Welcome to our introduction to Enneagram Type 2! This is part of a series that I wrote as introduction posts for The Enneagram, and if you clicked on this one, maybe it’s because you are a Type 2, or you know a Type 2 and want to get to know them better. If you want a more in-depth definition of some of the terms I’ll be using, you can go to the Enneagram Basics Introduction, which is an explanation of what The Enneagram is and all of the pieces that make it up. In this post, we won’t be going into the definitions of those traits; instead, we’re going to be focusing on what it looks like for a Type 2!
I will be referencing a lot from my book, “The Enneagram for Beginners.” If you want more in-depth information, some continuing growth with journaling prompts, and some things to help you dig a little bit deeper into what it’s like to be a Type 2, you can check that out. For now, though, let’s get into our Type 2 Basics!
A Type 2’s Focus
Type Twos tend to focus on the needs and feelings of other people. Even if they are aware of what’s going on inside of themselves, they find it very hard not to focus on other people and the perception that others have of them. They really seek to be helpful, and to ease the burdens of other people; to step in and do things for others. Type Twos tend to show love through acts of service or words of affirmation, and they feel that if there’s something they can do for you, that is how they can show you how much they care, or that they want to connect.
Type Twos really try to make sure that the people around them are fully taken care of, and that is how Twos tend to want to show up in the world. Generally, Type Twos share these characteristics:
- Positive or optimistic
- Wanting others to feel welcome and cared for.
- Wanting to please other people
- Forgetting or dismissing their own needs as unimportant, or even going so far as to deny that they have any at all, because they want to avoid being a burden for others.
Let’s focus on that last trait for a minute. When taken too far, this can sometimes come across as “lovingly manipulative” or intrusive to other people, because needs don’t just go away. When a Type 2 denies or ignores their own needs, those needs just manifest themselves subconsciously, and they show up in other ways. Even if a 2 doesn’t outwardly ask for what they need or want, they do things subconsciously that other people may see as manipulative, the Type 2 trying to manipulate people or situations in order to get their needs met without them having to ask. As Twos grow more healthy, they recognize that they have needs, and they go about getting them met in ways that are intentional and are more “above board.”
Type Twos deeply value self-sacrifice, and this comes from a belief. Each Enneagram type has a belief that is the “root system” of where their main type comes from, and the belief for a Type 2 is that they need to be helpful to be loved; being worthy of love requires self-sacrifice. That thought and belief can really lead to a lot of shame, because if they aren’t measuring up by “helping enough” then they fear that they aren’t going to get the love they need. Twos are also very sensitive to rejection, because they tend to point the reasons for that rejection straight back to themselves for not doing what they should have been doing. This feeling of shame can be an ongoing struggle for Type Twos.
The core beliefs of each type lead to their motivations, the things that they are running to in life, and also running away from. So a Type 2’s belief is, “It’s not okay to have my own needs. I need to be self-sacrificing. I need to be sacrificially serving other people in order to be worthy of love and acceptance.”
So for Type 2, these are some of the things that they might desire and go after really hard in life:
- To be appreciated
- To be needed
- To be loved
- To be wanted
- To be indispensable to the people they care about and love
As a Type 2 is running towards these things, they run away from…
- Being unwanted
- Being rejected
- Being dispensable to the people they love
- Being unworthy
- Being selfish
The ongoing struggle of a Type 2 really sits in the middle of that friction: running towards being indispensable, appreciated and needed; and running away from being unwanted or rejected. This brings about a lot of friction in the middle; which, as counterintuitive as it sounds, is pride. This isn’t the kind of pride that is puffing oneself up, but more of emphasizing the needs of other people and denying that you have any; so this is pride in the sense of, “I can go without; I can self-sacrifice; I can be all things for all people.” In this way, it’s kind of true and right to call it pride, even though it feels like it’s the opposite! Anytime that we put ourselves “out of order”, or put ourselves on a different “pedestal”, we can call that pride. Maybe a Type Two’s pedestal is “I can serve my way into the connection that I’m seeking.”
I do want to emphasize that the connection a Type 2 is seeking is not bad. This is just how a Type Two goes about getting that connection, especially when they are not being intentional. A Type 2 hopes that if they serve, deny asking for what they need, help and connect with people by alleviating their burdens, then a natural by-product will be that they are also taken care of; that they will be in a deeper relationship with that person they are serving; and then they will get what they need. Often, this isn’t a thought process that a Type 2 is having on purpose; they are not consciously having this conversation with themselves. The belief of “it’s not okay to have my own needs” really does play out if you follow that to the end of being self-sacrificing while still being a human with needs (because we are all humans with needs.) So a Type Two has to find a way to meet those needs while maintaining that belief that they can’t have their own needs! Talk about friction.
You do not have to have a wing as a Type Two, but if you do, your two options are either a 1 wing (2w1) or a 3 wing (2w3). I’m just going to point out some of the ways that leaning into one of these types can add some nuance and “flavor” to the main type of a 2.
A 2w1 might come across as more objective, more encouraging of other people (especially vocally), and a little more likely to serve behind the scenes, especially when living from a healthy place. They still do what they love to do, which is serve people, but they tend to do it more “behind the scenes” because they don’t want to be seen. This is often because they tend to be more introverted, although you don’t have to be an introvert to be a 2w1.
When a 2w1 is struggling, they might be a little more controlling, especially of the people in their inner circle, and a little more insistent with the people around them. They also tend to be a little more vocal about what they want from people.
A 2w3 tends to be a little more outgoing and come across as more outwardly sociable. They might focus a little more on succeeding and a little less on staying behind the scenes; they enjoy being more “towards the front.” They can also be more likely to become a little overly flattering in how they relate to people, and a little more outwardly approval-seeking.
Levels of Health
How healthy are you being in this moment? Remember, we can bounce around these levels of health! Here I just want to point out how it might feel or what it can look like if a Type 2 is healthy, average/autopilot, or a little more unhealthy in their behaviors.
A Type 2 who is living very intentionally–taking care of themselves and living from a more healthy place in the moment–is really humble. They are more honest, especially about what’s going on with them, and in their serving and giving they don’t have any “strings” attached (even those emotional strings of hoping that this might be reciprocated and feeling disappointed if it’s not). There isn’t any push-pull when it comes to giving and serving, and there is a genuinely loving support of other people and themselves; they don’t leave themselves out of the equation. When Twos are living from a healthy place, they recognize their own needs and feelings and are willing to express them without feeling guilty for it. They know that having needs is not a “deal-breaker” in an otherwise healthy relationship, so they feel empowered to speak up about their needs.
When Type Twos are a little more unintentional in their reactions and responses, they start to believe that their needs are a threat to the stability of their relationships, and that having needs might be a deal breaker. Because of this, they might push them down or ignore them, which doesn’t make them go away, but makes them express themselves in less obvious ways: “beating around the bush,” or a slight emotional manipulation starting to present itself. This can also come out as trying to make people depend more on them than is actually healthy so that they need them, and then taking a little bit of an emotional offense when other people don’t sense their needs as well as they had sensed theirs. Remember, this recognition of others’ needs is a focus that Twos have and almost can’t turn off, whereas other people have different perspectives and focus on different things. If a Type 2 isn’t living as intentionally or healthfully, then they might blame others for not having the same focus of attention that they do, which is the needs of other people.
When a Type 2 gets even more unintentional, and starts to live out some unhealthy behaviors, this is where they might become more codependent, or settle for the neediness of other people and appreciation of others instead of a more healthy love and affirmation, which is what one would really expect from a healthy relationship. When living from the belief that they are not good enough, unless they are serving sacrificially, then they can find themselves in this codependent place.
Obviously we do not want to be in an unhealthy place, but it can be helpful to understand what it might be like so that you can notice when you are sliding into that tendency.
When a Type 2 is really feeling secure and in a healthy place, ready to reach out to something that might not be their natural tendency or comfort zone, then they lean towards or take on some of the healthy things that we see in a Type 4:
- More able to see and take care of their own needs (more “self nourishing”)
- Accepting negative and uncomfortable emotions, which they might have a tendency to push away because they aren’t positive and don’t help create as much connection; but in growth, they might be more okay with exploring them and processing them.
- Introspection, and the ability to really see their true motives: “Am I giving to get? Am I denying myself here in a way that’s unhealthy? What’s going on with me right now?”
A Type 2’s stress line goes towards Type 8, and usually Type Twos go there when they have tried their usual “Type 2” things and those aren’t working, so they feel more stressed and need to try something else. This can look like:
- Taking on more defensiveness when feeling rejected; responding with more power and emotional reactivity
- More aggressiveness
- Being a little more demanding of what they want
- Being confrontational and showing anger, even when they know it might harm the relationship; feeling like they have to do something.
You can read the intro post, “Enneagram Basics” if you want to know more of how subtypes may look in a more “general” sense, but here I am going to talk about how a subtype might color or add nuance to Type Twos specifically.
A self-preservation Type Two is a little more indirect with communication, because rejection, and even just being told “no”, are incredibly painful; they might employ some indirect communication techniques like flattery, cajoling, or suggesting in order to get their needs met whilst trying to avoid the “no” and the rejection.
Social Twos are more focused on their influence and competence. They want to know that they have what is needed in order to be everything for everybody, and might feel that they really do need to make themselves indispensable by supporting, advising the group, and being there for whatever that group or community needs. If the group is safe, they feel safe.
This subtype is more focused on finding that one person, the one they can help meet their needs, and have them reciprocate; they can be each other’s people, and an SX Type 2 might find themselves confusing that with genuine love. It can hurt to be there, because they may feel that they really need to be at the center of somebody’s world to feel wanted, so rejection can come quickly and harshly when that was not the other person’s intention.
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