“Never knowingly be serious.”The Eleventh Doctor, Doctor Who
Though the Doctor has gone through many incarnations, two Doctors started the “modern resurgence” of fascination in the time-traveling alien with a TARDIS that can fly through space: Ten, with all his manic energy, delight in the unusual and the mysterious, and Eleven, with his wide-eyed childish wonder at the mysteries of the universe. Though both are beautiful examples of unfettered joy in all things, Eleven brings a manic sense of hilarity and delight to his episodes. Able to talk a mile a minute, unwilling to stay in one place very long, so bored with watching “black boxes” that he cleans the entire house, mows the lawn, plays soccer by himself, and then leaves Rory and Amy to do it alone, the Doctor is a wild, reckless bastion of energy, excess, and total optimism.
In one episode, he remodels a house and chooses hammocks for the children’s room, because they are “so much more fun than beds.” He spends so much time dragging Rory and Amy all over time and space, both of them age ten years without being gone a week in the lives of their family and friends. Merciless when roused to anger, but possessed of a simple joy in the miraculous (upon receiving a glowing blue box, he exclaims with total joy, “I’ve got mail!”), Eleven abounded with an infectious wonder that filtered into his fans. But he was also constantly running… away from everything hard. Every loss. Every pain. Every mistake. Every anguish. Always toward something, anything, that would force him not to face his inner demons. He was so childlike, near the end of his life, he decided the next time to resurrect himself into “an adult.” Just for a change of pace. Eleven is a beautiful embodiment of an Enneagram 7. Read on to learn more about them.
- The Need to Avoid Pain
- The Enneagram 7
- Enneagram 7 Wings
- Social Variants
- Self-Preservation 7
- Social 7
- Sexual 7
- Spiritual Growth
7: The Need to Avoid Pain
7s shine with optimism and joy and want to find the miraculous in every moment. In their childlike astonishment and delight in life, they experience life as a gift to savor and experience. Full of idealism and plans, they often infect others with their tremendous enthusiasm. They are good at helping others see and appreciate the “sunny side” of life. These cheerful people are funny, imaginative, playful, and charming—all to protect themselves from anxiety and pain.
They build their entire mental structure around dealing with fear by cognitively pain, anxiety, and sadness, and replacing it with pleasurable experiences. They have lots of wants and it’s difficult for them to accept that they may not get those wants fulfilled, which makes them seem unrealistic or idealistic. They are always looking for a shortcut to skip the hard stuff or distracting themselves from their chronic disappointment in not getting everything they want. Though often smart, they skim-read and overestimate what they know, since they find detailed learning tedious and “not fun.” They will work for what they want, but don’t feel a superego response to be “responsible.” They are the quintessential Peter Pan archetype, the child who never wants to grow up, but remain a fun-loving, pleasure-seeking idealist forever.
Whenever a 7 faces anything hard, they repress or whitewash it. They may paint their experiences positively even if they are anything but and turning traumatic or tragic situations into “life lessons.” Their mantra is you cannot let anything get you down! They are often inside their head, planning their lives so that every day will promise as much pleasure and as little pain as possible. This can be anything from self-rewarding behaviors for accomplishing tasks to cramming their schedule to overflowing and not wanting to miss a single opportunity, even if it squeezes their bank account or leaves them no down time. Given the choice, many 7s embrace an idealistic mindset that everything is beautiful. Life is a Disneyland full of surprises and miracles.
Other types may find them ungrounded and unrealistic, since they know that life isn’t all sunshine, rainbows, funny, or easy. 7s also use their natural curiosity to distract themselves from reality. What they know, own, or have experienced is never enough. They need change, stimulation, new experiences, and fill their calendar with as many exciting future dates as possible. They will ignore, postpone, and avoid unpleasant tasks, and then reward themselves for doing it, if they cannot escape it (if I have to get the oil changed, at least it’s not too far to the store where I can buy myself that new ___). They are adrenaline addicts and don’t notice the enormous lengths they go to, to avoid being alone with their own soul.
They are generalists of the highest degree, because nothing ever holds their attention for very long. They always want to leave all their opportunities open and avoid committing themselves too much to a person, situation, or job. The depth of involvement means that at some point, this person could hurt you—and they want to avoid that at all costs. And if you are too devoted to anything, your own flaws often become visible, and that is also horrific. 7s are natural born bluffers and can often masterfully convince others they know far more about something than is accurate to their skill set. They struggle to stay in a career and may have a variety of jobs, hobbies, or interests all at once, flitting back and forth between them like a butterfly in a flower bed. They often lose interest in things and abandon them half-completed, leaving a litany of “failed projects” in their wake. They detest having anyone dictate how they will spend their time, or forcing them to be somewhere on time, or preventing them from taking advantage of things as they arise, so many of them prefer to be their own boss or at least to have flexible responsibilities and hours. But they need to feel above all that they are contributing and bringing joy to others. The endless plaques, posters, and optimistic products on the market that encourage you to do everything from “do what makes you happy” to “never let a struggle get you down” were likely penned by 7s.
Because their entire life revolves around making sure they miss out on nothing, 7s will not face up to their tendency to hurt other people in their endless quest for self-satisfaction. They may deny or repress that realization, or use rationalize it away through turning guilt into positivity. A 7 can rationalize away almost anything in their tendency to find a positive thought to insert into the situation to avoid pain, unhappiness, disappointment, etc. (“I’m sorry Grandma is dead… but she had a good long life and accomplished many things.” “I don’t understand why this relationship failed… but it leaves me free to meet someone even better!” “I did not feel miserable when I cried; those were tears of joy!”)
Rather than feel pain, they shift it. Give it a new name. Walk away from it. Where 6s produce horror and trepidation in their minds, 7s produce joy and happiness. They can live for years without facing the dark side of life and will label others who seem to be “preoccupied” with it as “downers,” “pessimists,” or “always looking for the bad.” They take a long time to see the negative in others, in their relationships, or in themselves. Their desire to want everything to be beautiful, good, and magical gives them an exaggerate positive self-view. This can lead to denial of ever making mistakes, doing anything wrong, and quarrelsomeness when you point out their flaws. They will wriggle, squirm, and deny it all, because it doesn’t fit their idealized self-perspective.
They have a simple want in life: to avoid pain and be cheerful instead of sad. They are notorious optimists who cannot deal with emotional problems, their own or other people’s. They find it almost impossible to tolerate the pain and suffering of others, but are also unhappy when others are unhappy. They want “happy people” and “good vibrations” around them at all times. They will shoot down any negativity and turn surly when dealing with other types who are more prone to pessimism. If things get too deep or too sad, the 7 dismisses the problem, rushes through the conversation (“I’m sure you’ll be all right in no time!”), and reassures them it will all turn out fine.
The 7 sometimes knows that their cheerfulness is fake, but they will smile anyway to conceal their great sadness. They long for someone to see their pain and take it seriously, but their lack of depth in favor of superficial delight can cause others to assume they never need emotional support, because the 7 draws no attention to anything negative or sad. They will compensate through “more”—more eating, more drinking, more shopping, more trips, more luxuries, more self-pampering, more recognition.
They have the gift of seeing the comedic side of things more quickly than the other types. They are good at seeing where you can have fun, where there’s something to laugh about, and how you can have a tremendous time. They do “everything too much,” which means they can be chatterboxes. They have to work at it to become sober. They never understand that less is more, because to them, more is always better. They love anything that takes them out of the present, which they always find unpleasant. They hope that somewhere else, they will find more happiness, rather than the disappointing present.
The 7 often struggles with their weight and they hate diets because it’s connected to “suffering” through deprivation. They store up joy, because their greatest goal in life is happiness. 7s will try to eliminate fear and pain through rational arguments, even death. That’s why they hate funerals so much; it’s a reminder of mortality, of suffering, and ultimate “lack of being.” Some of them may reshape death to take the edge off it, or think about “life after death” as a paradise of endless pleasures without bills or weight gain.
If they encounter criticism or a challenge, the 7 will listen, push it aside with wit and humor, and ignore it. Any personal attack does hurt them, because it reminds them of what they fear: failure. To be “less than” their idealized self. The young 7 constantly plan fresh ways of optimizing their happiness and are terrific “planners” of events. If you want the most incredible wedding, birthday party, or bridal shower, a 7 abounds with creative ideas of how to make it fun for everyone.
The 7 must learn to become wise. To recognize that less is more, that there is nothing to fear in being alone with themselves. Too much planning and avoidance of life can become a habit, rather than each experience giving them genuine pleasure. It can run into addiction, with nothing ever satisfying them, because of all their over-indulgence. They need to learn to recognize their tendency to rationalize away things too quickly and avoid them. They can become dismissive or even mean to others whom they believe are “trying to ruin my mood.” It’s important for them to find a way to self-acceptance, to learn to embrace their dark side and their abundance of love, hope, and joy, and to find good things in the present, rather than fleeing into the future or the past. One thing that can help them accomplish this is to try doing something free of external distractions. To just sit in the sun and enjoy it rather than bringing along a noisy distraction. They can use meditation to confront the things they do not want to think about (this works, because it’s a “limited amount of time” to consider these things, and then the 7 can go back to their fun times). Though it is incredibly hard, the 7 needs to confront their pain fully, without diffusing it, ignoring it, or downplaying it through jokes. They need other types to walk beside them up this road and help them face it. 7s can benefit from training themselves to stick with things—their relationships, their work, their hobbies, their projects, so they have something to show for their time. They need to slow down, be quiet, and accept that part of life that is hard. Only then can they grow up and be wise and deep besides being playful and joyous. In depth, in learning to see the beauty in the pain and not to avoid it, the 7 can find the joy in all experiences, both wonderful and painful.
Gluttony, Fraudulence, and Narcissistic Personality
The gluttony of the 7 is a passion for pleasure and a deviation from their potential for self-actualization; the weakness for pleasure makes up a general susceptibility to temptation. 7s are “schemers” with an insatiable thirst for “more.” The 7 approaches the world through the strategy of words and “good reasons” for their pursuits; they manipulate, through the intellect, others and themselves. They are dreamers who take their dreams as reality. They are charlatans in their expressiveness, being natural persuaders, and manipulators of words, and deviously overstepping the boundaries of their knowledge.
7s are not seekers of more of the same, but (romantically) seekers of the remote and the bizarre, variety, adventure, and surprise. 7s are sensitive, highly influenced by the outer world, and inclined to self-analysis, with occasional bouts of sadness and irritation. They are easily sated and quickly bored with things, restless and novelty-seeking. They fear punishment and suffer from an “excess of optimism” that goes undaunted and untouched by reality; they are generous, bright, and sociable, with easy accessibility to new ideas and ambitions, along with cheerful expectations.
Besides their permanent longing to get everything, 7s have an obstinate urge to talk at length, connected to their feeling of overflowing excitement. They value what they say and have an inexhaustible resource of thoughts to share. 7s are independent and not easily overawed, full of personality, and a strong arm for others to lean upon. They are eager for leadership.
7s share a few narcissistic traits in their self-assured social behavior, and untroubled and self-satisfied air, which others may see as immodest, presumptuous, pretentious, haughty, or arrogant. These 7s can be self-centered, exploitive of others, and take them for granted, expecting others to serve them without giving much in return. The 7 values their feelings of superiority, but hide or repress any feelings of inferiority. Their behavior may be objectionable or even irrational, but the 7 will still believe themselves superior or extra special people who feel entitled to unusual rights and privileges. This is so fixed in their minds, the 7 rarely questions its validity. They view anyone who cannot respect them with conceit and scorn.
7s place few limits on their fantasies or rationalizations and lets their imagination run free of the constraints of reality or the view of others. They exaggerate their powers and freely transform failures into successes, indulge in lengthy and intricate rationalizations for their selfish behaviors to inflate their self worth or justify what they feel is their due, quickly depreciating those who refuse to accept or enhance their self-image. Their focus on their optimistic imaginations makes them fanciful, believing themselves “okay” and in a constant state of positive well-being. They are cheerful and carefree. If anyone bursts this balloon, the 7 becomes irritable, followed by bouts of dejection, humiliation, and inner emptiness.
7s possess high expectations and encouragements. They trust others and feel confident of positive outcomes. They may view the routine demands of daily life as demeaning or annoying chores, because they intrude upon the 7’s illusion of self as almost godlike. They easily muster reasons to avoid ‘pedestrian’ tasks. They risk believing whatever they believe must be true, and what they wish must be right. 7s are talented in rationalizing their social inconsiderateness, but because they reflect so little on what others think, their defensive maneuvers are transparent to others. Waiting for anything for a 7 is abhorrent, and they freely give in to their impulses, followed by refusing to take responsibility for their actions and rationalizations of ‘how it happened.’
7s have a keen awareness of anything new and in the making, and are always seeking new possibilities. They feel suffocated in stable conditions. The 7 seizes on new objects or situations with great intensity and tremendous enthusiasm, only to abandon it cold-bloodedly. They may fritter away their life on things and people, staying nowhere long enough to create an abundance upon which they can live. The 7 is forever seeking strategies and tactics that will pay off. They may assume they know everything and do everything well, while in fact being lazy, confusing, and negligent. They cast an illusion of superior intelligence with systems, techniques, synthesis, inventions, exuberant but erroneous theological imagination… all beautifully illustrated frauds. Some 7s show a total lack of interest in material things or financial matters. They are not slow, but their heads are so far in the clouds, thoughts engross them while reality passes by unobserved. Some 7s are visible opportunists, others hide self-interest behind friendliness, and some are dreamers not of this world.
Gluttony: they are more than just open-minded, but probing. 7s experience takes them from an insufficient here to a promising there. They hide their frustration with life behind enthusiasm and bury it out of their consciousness. They are ‘gluttons’ for that which is remarkable or extraordinary, magical or mysterious. They are anti-conventional and idealistic, possessing a progressive outlook.
Hedonistic Permissiveness: 7s avoid suffering and embrace hedonism. They are permissive and self-indulgent. They have a laissez-faire attitude toward others, and may collaborate with them in pushing them toward their vices. They possess a spoiled attitude of entitlement to gratification and have a “playboy” attitude toward life. They turn to hedonism and self-indulgence to avoid their pain; their optimism is to make themselves and everyone else okay, and the entire world is a good place to live in. In the eyes of a 7, the world is a place of no good or evil, nor guilt, no should, no duties, and no need to make any efforts—for it is enough to enjoy.
Rebelliousness: you need rebelliousness to be self-indulgent. The 7 often finds a humorous side to conventional prejudices. They pair anti-conventional attitudes with intellectual rebellion and behavioral compliance. This makes them the idealists of revolutions, not their activists. They have a diplomatic rather than oppositional regard for authority, preferring a psychological environment and an equalitarian approach to others. 7s don’t take authority too seriously, nor present themselves as authorities to others, except to impress beneath a veil of modesty.
Lack of Discipline: 7s pair this with instability and a lack of commitment. They are undisciplined because they are not interested in postponing pleasure and perceive self-denial as loveless-ness.
Imaginary Wish-Fulfillment: they cling to fantasy and plans in a dull and frustrating world. To escape the harsh realities of life, the 7 embraces future potential and lives imaginatively in them rather than in reality.
Seductively Pleasing: the 7 experiences love through pleasure and enjoy fulfilling others’ pleasure-needs as a method of seduction. They please through helpfulness and a problem-free, cheerful contentedness. They are warm, helpful, friendly, obliging, selflessly ready to serve, and generous. They are excellent hosts and big spenders, buying love rather than truly giving it. But this ‘giving’ includes a catch; they are exploiters who feel entitled to care and affection in return. 7s are entertaining and humorous. They are good at making others feel light-hearted in their presence. Because this makes the 7 feel good, they may compulsively be the happiness ringleader. They do this by repressing and avoiding pain and unpleasant experiences and bury their anxiety.
Narcissism: the 7 is an exhibitionist who considers themselves well-informed and intellectually superior. This can mean a compulsion to explain things. The 7 may adopt a saintly image, even while asserting their superiority, wisdom, and kindness. They mask this attitude by a non-assuming, appreciative, and equalitarian style. Secretly, however, the 7 may feel inferior and insecure. To combat this, the 7 clings to the grandiose self, rather than the less desirable truth. 7s are witty and charming, using the latter to seduce others and ensure they get what they want.
Persuasive: in order to pleasure-seek, the 7 must become a skillful explainer and good at rationalizations for their behaviors. They will use any excuse to avoid taking unpleasant responsibility or admitting their flaws. They convince themselves of their own wisdom, superiority, respectability, and goodness of intentions. Being pleasing to others serves their persuasion skills. They like to influence others through advice. They find satisfaction in being helpful. They are highly intelligent, loquacious, and good at ‘suggesting’ to others.
Fraudulence: the 7 may confuse reality with imagination, projects and accomplishments, potentialities and realizations. They are pleasing but primarily takers; they hide anxiety and aggression behind humor and self-indulgence; their generosity hides their exploitative nature.
Defense Mechanisms: Rationalization and denial. They learn early in life to excuse the indulgence of wants with “good reasons.” They invent a reason for an attitude or an action to which they do not acknowledge or admit their motives. It distracts them and the other person from the ‘real reason.’ In making their reasons good and noble, the 7 feeds the demands of the superego. The 7 denies guilt in favor of an idealized self, an idealized world, and an idealized existence. They suspend criticality and blaming for optimism and a belief there is no need to struggle. The 7 also uses the defense tactic of sublimation—or turning their mental energies toward their desired ends and re-labeling their self-interest as altruistic motivation. They substitute the impulses by images, plans, and their own resourcefulness for their actual goal.
7s have intellectual and spiritual interests along with social extroversion and an active, restless disposition. They are highly intuitive, with verbal tenacity, and are often mentally gifted.
What formed them: many 7s possessed idyllic or happy childhoods that came to an abrupt end through a ‘fall from paradise,’ either through loss, unpleasant circumstances, or a change of situation. The 7 child may have gone from a warm, loving environment into a harsh school full of bullies or unpleasantness and sought refuge from the outer world in a fantasy world. A too-strict parent might cause mild, witty, but rationalizing rebelliousness in the 7 child, who does what they like and refuses to apologize for it. Or there is another 7 in the household, to whom the 7 child clings and idealizes.
7s equate pleasure seeking with love; to them, love means the indulging of their wishes, and they attract love by being funny, clever, ingenious, or witty. The 7 substitutes pleasure for love, which is an obstacle towards them having a satisfying love life. Their gluttony is an attempt to fill their emptiness. They perceive that they lack ‘inside’ something that others possess, and turn to pleasure instead, the joys of ‘false abundance.’
The avoidance of pain and the confusion between love and pleasure leads the 7 to cannot bring about a deeper meaningfulness than what is currently available. Seeking only what is pleasing means the 7 struggles to find their own depth. Their manipulations divorce them from a sense of community and cannot mask their emptiness. Until the 7 learns to find value in the present, and in reality, they will continue to live in a futuristic fantasy world. In developing ‘staying power’ and understanding true love does not mean always surrendering to one’s impulses, the 7 will come to know the fullness of life, and find themselves.
Enneagram 7 Wings
7s present in two different ways based on the influence of their preferred wing. While it’s possible to have balanced wings, or no wing at all, most people can relate to the traits, fears and defense mechanisms of one wing in particular.
7w6: The Entertainer
7w6s are the quintessential 7s—optimistic, good-natured, idealistic, naïve, and less grounded in reality through their childlike, wide-eyed wonder and love of everything life offers. They are very ‘heady’ in that they have intense mental energy that sometimes cycles down into 6 wing anxiety, apprehension, self-deprecating humor, and suspicion toward others. They are more likable and manic than the 7w8 and also able to be more vulnerable. They are more settled down and seek more stability, so they stick with projects and people longer before moving on to the next obsession. They can stick to a relationship once committed and seeing it through, and can be loyal to their friends and family. Their go-to defense is charm to get themselves out of trouble.
Character Example: Love her and find her hilarious, or hate her and find her selfish and immature, you never forget Lorelai Gilmore of Gilmore Girls. Full of comedic wit, a mouth and a brain that moves at a trillion miles an hour, always with a ready excuse, and never one to commit to anything difficult, despite raising a sixteen-year-old daughter, Lorelai charges through life like a teenager—full of wonder and creativity. She will wake up Rory to tell her a funny story about the night she was born (“it felt like sitting on a keg of dynamite”). She will rationalize away the awful living conditions of being a single mom at sixteen years old (when the “shack” behind the inn they lived in horrifies her mother, Lorelai angrily tells her it was “great”!). Lorelai has a habit of running away whenever anything gets too serious, she feels too much, or she gets scared. She hops in her Jeep and takes a two-week vacation to avoid cleaning up the aftermath of a canceled wedding. She breaks up with a professor after she thinks Rory is getting too attached to him, which is really just Lorelai freaking out about possible commitment and heartache. Anxiety about bad things happening to the ones she loves often preoccupies her thoughts. She even projects negative things onto the boys Rory dates that she does not like. But throughout it all, she remains optimistic, cheerful, and determined not to keep any food in the house, because ordering pizza, eating pop tarts, and crashing her daughter’s study dates are way more fun.
7w8: The Realist
7w8s approach life with a desire to conquer and possess it, and feel no shame about their optimism or their pursuit of distraction and pleasure. They are forceful and straightforward because of their gut wing energy, and less prone to the “magical thinking” of the 7w6. They have fewer manic episodes, a quieter state of mind, and never show others their anxiety or vulnerability. They are grounded, earthy, and unapologetic in satisfying their gluttony. They can be pushy, bratty, sarcastic, less concerned with wanting others’ approval, and more independent than the 7w6. They are competitive, bold, and aggressive, often determined to get their way. But playing and having fun is more important to them than gaining power. They are often bored and find it hard to stick to things once their interest has faded.
Character Example: Rhett Butler is one of the most memorable characters in literature or on film. He has a sarcastic remark for every occasion, a sense of playful fun, a hatred of commitment, yet also a brutal honesty that sees the manipulative Scarlett O’Hara as having similar traits to his own pursuit of what he wants, but more guilt about it. Forever encouraging her to just admit to being a scoundrel and enjoy it, Rhett also wants to lavish on her all the pleasures in life. He over-indulges and spends money as easily as he makes it. He teases her even when he’s on the verge of his own potential execution (“Cheer up, Scarlett… maybe I’ll leave you something in my will!”). He’s willing to chase her until she wants him, and by then it’s “too late.” So he leaves, without apology or remorse (“Frankly, my dear… I don’t give a damn”). Charming, witty, opportunistic, and focused on the pleasures of life (rather than fight a war, his ships hawk the latest fashion up and down the Confederate coast), Rhett doesn’t want to face pain any more than Scarlett does… but is also brutal enough in his 8 wing to admit it.
Social variants determine how we respond to the world and where our major priorities in life lie. Attentiveness to bonding, social responsibilities, and how we ‘appear’ to others is in the realm of social (soc). Survival, fulfilling all of one’s needs, and a focus on ensuring one always has enough resources for a comfortable life is self-preservation (sp). Sexual displays, competing for attention, being like a moth to a flame in your pursuit of another person, or competing for a mate falls under the realm of sexual (sx). Read through each to determine which resonates the most with you.
The Self Preservation 7
John Luckovich Description:
Self-Preservation Sevens seek Essential Freedom in their lifestyle through experiences and sensual pleasure. They are the most practical and experience-oriented Sevens. They typically have a natural talent for synthesizing skills and creating businesses, art, and adventures, and they might combine these elements into something unexpected, yet useful and interesting. Self-Preservation Sevens find ways to arrange their lifestyle so they can pursue the kinds of experiences, subjects, and interests they love while also ensuring some degree of well-being and material security. Where and how they live is viewed as the nexus to what opportunities and experiences will be available to them. Some Self-Preservation Sevens have multiple projects and money-making endeavors, and they love to travel and have intense experiences. People of this type have a great deal of resilience in the face of setbacks and upheavals. They also have a gift for extending this attitude to friends and loved ones, “sharing the wealth” by means of material support or opening up opportunities for others.
Self-Preservation Sevens express gluttony for resources and experiences that they believe provide physical well-being, an interesting life, and sensual pleasure. Consumption is a major Self-Preservation Seven theme—big expensive meals in fancy restaurants, big shopping excursions, collections, interests in upscale and luxury items are all possible examples. Or, they may live humbly but display a voraciousness in reading, passion for art or film, or prodigious creative output.
Self-Preservation Sevens struggle to know what conditions to agree to, what skills to develop, and what roots to put down in order to foster the kind of life they want to lead. Some Self-Preservation Sevens can feel crushed by a demand to have a life trajectory established by a certain age or by the expectations family may have around what kind of lifestyle they choose.
In Self-Preservation Sevens, anxiety around the limitations and state of the body creates a kind of impatience with the body and with healing, which exacerbates whatever physical and psychological issues are at play. Under stress, they adopt a predatory “me first” entitlement that can be overt in their attitude toward others or played behind the scenes by “borrowing” what they want or scheming for what they feel they are owed or what they think others won’t miss. They may also overestimate their energy and become workaholics in an effort to keep up stimulation and to prevent feeling overwhelmed by anxiety. Many unhealthy Self-Preservation Sevens may indulge in substance abuse, excessive partying, and reckless physical risk-taking, trying to escape crushing inner feelings of deprivation and grief.
Character Example: Though the Star Wars universe has many memorable characters, nobody ever forgets Han Solo. (He shot first.) The smooth-talking, commitment-phobic cargo smuggler lived a life of freedom and excess, devoid of any responsibility that could hamper him, until he met and fell in love with a woman who drove him absolutely crazy. Never one to admit to his mistakes, confess he plays both sides (and may have sold his cargo twice), or stick around when things get tough, Han had no intention of getting involved in the Rebellion. Being involved in a war is a good way to get killed, after all, and you cannot enjoy what money can buy if you’re dead. But once he met Princess Leia, exchanged a few thousand insults with her, and had a couple of passionate lip locks, Han decided it was time to grow up and settle down… well, sort of.
The Social 7
John Luckovich Description:
Social Sevens are looking to experience Essential Freedom in their relationships and vocation. For this type, the possibility and variety of life is at its richest when shared. Social Sevens have a strong sense of purpose and a profound desire to meaningfully leave a positive impact on other people. They love making genuine connections, going on adventures with companions, and are generally able to find something worth appreciating in most people.
While Seven and the Social Instinct, taken together, may evoke a picture of the buoyant social butterfly, not all Social Sevens are so extroverted. They tend to have extended networks of friends but have a tight inner circle of enduring connections. Even so, there’s a persistent sense of being called to be part of a larger world or bigger conversation and often a call to genuinely contribute to the betterment of others. Because of this, they are prone to being giving and self-sacrificing, often giving up opportunities, freedom, and self-interest for the sake of others.
One of the major difficulties that Social Sevens struggle with is not knowing where to invest their energy and time, so Gluttony compensates for this lack of real knowing by trying to pursue nearly every option they find even a little bit interesting. It’s hard for them to settle on where to develop their gifts and contributions. Unconsciously, there’s a belief that finding the right kind of relationships and the right kind of orientation, role, or calling will unlock the meaning they’re seeking, yet the fear of missing out on what that calling is, or where that key to unlocking potential lies. Adding to this difficulty, Social Sevens tend to be able to see something positive and interesting in nearly every path, option, and person. It can also lead to a lack of discrimination of who and where to give energy to, resulting in a frustrating feeling that it’s nearly impossible to make the “inroads” the Social Seven seeks or to figure out what to devote themselves to.
Under stress, Type Sevens have an unconscious habit of setting themselves up for disappointment by overlooking negativity or making agreements without fully considering the consequences of doing so. They may agree to take on responsibilities toward many people or organizations until they feel bogged down and resentful, searching for a quick way out.
As Social Sevens become overtaken with anxiety, they can be ungrounded, unreliable, and out of control while retaining a charming façade, so others can easily be swept up into the Social Seven’s impulse to escalate situations. In trying to enhance the social atmosphere through outrageousness, imbalanced Social Sevens are prone to escalation, burnout, and putting themselves at risk through self-neglect and recklessness. The focus on other people flips to self-absorption and hedonism, using other people and betraying their trust.
Character Example: Everyone remembers the manic energy and joy of the Genie in Aladdin, whether we’re talking about the original Robin Williams (himself a social 7) and his hours and hours of unreleased “riffing” as his character, or the more recent incarnation in the live-action version. Confident, optimistic, helpful, and even mature in his belief that Aladdin should tell Jasmine the truth, the Genie is helpful, useful, and supportive—but he also wants to have an amazing time, and goes massively overboard in everything he does. Aladdin wants to be a sultan? Well, he needs at least a thousand attendants, a massive entourage, peacocks, golden elephants, throw coins to the crowd… the works. Plus a rousing introductory song that will make his lady love’s heart drop, or maybe just her jaw. Though being a Genie sucks (“POOF, WHAT DO YOU NEED???”), even that has its perks. Right? Once out of the lamp, Genie sets out to “see the world”! (Hahaha… made ya look!)
The Sexual 7
John Luckovich Description:
Sexual Sevens want to experience Essential Freedom in chemistry, their fascinations, and their romantic partnerships. The high energy of Type Seven paired with the attraction-seeking, boundary-pushing Sexual Drive produces colorful characters who have a willingness to drop whatever they’re doing in pursuit of something that has captivated them. The object of desire represents a doorway to a new world and an entry into experiences they couldn’t have anticipated.
There’s a sense that every partner, every romance, and every turn in the evolution of a long-term partnership is a new discovery. They can have a gluttony for arousal. Much of their talent, charm, and success comes from this capacity, but they can jump completely into one project or person, and then the next and the next; the consequence is that their life can take on a zig-zag pattern. In seeking fascinating people and experiences, Sexual Sevens want to be fascinating as well. Yet their tendency to be stretched thin may lead to having many interests but not a lot of proficiency in any one skill nor any particular direction in life, fueling an insecurity they may compensate for by resorting to being outrageous or provocative instead of well-rounded.
As a type based in the Intellectual Center, all Sevens experience difficulty being in contact with a quality of inner knowing and discernment. When personality co-opts the Sexual Drive, it interferes with the natural intelligence and discrimination of attraction and chemistry, becoming overridden by intense mental excitation, a need for stimulation and seeing people through a veil of imagination. It can seem almost as if others become characters through the lens of a fairy tale or story. Therefore, a great deal of the basis for attraction of Sexual Sevens is the symbolic potential that the person and their relationship may open up. The obstruction of imagination over one’s experience can also easily turn into a pattern of chasing “peaks.”
Imbalanced Sexual Sevens will hardly allow for a situation to unfold on its own, and instead will goad things along with provocation to up the ante or add something to the experience. When this happens, the natural transgressive and provocative impulses of the Sexual Drive become intensified by mental activity toward exaggerated exhibitionism and fascination with the perverse. This can both stave off the possibility of sincerity and intimacy and undermine their attractiveness.
Character Example: Everything about the world above seems so much better than a boring life under the sea… that’s how Ariel of The Little Mermaid feels. She collects objects from the world above to fantasize over them and romanticize what it must be like. With stars in her eyes, she saves a human and instantly falls madly in love with him—so much so she will risk becoming seaweed just for the three-day chance to make him fall in love with her. Even if it costs her voice. Blindly optimistic, unfailingly sure of herself, and unrealistic in her expectations, Ariel greets everything on land with enormous joy, even if she has no vocal cords. It all holds delightful wonders for her to behold, from a simple fork to a walk along the shore at dusk. Ball gowns, carriages, horses, what wonderful things! So much better than her collection, or her family, or even the statue she once embraced in her cavern of wonders. Ariel wants it all—to feel the sand beneath her feet, to touch fire, to be away… away from her life, and in another one. To avoid her losses, her daddy’s temper, and her own pain.
Spiritual Growth Suggestions
As 7s work on themselves and become more self-aware, they learn to escape the trap of pursuing more superficial pleasures and avoiding the enjoyment of a deeper experience of themselves. They do this by slowing down and allowing themselves to be present, appreciating the value of their fear and their pain, and finding the joy in personal connections that comes when they connect with their own depths.
Notice when you are…
Focusing on pleasure as a way to escape pain. Observe what happens when you speed up and head toward an experiences that promises you pleasure. Get clearer about your motives when you feel driven toward a particular experience of pleasure. Ask yourself if you’re moving toward fun to avoid the threat of feeling uncomfortable. What are you getting away from? Notice if you change the subject during a conversation to avoid an unpleasant topic. Tune into the ways you may flee when painful feelings threaten to arise. Think about what motivates you when your search for fun intensifies or you distract yourself with stimulating ideas while trying to focus on something less interesting. Inquire into your feelings if something painful happens and notice your responses. Notice how you devalue specific experiences by framing them negatively, thereby rationalizing your avoidance of them.
Confusing indulgence and freedom from limits with love. Observe what happens when you engage in “soft rebellion.” Notice how you experience the “authorities” in your life. Notice how you respond to the constraints others place on you. What kinds of things do you feel limited by? How do you react to them? Tune into any fear or anxiety connected to these experiences. What do you imagine fuels your fear? Notice the ways you might indulge in pleasure when what you really want is love. Note if you equate limitation with a lack of love, and indulgence with love, and think about why. Consider what you really want from the people around you, and note if you substitute involving them in fun instead of love or attention.
Living for or in the future as a way of avoiding the present. Observe what is happening when you are focused on the future. Do you feel a compulsion to plan for future adventures? Notice what your visions of the future look like and how they might function as a way to escape the present. Think about what’s happening now instead of then. Do you tend to imagine excessively optimistic future scenarios? What motivates you at a deeper level to do this? Is there something you’re trying to get away from? Slow your pace and observe what happens, especially if any feelings or sensations arise.
Questions to ask yourself:
- How and why did these patterns develop?
- What emotions are these patterns designed to protect me from?
- Why am I doing this?
- How are these patterns operating in me?
- What are my blind spots, because of these patterns?
- What do they keep me from seeing?
- What are the consequences of continuing to be this way?
- How do my coping mechanisms trap me?
To counter-act focusing on pleasure as a way to escape pain.
- Make yourself more mindful of the movement from pleasure to pain. See your escape as an illusion. Slow down the process of escaping into fun and watch how it happens. The more you can watch yourself deny, avoid, or run away from pain, the more you can make a conscious choice to stay with hard things, survive them, and grow from them.
- Don’t mistake a bag of wind for a bag of treasure. You will create more pain for yourself when you focus only on pleasure. The pretty pictures you create in your mind might not amount to anything. If you really want to live, you have to experience occasional pain. As long as you believe escape is an option, through pleasure, fun, and planning, you will not make inner progress on your journey.
- Recognize the pleasure of your pain and the pain that comes from living only for pleasure. Allowing yourself to feel your fears and touch into your pain can lead to more pleasure in life and relationships. Too much of a good thing often leads to some kind of pain. Remind yourself of this, to help reverse the process of escapism.
To counter-act confusing indulgence and freedom from limits with love.
- Recognize anxiety as a side effect of liberation. Remind yourself that anxiety is an inherent part of being free, not something you escape by seeking unlimited freedom. Walking toward it instead of fleeing from it (and understanding its sources) can help you work through it and truly become free of it.
- Learn the difference between love and pleasure. Real love and relationships require bringing all of yourself to your experience with others, not just the happy or pleasurable parts. Notice when you are using pursing fun and pleasure as a substitute for love. It’s the quality of your contact with others that is important in your fulfillment, not pleasure.
- Reference others as a way of balancing freedom and connection. You tend to pay attention to and focus on your own needs, feelings, and desires. Learning to focus more consciously on others helps you balance out your compulsive need for freedom with a stronger ability to be present for and with other people. Learn to sink more deeply into your connections, not to find refuge through stimulation, but to bring the fulfillment of your own experience into more intimate contact with all of someone else. Often, this is fun and exciting. Sometimes, it isn’t. Stay. Be “with” your friends and family’s down moods and painful struggles as well as their joys.
To counter-act living for the future as a way of avoiding being present now.
- See all the ways you go to “then” to escape from “now.” Notice how you focus on the future as an escape from the present moment. Notice yourself becoming absorbed in futuristic fantasies. Try to see how you could bring what you are longing for into the present moment. Focus on today instead of tomorrow or next week. Realize the urge to plan a getaway is a sign you’re having trouble accepting the present. The present is the only place you can truly live. Learn to consciously live and love.
- Allow for a fuller experience of pain and other uncomfortable emotions. One aspect of your personality is the desire to avoid “growing up,” and to stay like Peter Pan, in childhood fun and indulgence. Make a concentrated effort to more fully engage with adulthood and pain, as part of the process to becoming all you can be. Use meditation, the support of others, or supportive practices, and reap the benefits of being awake to self.
- Risk living in the present. Practice being “here.” Come back into your body and ground yourself in your breath or check how you are feeling. Challenge yourself to see what’s wonderful in the moment. If you find this hard or boring, ask others to help you. Find support for the difficult feelings that may arise. Learn to see that it is the deeper experience of all their feelings in the “now” that provides you with a portal to your greater self.
Using your integration and disintegration numbers for self-growth:
Move to 1 by allowing for a clearer idea of what is good and right and seeking to serve a higher good. Move out of your dreams and fantasies into direct action, making something of your desire to create and actually finishing things. Moving through 1 discipline and follow-through will help you make the possibilities you imagine more practical, achievable, and polished. You will learn diligence, discipline, responsibility, and dedication to a higher social good. It will balance out self-interest with selflessness, and bring your dreams into reality through hard work. Blend your enthusiasm with practicality as a way of making things happen. The 1s objective, critical analysis can help you structure your visions.
Move to 5 by allowing yourself to become less social, less busy, and more thoughtful. Become more internal and involved in your thoughts in a less manic way. Recognize the need to rest, relax, and not have to manage the outside world through diplomacy or humor. Honor that part of yourself that might need to withdraw, hide out, and enjoy private pleasures. Remind yourself it’s okay to retreat once in awhile. Shift your attention from the external to the internal world and make more objective, thoughtful, considered decisions about how to spend your energy and more mindfully take care of yourself.
Sources: Richard Rohr, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, Claudio Naranjo: Character and Neurosis, Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Beatrice Chestnut, The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge; John Luckovich. Sections quoted or paraphrased. Please purchase the original books for more information.