivalent to both parents. Fives, like Twos and Eights, were in search of a niche within the family system, a role that they could fulfill that would win them protection and nurturance. For whatever reasons, though, they perceived that there was no place for them to fit in—that nothing they could do was wanted or needed by their family. As a result, Fives withdrew from active participation in the family to search for something that they could “bring to the table.” Fives want to find something that they can do well enough to feel like an equal of others. Unlike other types, however, since Fives’ underlying fear is of being helpless and incapable, they generally look for areas of expertise that others have not already explored or exploited. In a sense, their agenda is to focus on the search for and mastery subjects and skills until they feel confident enough to “reenter” the world.
In the meantime, Fives strike a kind of bargain with their parents which carries over into all of their subsequent relationships: “Don’t ask too much of me, and I won’t ask too much of you.” Fives feel that they need most of their limited time and energy to acquire the knowledge and skills that they believe will make them capable and competent. Thus, average Fives come to resent intrusions upon their space, their time, and certainly upon their persons. What for another type might feel like a comfortable distance can feel overwhelming to an average Five. he reasons for this may relate to the Five’s feeling of not having a place in the family. They may have felt crowded out or intruded upon by their parents agendas, or perhaps even literally. Their parents may have nurtured them erratically, or perhaps may have been emotionally disturbed or alcoholic or caught in a loveless marriage, and therefore not dependable sources of love and reassurance. The result is that these children become ambivalent not only toward both parents, but ambivalent toward the world.
Fives attempt to resolve their ambivalence by not identifying with anything other than their thoughts about the world outside themselves. They feel that their thoughts are “good” (that is, correct, and can be safely identified with), while outside reality is “bad” (and must therefore be vigilantly watched), so that it can be repulsed at a moment’s notice. In average to unhealthy Fives, the sense of being crowded may have resulted in them feeling unsafe in their bodies. They then become profoundly detached, indifferent to physical comfort, and extremely cerebral as if the quality of their material existence was irrelevant to them. In truth, it is not, but fearful Fives are willing to jettison many comforts and even needs in order to protect the space and time they feel they need to pursue their interests—that is, those areas they are trying to master.
They continue to find their parents, the world, and other people fascinating and necessary, but Fives also feel that they must keep everything and everyone at a safe distance lest they be in danger of being overwhelmed by some outside force. Thus, from the very way they think—their “cognitive style”—Fives set up a strict dualism between themselves and the world: they see everything as essentially split into two fundamental areas—the inner world and the outer world, subjects and objects, the known and the unknown, the dangerous and the safe, and so forth. This sharp split between themselves as subjects and the rest of the world as objects has tremendous ramifications throughout their entire lives.
Problems with Detachment and Phobia
When they are healthy, Fives do not have to detach themselves from the environment because they feel secure and confident enough to fully participate in the world around them. Because they are interacting with the environment, their observations are accurate and balanced. But as they deteriorate down the Continuum toward unhealth, their perceptions become more intensely focused on what seems to be threatening and dangerous in the environment. As a result of their preoccupation with fear and darkness, their mental world becomes filled with anxiety. Ironically, however, the more fearful Fives become, the more compelled they feel to ponder the very things that terrify them.
In the end, since they invariably focus on what is threatening, Fives turn their terrifying projections into their only reality, and in so doing, turn their minds against themselves, literally scaring themselves out of their minds. They become completely defenseless against the environment which they find supremely dangerous because their minds have made it so. They become so phobic—and their sense of capability becomes so fragile—that it is extraordinarily difficult for them to function or turn to anyone for help. Yet, unless deteriorating Fives can reach out to someone, they have few ways of getting back in touch with reality.
If they live like this for long, their thought processes become so delusional and terrifying that they must separate themselves not just from the world but even from their own thoughts. Neurotic Fives become schizoid, unconsciously splitting themselves off from their teeming minds so that they can continue to live. Their reality has become hellish: dark, painful, and without hope. Recoiling in horror, they retreat into emptiness—and yet more horror.
(from Personality Types, p. 174-180)