This is the final episode in this 10 episode series, all about the Enneagram basics. If you go back a little bit, you’ll find the first post in the series, All About Enneagram Basics, what it is, as well as the terms and definitions, and that’s a really good place to start if you feel like you need a little bit of a refresher or an intro into what we’ll be talking about. This post is about Type Nine, and whether that’s you or somebody that you know, or you’re just curious about the inner workings and experience of a Type Nine, we’ll be going through it all. We’re going to go pretty quickly, so that’s why I made the Enneagram Basics post for you and put it separate so that we can just hit the specifics and the ways that those terms are used uniquely with Type Nine.
A lot of the things that I’ll be talking about are from my book, “The Enneagram for Beginners” if you want to go a little bit deeper with one of these topics in a book form.
A Type 9’s Focus
Type Nines have a big desire to feel at peace. They tend to focus on harmony, connection (with themselves and with other people), and comfort (both physically and emotionally.) Some other common traits of a Type 9 are:
- Easy-going and patient with other people, especially from the outside
- Willing to accommodate and acquiesce
- Give without expressing strong opinions of their own, in a “go along to get along” way
- Long to feel inner peace and comfort
- Can see all sides of any given discussion, even when they have strong opinions of their own
- Have a sense of what everyone is after, and want everyone’s voices to be heard
Self-Forgetting and Numbing
When around other people, Type Nines spend a lot of energy making sure that everyone has space with them, which is a beautifully, unique thing about them and how they relate to people, but oftentimes that can cause them to self-forget; to numb their own feelings, dreams, and desires and really take on someone else’s as their own. This can make it hard to access what their actual opinion or desire is, because other people’s opinions and desires can feel really loud. This can also make Nines a little more indecisive or passive, which can, in a roundabout way, cause some of the conflict that they really, really don’t want! We will get more into that when we get to motivations.
Underneath all of this peacemaking and wanting people’s voices to be heard, Nines struggle with a deep frustration, because life is not that peaceful ideal that they desire; that comfort and idyllic harmony that they crave. When they are putting other people’s opinions and desires over their own, then they do not feel heard in the same way that they strive to create space for other people, which can lead to deep-seated frustration that might be difficult to process. For a Nine, speaking up and just saying what they want to say can feel really difficult, because they might also believe deep down that they are only worthy of the love and approval that they seek from others if they are conflict-avoidant; if they agree, acquiesce, and accommodate; and make room for everybody else. Nines believe that this is the only way to be okay in life; it is, in fact, the underlying belief that all Type Nines hold: “I’m only okay if I stay calm and don’t assert myself; I’m only okay if I avoid that conflict and help other people feel bigger by making myself smaller.” This underlying belief really kind of comes out in the behaviors that we see that we might typically associate with Type Nines. It comes out in the desires and fears, the motivations we’re going to talk about now that a Type Nine holds.
Our desires are what we are running towards in life to feel okay. And as a type nine, these are:
- To be comfortable
- To be stable
- To be peaceful
- To be connected and at harmony with themselves, their environment, and their people
Because Nines are chasing those desires, they are running away from the equal opposite:
- Losing connection with other people
- Feeling overlooked by others
This is a little bit of a dichotomy, because Nines are making themselves smaller to make room for other people, yet they don’t want to feel overlooked by others. Sometimes they try to help themselves not feel overlooked by forgetting that they had something to be looked at anyway, by forgetting their desires and opinions. This puts them in a really difficult, uncomfortable place because they start to grow and gain this healthy assertiveness, but can feel like they are putting themselves in the position that they were afraid of in the first place! Whenever you are running towards something, thinking that it’s going to make your life okay and make you feel okay as a person; and you’re running away from it’s equal opposite (things that will make life not okay, that will make you feel like you are not all right in this life as a person); that middle is where we often find ourselves, and it’s what I call The Struggle. Some Enneagram teachers call it the passion or the sin, but I really think it’s just that you are running towards something and away from something, and you’re also stuck in something. For a Type Nine this middle place is called “sloth.” This isn’t physical sloth, although it can manifest as that, but is really more of a mental state that prevents a Type Nine from truly knowing and living out their passion. It means remaining in an idealistic, imaginary world to keep the peace, telling yourself that you are ok when you aren’t, and even convincing yourself that you’re really okay because the work of walking through conflict or asserting yourself feels too hard.
I want to explain that this does not mean that Type nines are lazy. In fact, often they’re sometimes overly productive so that they don’t have to process or work through conflict, and kind of avoid it in that way. It can manifest sometimes in the things that they do, but it’s really a mental state that a Type Nine might struggle with.
I want to take a really quick look at the wings for a Type Nine. Again, if you want to look at the Enneagram Basics Introduction post [insert link here], just pop back there and in the middle of it we talk about wings: what they are, and how they can show up in things.
For a Type Nine, the possible wings are an 8 (9w8) or a 1 (9w1)
A 9w8 is a little more energized, outgoing, outwardly sociable, and wanting to be around people. They are also a little more outwardly stubborn and more independent. On the other hand, when struggling or having a bad day, a 9w8 might struggle with more outward anger response, especially when they feel overlooked or notice that they or others are being mistreated.
A 9w1 is a little more principled in their ideals, more critical of flaws in themselves and other people, and care very deeply about fairness and a larger picture of justice. When having a bad day, they are more likely to withdraw from other people and become a little more passive-aggressive in how they show anger, and a little more judgmental of themselves and others.
Levels of Health
Now let’s move on to our levels of health. These are not indicative of where your heart is; I used to think that, but I no longer do. Instead, I think these are more an indication of if you are believing your underlying belief or reaching for a truth that’s bigger. Remember, we can bounce around all over the place throughout the day; this is not a linear growth path that you’ll experience in life or a linear, slippery slope of any kind. This is more of just an indication, a barometer of where you are in the moment. So let’s get into it.
A healthy Type 9 displays things like flexibility with honesty; they are flexible in how they share their truth, but they still share that truth as well as their passions, desires, or opinions. At the same time, they keep those beautiful traits of being accommodating and making space for other people’s opinions. They actually believe, when in a healthy place, that their voice matters as much as everyone else’s, and they inspire and comfort other people in equal measure. This is a really beautiful place to be as a Type Nine, but it can be difficult to stay there because they are having to remind themselves of the truth that’s bigger than the underlying belief of “I’m not okay unless I’m calm and make room for others.” If you believe that you are allowed to feel your feelings, that you are allowed to share them, that you are allowed to expect the same space that you give to other people, then this requires you to kind of hold onto a truth that’s bigger than your underlying belief. So it can be difficult to stay here for a long time, but it is a really beautiful place to be because you do matter, your voice does matter, and the space that you give other people is a wonderful and right thing to expect for yourself as well.
When Nines start to believe or be stuck in the belief that they need to be calm and accommodating for life to be okay, then they may start to hold onto or exhibit some of their average or autopilot traits. This looks like having an easygoing attitude that they share with other people, but hiding a stubbornness and resentment going on inside because they are being overlooked. They don’t have the same kind of space that other people have, and are kind of viewing other people as more important than they are, even though deep down they know that this isn’t a true belief. They don’t tend to ask for much when on average or autopilot, but they might quietly hope for recognition and appreciation from others, And then feel hurt or resentful when that doesn’t happen.
Let’s go one level deeper, which is unhealthy. Again, we don’t have to stay here very long, but sometimes you might feel yourself stuck there. If you do, I would suggest finding some sort of professional help in the form of counseling or therapy, whatever that looks like for you, where you feel safe to explore why you might be stuck.
The unhealthy place for a type Nine is when they fully believe that they have to be calm, that they must accommodate, and that they have to make themselves smaller. This plays out in ways that leave them with unmet needs and an unheard voice, and that is a difficult place to be. They are more focused on keeping other people happy so that they can feel some sort of peace on the inside, an inner peace that they aren’t causing any problems. This is not full peace or true peace, but it at least feels better in the moment. Unhealthy Nines might merge with the opinions of other people and really lose sight of who they are as a person. They also might avoid developing or recognizing their own opinions, agendas, plans, and goals.
Again, this is a difficult place to be. If you feel stuck here, I would encourage you to seek help for that, because someone might be able to give you that objective opinion you need that will remind you of the truth that’s bigger than the underlying belief that you hold.
Let’s move on to growth and stress points. We are just going through these really quickly and will only touch on two, even though there are technically four.
Experiencing growth means being in your comfort zone, but feeling ready to explore a little bit beyond it; it means you start wondering if there is more that you could reach for, and you feel ready to do that!
For a Type Nine, this looks like accessing some of the healthy characteristics of a Type Three:
- More inner and outer confidence
- More goal-oriented, wondering how to achieve their own goals
- In touch with their opinions and dreams, and the calling that they feel on their life
- More likely to lovingly assert themselves with other people, as well as share their thoughts and insights with other people.
Doing these things helps Nines reach that harmony and connection that they really, really want with the world around them.
Let’s talk about stress. Stress is when you have tried some of your usual coping mechanisms, the things that you might do to feel okay in life, and they are not working because of an outer circumstance or an inner turmoil or something that is causing stress. So you need to find and reach for something else to try.
For a Type Nine, that starts with reaching for Type Six’s average or autopilot traits:
- Starting to become more anxious or worried
- Having a racing “hamster wheel” mind that is focusing on possible catastrophes far beyond what normal troubleshooting might be
- Frantically finishing projects and responsibilities
- Becoming more reactive in conflict than normal
So those are two examples of growth and stress points. Growth is moving to Type Three, taking on healthy aspects; and stress is moving to Type Six and taking on some of the less healthy aspects.
Again, there is so much we could talk about. We could do so many posts on just Type Nine, but we have to move on.
Let’s look at subtypes.
A self-preservation Type Nine is more likely to crave routines because they give this predictable comfort that they can hold onto, which can help them self-forget, if needed, and can help them feel at peace. There is a fine balance there, between the good and the bad when it comes to predictable routines! An SP 9 might resist change in a stubborn way, even though they are pretty patient and grounded.
Social Type Nines are much more likely to be outgoing and active, and are seen as the optimistic “glue” that holds the group together. They this kind of persona, a personable presentation that others notice in them, but they still struggle with knowing and acknowledging their own agenda, even though they do come across as very cheerful and very goal-oriented.
This subtype is more likely to merge and take on the agenda, attitudes, and opinions of one person. This could be, this could be a romantic partner, but it doesn’t have to be. Doing this merging with one other person can cause a lot of inner conflict with the need to be autonomous. This subtype is a little more shy and gentle in how they present to the world, and they can even feel unable to be assertive; it is something that they feel that they lack the ability to learn, even though they don’t, but it can be a very strong feeling for them.
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