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The Energetics of Relationship and The Enneagram: The Ways We Lose and Find Ourselves

Updated: Apr 22, 2019

Andrew H. Hahn, Psy.D. with Joan T. Beckett, M.B.A., M.A


The Energetics of Relationship: The Ways We Lose and Find Ourselves


For those of us who are experienced self-observers, we realize that we can get drawn out of our essence in very automatic ways, losing ourselves forward and out in longing, backwards and in in aversion and up and diffuse in overwhelm.


In this paper, we will describe a nuanced map which will reveal exactly how each of the twenty seven Enneasubtypes automatically lose themselves energetically, suggest the behavioral concomitants that may follow from such energetic loss, and conclude with a discussion of the benefits of such a map. This is the foundation for rediscovery and integration.


We begin by outlining a three level energetic map that describes the loss of self from the perspective of Subtype (the first level), which concerns our fundamental instinctual drives, Center (the second level), which concerns our fundamental modes of perception, and Points of View (the third level), which concerns our personality structure.


We suggest that each Subtype, Center and Point of View loses the Essential Self in one of three directions – forward and out in longing, back and in in aversion or up and diffuse in overwhelm. When we understand this model, we can begin to witness the ways we automatically lose ourselves in relationship to anything.


SUBTYPES – AN OVERVIEW


As is true with many other systems, the Enneagram suggests that there are three fundamental human drives: to connect, to be known, (Sexual – One to One), to belong, to have a place and be included (Social), and to survive and matter, to be secure (Self-Preserving). Let’s turn now to how people with each of these drives, when they are in their fixation, can lose their Essential Selves.


HOW THE SUBTYPES LOSE THEIR ESSENTIAL SELVES


SEXUAL

If I am a Sexual subtype and my fundamental drive is to connect, I automatically lose myself forward and out. My energy lasers out through my eyes and seeks union with whomever or with whatever is my focus. My fundamental experience is, “I connect, therefore I am,” so that I reverse the ground of being (Is-ness) with connection. I do this in order to compensate for and bind the anxiety I associate with my subtype fear about myself – that I am disconnection with its constant anxiety about being invisible to others and myself.


SOCIAL

If I am a Social subtype and my automatic drive is to belong, I automatically lose myself up and diffuse. My energy expands and seeks to take in and be taken in by the collective. My fundamental experience is, “I belong, therefore I am,” so that I reverse the ground of being (Is-ness) with belonging. I do this in order to compensate for and bind the anxiety I associate with my subtype fear about myself – that I am unbelonginess with its constant anxiety around being left out and ostracized.


SELF-PRESERVING

If I am a Self-preserving subtype and my automatic drive is to survive/matter, I automatically lose myself back and in. My energy takes in and seeks to incorporate what I and significant other(s) need. My fundamental experience is, “I survive/matter, therefore I am,” so that I reverse the ground of being (Is-ness) with surviving/mattering. I do this in order to compensate for and bind the anxiety I associate with my subtype fear about myself – that I don’t survive/matter with its constant anxiety around being insecure.


SUBTYPES IN RELATIONSHIP

We can see how, given each subtype’s fixated orientation, there is significant opportunity for misunderstanding and judgment. Let’s take one important context – how they are in relationship with each other.


SEXUAL

A Sexual subtype will love and will experience the love of another predominantly through eye to eye and heart to heart connection. They may experience anything that prematurely breaks this connection as a dilution of the bond and abandonment even when that had nothing to do with the intent or motivation of the other. If, for example, a Social subtype invites another into their sphere, the Sexual subtype might experience this as a desertion into the superficial, whereas the Social subtype may be trying to be loving through including the Sexual subtype into their world. If, for example, a Self-preserving subtype takes action, the Sexual subtype might experience this as a way of being disruptive of the connection and/or trying to fix them, whereas the Self-preserving subtype may be trying to be loving through mattering/being useful to the Sexual subtype.


SOCIAL

A Social subtype will love and will experience the love of another predominantly through a hand to hand entrance into the social world together. They may experience anything that prematurely inhibits this as constricting, even when that had nothing to do with the intent or motivation of the other. If, for example, a Sexual subtype at a social event tries to maintain exclusive conversation, the Social subtype might experience this as rude and a sign of neediness and/or too much intensity, whereas the Sexual subtype may be trying to be loving through the discovery of the other person. If, for example, a Self-preserving subtype guest begins to clean up the living room before a party game is over, the Social subtype host might experience this as boring and stultifying, whereas the Self-preserving subtype may be trying to be loving by making a contribution.


SELF-PRESERVING

A Self-preserving subtype will love and will experience the love of another predominantly through shoulder to shoulder creation and the building of a secure hearth. They may experience anything that threatens this endeavor as potentially destructive, even when this had nothing to do with the intent or motivation of the other. If, for example, a Social subtype invites another into their sphere without asking, the Self-preserving subtype might experience this as an obliviousness to their shared hearth and an unintentional off-loading of burden. The Social subtype simply may be trying to be loving through including the self-preserving subtype into their assumed shared social world. If, for example, a Sexual subtype tries to maintain ongoing connection, the Self preserving subtype might experience this as a way of disrupting them from their fundamental tasks of life, whereas the Sexual subtype may be trying to be loving through maintaining attachment.


Each of the subtypes emphasizes a different room in the house. The Sexual subtype emphasizes the bedroom, the Social the living room and the Self-preserving the kitchen.


CENTERS – AN OVERVIEW


As is also true with many other systems, the Enneagram suggests that there are three fundamental modes of perception: feeling (Heart Center), thinking (Head Center), and sensing/doing (Belly Center). Let’s turn now to how people with each of these perceptual modes, when they are in their fixation, can lose their Essential Selves.


HEART CENTER

If I am a Heart Center person, when I walk into a room, I want to know what your needs are, how to be successful, how to be special. The answer comes through my Heart Center and my feelings. In order to answer the question of whether someone or something approves of me or likes me for being what they need me to be, for my accomplishments, or for my specialness, I feel the warmth or coldness of their response.


HEAD CENTER

If I’m a Head Center person, when I walk into a room I want to know who might impose on me, who might threaten me or who might limit me. The answer comes through my Head Center and my thinking and scanning. In order to answer the question of whether someone or something threatens me by imposing on me, attacking me or by limiting me, I think and understand by scanning for potential danger or that which is potentially adversarial to me.


BELLY CENTER

If I am a Belly Center person, when I walk into a room I want to know who has the power, the degree of tension or peace, whether something is right or wrong. The answer comes through my Belly Center and my sensing. In order to answer the question of whether someone or something is to be reacted to because of its power, its (un)comfortableness or its (im)perfection, I sense the gestalt of the environment.


With this as an overview of the Centers, let’s turn now to how Head, Heart, and Belly Center types, when they are in their fixation, can lose their Essential Selves.


HOW THE CENTERS LOSE THEIR ESSENTIAL SELVES


HEART CENTER

If I am a Heart Center person, my fundamental perceptual mode is feeling in the service of whether you approve of me. I lose myself forward and out. I automatically create an image that I perceive you will like. When I am concerned with the approval of others, I lose my capacity to think and be discerning. Losing this capacity, I deceive myself that I am deceiving myself.


My fundamental experiences are “I feel therefore I am,” and “I am liked, therefore I am.” I reverse the ground of being (Is-ness) with feeling and with the positive response I get from you. I do this in order to compensate for and bind the anxiety and I experience in the face of the center fear about myself – I am/have no head.


HEAD CENTER

If I am a Head Center person, my fundamental perceptual mode is thinking in the service of whether you are threatening to me. I lose myself back and in. I automatically create an adversary and a barrier for safety. When I am afraid there is danger, I lose my capacity to sense and act. Losing this capacity, I doubt the world and doubt my doubt.


My fundamental experiences are “I think therefore I am,” and “I am safe, therefore I am.” I reverse the ground of being (Is-ness) with thinking and with the sense of safety I get from the barrier. I do this in order to compensate for and bind the anxiety I experience in the face of my center fear about myself – I am/have no body.


BELLY CENTER

If I am a Belly Center person, my fundamental perceptual mode is sensing and doing in the service of distraction from not knowing my true agenda. I lose myself up and diffuse. Even though I am sensate, because I do not know my own heart’s desire, I am not fully embodied. Consequently, I automatically create the primacy of the other as a means to define me and a boundary to create a pseudo sense of self. When I forget myself, I lose my capacity to access what I feel and desire. Losing this capacity I forget that I have forgotten myself.


My fundamental experiences are “I perceive, therefore I am,” and “I am or am not you, therefore I am.” I reverse the ground of being (Is-ness) with sensing and doing and with the perception I have of you. I do this in order to compensate for and bind the anxiety I experience in the face of my center fear about myself – I am/have no heart.


CENTERS IN RELATIONSHIP


We can see how, given each Center’s fixated orientation, there is significant opportunity for misunderstanding and judgment of the other. Let’s explore how this effects the way they are in relationship with each other.


HEART

A Heart-centered person will move forward and out in longing to be liked and approved of and will give love by responding to the other in a way they feel the other will be satisfied. All centers can interpret this fixated moving forward and out as a neediness which leads, depending on the center, to a sense of abandonment, lack of safety or discomfort. If the Heart-centered person moves forward and out in such a way, another Heart-centered person may interpret the longing as a neediness that abandons them because it does not recognize their own taking care of needs, their own doing or their own specialness. Then, moving from a longing based absence of heart connection, they may respond by moving forward and out themselves, taking even better care of needs, doing even more or being even more special or out of resentment moving away. A Head-centered person may respond by pulling back and in, interpreting the longing as a neediness that threatens them by making demands, by being a danger or by being a constraint. Moving from a aversion based stance, they may then react by withdrawing further, being even more self-protective or by fleeing to a more pleasant alternative either in imagination or reality. A Belly-centered person may also perceive the Heart-centered person’s moving forward as a neediness. They may respond by moving up and diffuse by getting overtly angry at them for not being available; even more compulsively doing for them, zoning out, or getting passive aggressive; or judging them according to some internal standard.