Funky MBTI

Teaching MBTI & Enneagram Through Fictional Characters

9: The Need to Avoid

“… it was not in her nature to question the veracity of a young man of such amiable appearance as Wickham.”

of Jane Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

One of the sweetest characters in literature, Jane in Pride and Prejudice, has a pleasant, unassuming, and forgiving nature. The mild-mannered Jane rarely shows or shares her feelings (“she does not show her feelings even to me,” Lizzie says in the most recent screen adaptation). While her heart abounds in adoration for Mr. Bingley, Jane remains stoic and temperate in his presence. Her sister’s friend Charlotte urges Lizzie to tell Jane to show more affection than she feels, out of a concern that Jane’s stoicism will get read as disinterest. That proves to be the case. Her lack of outward passion convinces Mr. Darcy she is a fortune-seeker, and he tries to drive them apart.

When this happens, the stubborn Jane, determined to see the bright side and think ill of no one, insists Bingley must have a good reason to leave the area, that his sisters are not destructive or aligning against her, and that all will turn out well. Though she has every right to feel furious over what has happened to her, Jane remains calm. When her youngest sister runs off with Mr. Wickham, a man the entire family trusted, Jane assumes the best of him—that they must have gotten married along the way, since surely neither of them would bring such disgrace upon them all! Though worried, she displays no outright anger about the situation, and accepts Mr. Wickham as her brother-in-law after a forced marriage. She is tolerant, amiable, and generous of spirit. When at last she finds happiness in her engagement to Mr. Bingley, her father remarks that both of them are so amiable, their servants are likely to cheat them.

Jane must come to terms with her loss, admit her culpability in being left behind, and find it in herself to resent the deliberate mechanisms of Mr. Bingley’s sisters in trying to prevent her own happiness. She is the perfect example of an Enneagram 9.

Read on to learn more about Enneagram 9s.

The Need to Avoid

Enneagram 9s are peacemakers whose ability to accept others without prejudice makes others feel understood and accepted. They can be unbiased arbitrators, because they see and appreciate the positive aspects of both sides to any argument. Their sense of fairness makes them committed fighters for peace and justice. Others can accept their criticisms because of their ability to present the hard truth calmly and without accusation.

Despite the peaceful presence they present to others, 9s often feel inner fear and restlessness. Their lack of a powerful drive contributes to an internal vagueness. They struggle to understand their own nature—figuring out what they want and who they are is difficult. They are “everywhere but nowhere,” connected to everything. Often generalists, they can do a bit of everything but rarely master anything completely because they lack focus and determination. Some 9s lack courage or consider themselves to unimportant to display their talents before others. They fade in and out of everything without being noticed. They will continue a conversation started by others, but “go with the flow” and abandon it when others do.

They feel overlooked and lost, ignored even despite their occasional outburst, and so keep their anger to themselves. They want to understand both sides to avoid feeling trapped between two strong, opposing points of view. They often, when with others, feel the needs and interests of everyone else. Their internal temperament can be steady, without big highs or lows in their emotions. They want to remain comfortable and avoid straining themselves through tackling achievement.

Though easy to like because of being amiable and good-natured on the outside, 9s are hazy individuals. Their choice of the path of least resistance makes them fearful of decisions that may pin them down. They avoid anything too hard or that takes too much energy, even postponing important tasks or responsibilities. It’s easy for them to get distracted into nonessential tasks to avoid the big ones, such as meticulously cleaning the grout in their bathroom rather than tackling the stack of work on their desk. The bigger the anxiety of facing the undesirable task, the easier they fall into unimportant side tasks. They struggle with constant distraction, and their actions follow their thoughts. They can seem scattered or absent-minded, easily lose track of their thoughts, and tell long, distracted, convoluted stories rather than getting directly to the point.

They may consider themselves simple and uncomplicated. They are honest and lack any hidden motivations; this means they are sincere in what they say. Since it takes great time and effort to come up with their opinions, they can sometimes feel angry at themselves for sharing them, which “exposes” the truth of their thoughts to others. 9s often belittle themselves in their own and other people’s eyes. Their “humility” conceals a false modesty and uncertainty about who they are. It allows them to go unnoticed. They tend to self-medicate to numb themselves to unpleasant emotions or tasks, especially if the stimulus can give them a temporary boost of energy. They seek strong outer stimulation to compensate for an inner lack of it.

When upset or in a crisis, the 9 disappears to avoid burdening others with their problems. It never occurs to them that others may help them. They require love and attention to emerge from their self-imposed isolation. Part of the reason for their retreat sometimes is also to ‘detox’ from the world and its influences. When they are with you, you are inside them and in their head; your opinions are their opinions; your energy has bombarded them, and they need to go into a full retreat to center themselves in who “I” am. This only happens when alone in an immature 9 who has not yet learned to put up boundaries between merging into your opinions and holding their own. Their challenge in life is to discover and develop their feelings of self worth and their own inner drive, as separate from others.

Immature 9s lack any instinctual drive and never take initiative, develop projects, gain new perspectives, or finish what they start. They avoid being committed at all costs and need firm deadlines in order to keep going; if left to their own devices, nothing ever happens (they never date, ask someone to marry them, buy a house, change jobs into something they enjoy more, or learn self-sufficiency). Their trouble is by loving comfort as much as they do, they become lethargic and unmotivated.

They depend on being approached (noticed) by others before they can engage. They are prone to inertia in relationships and disappearing acts, where they may vanish for weeks or even months. When you contact them, they feel delighted and eager to respond. Immature 9s never think to contact you first. This can mislead the other types into assuming a lack of interest, but they come alive if you reach out. However, if responding to you requires effort or obligation, such as writing a long e-mail to catch you up, they will procrastinate and postpone it.

The secret of the 9 is beneath the mild disposition lies a layer of cynicism toward life and the people in it. There is also a passive aggressive element to their behavior. Their avoidance of commitment hides an arrogant self-absorption in that “you are not worth me inconveniencing myself.” They are a gut type and hostile toward the outer world. They can be stubborn and immobile, especially the more you want them to do something; rather than get forced into a decision that seems to them to be premature, they will resist, stall, and delay things to keep them “uncommitted.” If what you want them to do involves strenuous or complicated labor, they will become even more resistant to the idea, assuming they lack sufficient energy to do it.

To avoid conflict, 9s either ignore it or vanish. They may refuse to help resolve a situation and hope it fixes itself. If they retreat, it’s a form of aggression, because the 9 is good at sensing what other people want from them. Retreat is their way of saying no without initiating conflict by stating their feelings out loud. Their withdrawing is a passive-aggressive form of rebellion. Sometimes it’s even to cause an argument, because they want one but also want the other person to start it. They will use delaying, not showing up on time, being too slow, or “forgetting” a task to provoke others, thus increasing their energy enough to yell back. Sometimes, this happens after a long period of going along with the other person and their ideas, feelings, or thoughts. The 9 realizes somewhere along the way that they do not share them, but then must decide if a confrontation is worth it or not. Their rare violent outbursts often shock their loved ones, because they are so uncommon and out of character.

They prefer simplicity and clarity to the complex or convoluted. Immature 9s in this way avoid everything—life, the world, relationships, self-awareness, and challenges, because they feel they are up for none of it. 9s have no defense against the world and find it exhausting. They use up all their energy avoiding or deadening their powerful feelings. They may seethe inside, but look outwardly calm and composed. Young 9s focus too much on agreeing whether or not they agree with your opinion, rather than seeking a position of their own. The 9 most of the time tries to please everyone and be open to everything. They are excellent peacemakers, able to mediate and understand both sides in an argument. Their indirectness makes them disarming to others, enabling the 9 to easily earn other people’s trust.

In romantic relationships, 9s feel torn between a desire between symbiosis and independence. It can take years to let people in, commit to them, or get married. Once they learn who they are, the 9 can meet a partner without “vanishing into them” or becoming an extension of them. They also struggle to let other people go. The 9 often relives memories rather than moving forward, and can collect and accumulate clutter out of a reluctance to let anything or anyone go. Being left by someone feels like losing a limb. They hold on to relationships long after they have run their course, out of a “habit” of that person always being there. Their tendency to accept others means they may accept totally unacceptable behavior in others just to avoid confrontation. They often know what they do not want more than what they want. 

One of their talents is their ability to do complex tasks without needing to devote mental energy to it. Once they establish a routine, they can do difficult jobs without a conscious mental awareness, often without mistakes. They can compartmentalize their brain and let their body do one thing, while they are thinking about something else entirely.

9s need to feel wanted and like they have something to contribute. They must learn that others believe in them, so they can believe in themselves. To overcome their cynicism about life, the 9 must learn to believe they are capable of purposeful and decisive actions. They must challenge themselves to act boldly and enjoy the risk. They need to find a focus point, so they can act intentionally. They must struggle deliberately against inertia and toward finding their own opinions rather than just responding to others. They should adopt a routine to make the best use of their energy. Schedules help them by removing the need to decide and thus procrastinating, and can help them avoid using addictive habits to avoid figuring out what they truly want. Habits and schedules give them a clear vision for their day, tasks to complete, and allow them to daydream at the same time. Instead of wishing and dreaming for things to happen, the 9 must challenge themselves to select the most obvious job and start doing it.

The 9 should feel and express anger and aggression inwardly until they break down their numbing defense systems. The more used to their own powerful emotions they get, the more easily they can learn to express them outwardly in constructive ways, rather than letting them simmer into passive-aggression. They need to take the initiative in relationships and challenge themselves to keep in touch and reach out to their friends more often. In difficult situations, the 9 must remind themselves that they have every right to the support of their friends and family and do not need to withdraw. The 9 must remember, above all, that they have much to give others.

Psycho Spiritual Inertia and the Over-Adjusted Disposition

The inertia or laziness of the 9 refers to a laziness of the psyche and of the spirit, rather than a tendency toward inaction, otherwise known as a deafening to the spirit and a loss of the sense of being—to the point of not even knowing the difference. A loss of internal-focus, a refusal to see, and a resistance to change. If not careful, the 9 begins with indifference and an attitude of not caring, extends to the deliberate refusal of joy, and culminates in a morbid introspection and despair. The 9 adopts tolerance to protect itself from the outer world, embraces disillusionment, and produces a sense of good-hearted, comfortable “earthiness.” The 9 has not learned to love themselves and has accepted this through a stoicism unparalleled in the other types (which makes the 9 the “least-sensitive” of all the types).

9s are content, generous people who experience a loss of inwardness, an aversion to psychological exploration, and possess a resistance to change that exists side by side with an excessive stability and a mantra of “don’t rock the boat.” Like the 4s and 6s, the 9 can be dependent. Unlike them, the 9 is incapable of resisting outside pressures. People and situations easily seduce them. They are kind, do not give others trouble, and are often reasonable, docile, laborious, and modest. They are sociable, good-natured, friendly, cheerful, humorous, jolly, hasty, calm, easily depressed, quiet, and soft-hearted. 9s find it easy to relax, and show a gluttony for food, company, affection, or social support. Their primary motive in life seems to be the assimilation and conservation of energy.

9s love physical comfort, have slow reactions, enjoy eating and socializing through doing so, are polite and ceremonious, possess a greed for affection and approval. They are people-focused, even-tempered, tolerant, complacent, need people when troubled, and oriented toward childhood and family relationships. 9s are duty-bound, hard-working, patriotic in sentiment, conform to belong, and have conservative ideas. They are overly pleasing and self-sacrificing while showcasing passive-aggressive behavior.

The 9 can spend their lives nurturing everyone except itself, giving much more than they receive and accepting the imbalance because the 9 feels they are the least important person in the family. They measure their worth only in terms of how much they supply to others.

Traits shared with dependent and submissive behaviors: unable to decide without an excessive amount of advice or reassurance from others; allows others to make most of the important decisions; agrees with others even when the 9 believes they are wrong, out of a fear of rejection; has difficulty starting projects or working alone; volunteers to do unpleasant or demeaning things to gain approval; feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone or goes to great lengths to avoid feeling alone; feels devastated when close friendships end; often fears abandonment; criticism or disapproval easily hurt them.

The 9’s center-of-gravity rests in others, not themselves. They adapt their behaviors to please those upon whom they depend and deny the thoughts and feelings that may arouse the disapproval or displeasure of others. They are self-effacing, ever-agreeable, docile, and ingratiating, denying their individuality, subordinating their desires, and hiding their true identities from others. They are outwardly calm, stoic, and pleasing, sympathetic; they have no desire to affect others, impress, influence, or change them. Though the 9 is always ready for peaceful coexistence, they may come across as not-warm or indifferent. The 9 strikes down any stormy emotions with a murderous coldness.

9s are grounded, aware of reality, practical, and dependable. They approach work with a sense of duty and dedication and often go unnoticed and unappreciated. The 9 feels hurt by indifference and needs others to appreciate them and the abundant services they offer. A 9 might keep a certain immaturity or underdeveloped sense of inertia, even in adulthood. They may crave the slow, protected, tranquil existence of childhood to the striving, competitive world of adulthood. The 9 has a lack of determination, which leads to low levels of ambition, energy, and drive. They are too easygoing, too resigned, or distasteful for the unnecessary ‘striving’ of life, not wanting to push or compete in a world that demands it.

9s are procrastinators, easily distracted, tarries, and fiddles with petty things rather than tackle the business at hand. They wear themselves out with minutiae to postpone undertaking harder, more serious tasks. They can be lethargic, apathetic, and phlegmatic, or a hard worker who perseveres to overcome or over-compensate for their inertia. They can sometimes reach a point of ‘insane industry,’ working day and night without letting up.

Identifiable Traits:

Psychological Inertia: 9s possess a loss of inner self, a lack of fire, and a lack of passion, because of blocking their emotions and desensitizing themselves to become “long suffering.” Their loss of inwardness leads to a deadening of feelings, either making them excessively complacent in self-expression or giving them a jovial disposition. The 9 has deafened their inner voices; they do not want to see or be in touch with their experiences. The 9 may be wholly ‘concrete,’ and possessed of an excessively earthbound attitude, motivated more for survival than the mysterious.

Over-Adaptation: leads to self-denial, self-neglect, inattention to personal needs, and an over-controlled disposition. It is not possible to adjust without the ability to take hold of oneself and inhibit one’s impulses. Therefore, the 9 may enjoy food—it is a way to indulge their physical appetites that does not provoke the intense unpleasantness of extreme ‘aliveness’ found in other activities. 9s are deliberate and responsible. They may postpone their own good and the satisfaction of their own needs in an excessive yielding to the demands and needs of others. To survive this, the 9 adapts self-forgetfulness.

Resignation: the 9 gives up of oneself and thus abdicates from oneself and from life. They play dead to stay alive. They are “lazy” in the observance of their own needs, contentedness, and giving up or not standing up for themselves.

Generosity: along with a goodness of nature, kindness, helpfulness, forgiving tendencies, and good humor. The 9s adapt an attitude of taking themselves lightly in order not to be a burden to others; and their friendliness is an attempt to be ‘for the other’ rather than for themselves. The 9 is an excellent listener, ready to be helpful, sympathetic, and comforting.

Ordinariness: 9s are unassuming. Their concern with excelling or shining is also low, and they may neglect their appearance. Yet, there is a deep and unconscious love thirst in their resignation and a wish for love retribution. 9s feel ‘loved’ by vicarious participation; living through others and becoming symbiotic with them.

Bound to Habit: 9s are creatures of habit, bound by custom and regularity, excessively concerned with protecting and preserving their sense of inner balance. They can be traditional, with an excessive attachment to the familiar, to group norms, or ‘how things are done.’ 9s possess a passion for psychological comfort.

Distractibility: the 9 approaches life with a strategy of not wanting to see, resulting in a diminished capacity for psychological self-insight and literalness. 9s get easily distracted, confused, and often possess terrible memories. This may be because of a lack of concentration, or they have pushed outer events into their side vision to remain in a state of inner harmony. The 9 will deliberately pursue distractions to avoid ‘seeing’ the world. They would rather numb themselves out, or distract themselves with TV, newspapers, sewing, cross-word puzzles, or anything else that gives them relief and comfort, rather than face the unpleasantness of the outside world and demanding tasks.

Defense Mechanisms:

Putting oneself asleep through immersion in work, stimuli, or distractions, otherwise known as deflection—casting their attention on one thing, to avoid looking at another one, and often turning aside from direct contact with another person. 9s do this by laughing off what they say, not looking at the person they are talking to, being abstract rather than specific, not getting directly to the point, coming up with bad examples or none, politeness instead of directness, by substituting mild emotions for intense ones, talking about rather than talking to, and shrugging of the importance of what they just said. In this way, they “water down life.” Their action is off-target, weaker, and less effective. They or the person they are with can deflect contact, leading to frustration on both sides. The 9 can put up an invisible shield, experiencing itself as unmoved, bored, confused, blank, cynical, unloved, unimportant, and out-of-place. If the 9 can learn to engage rather than deflect their and other people’s energies, they heighten the sense of contact between themselves and others.

Another coping mechanism is a fantasy of fusion, or rejecting one’s own isolation, loneliness, and individuality from loved ones. This 9 cannot conceive of any but the most momentary difference of opinion or attitude. If there is no simple solution, rather than agreeing to disagree, the 9 will flee into isolation, sulk, withdraw, become offended, leave the ‘making up’ to others, or become ‘forgetful’ of the others’ needs through flagrant disregard. The disagreeing person has become an object of concern, and the 9 thrusts them aside. If the 9 repairs the relationship, they may become too agreeable, frets over slight differences, and need proof of their total acceptance. Sometimes, the 9 who cannot stand contradictions, bribes, bullies, or compels others to agree with them.

The 9 must grow into a place where they not only respect their own and others’ opinions, tastes, and responsibilities, but actively welcome the animation and excitement that comes from airing differences and disagreements. Confluence makes for routine and stagnation; contact for excitement and growth.

What created them: they often come from a large family, where they received less attention than desired and thus developed a sense of overall un-importance, or from a hard-working family with no time to spend upon the needy child who wanted love and to feel cherished. To get this desired love, the 9 became over-giving and self-denying. The 9 realized complaining or drawing attention to themselves would be of no use in attracting attention, or feels doing so might cause them to lose whatever they already have. They gave in to their natural inclination toward resignation, and learned to laugh things off, to convince others they are “okay.” They may have been the mother or father’s ‘helper’ and taken undo responsibility for another, thus depriving themselves of a childhood.

Where other types actively seek love, the 9s have resigned themselves to not receiving it, yet give in expectation of return. They feel it is inappropriate to express their love wish, but feel gratified when others acknowledge their efforts. The 9 radiates a sense of contentedness that often convinces others of the 9 being more at peace with, or more present, than they are.

To grow, the 9 must become more of a seeker of things—of themselves, of what the world offers, of their wishes, demands, and innermost desires. The 9 must venture outside their comfort zone, try unfamiliar things, step into another routine, and risk themselves to find themselves; but they must also learn to accept their anger and other feelings, and to believe themselves as deserving of love. It is all right to express themselves; not to want to give endlessly, and to say no. This may scare the 9, whose loved ones’ needs and joys have become their own, but is a vital step in their emotional development.

Enneagram 9 Wings

9s 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.

9w8: The Boundary-Enforcer

9w8s are in conflict with themselves due to diverging energies; the 9 wants to remain unaffected and calls on the aggression of the 8 to protect itself, using forcefulness, flare-ups of anger, and reactivity (intensity of negative emotions) to establish boundaries, put people in their place, or stop things from happening to them. Their focus is on maintaining a sense of inner harmony, but they react to things that upset them with secondary aggression, defensiveness, and anger. The 9w8 has more access to negative emotions, less idealism, and a greater capacity for confrontation than the 9w1, because the assertive nature of the 8 (a tendency to be action oriented, direct, and high energy) helps diffuse some of the inertia of the 9. 9w8s crave an unaffected life, but also are double gut types that make decisions from pure instinct. They react in the moment, either by withdrawing or asserting themselves. Because of the 8 desire to accomplish things, the 9w8 is more able to assert themselves with friends and loved ones, less interested in merging or surrendering their agenda, and more concerned with autonomy and maintaining a sense of Self. Their anger is still repressed, but it flares up from time to time, and they will often ‘shoot from the hip,’ cause trouble, and then block people who ‘disrupt my peace’ with an equally strong response. Sometimes, the escalation of other people’s emotions escalates them as well, as they merge into and reflect intense energy; but being core 9s, they will fall back into a desire to be unaffected and unruffled by life, to withdraw into themselves, and separate from anything that causes them anxiety, pain, or that makes them angry. Their main emotional response is to get mad—at injustices, at being pushed around, at having their boundaries trespassed upon. They want things done their way, and not to be forced to do anything they don’t want to do, so become stubborn in their resistance. Once they are done with a topic, they won’t talk about it further—they will shut down the conversation, block that person, and move on with their life, with no need to negotiate or reach a consensus of opinion. Their instincts come from a combination of bodily energy and intuitive ‘knowing.’ 9s merge into the environment and get lost in it, sometimes overwhelmed by other people; the 9w8 will either go along, or get up and leave, or state their opinion, with the full conviction that it is an ‘absolute’ and anyone who disagrees with it is wrong. They are the more quarrelsome, persnickety 9. They do not want unnecessary conflict, but may cause it through a latent desire to assert themselves, start an argument, or provoke intensity in an otherwise boring situation, then feel overwhelmed by the violence of a response, or the negative reaction from a loved one (whose affections they want to preserve) and smooth things over as best they can. 9w8s can sometimes cause themselves more anxiety over conflict by starting it, then being surprised that others accuse them of doing so; to them, it’s a mere forceful self-expression of their opinions or personal boundaries.

9s are attachment types, which means they struggle with ‘how much’ to adapt to and hold onto those around them; before they learn good boundaries, they can over-adapt to people, tolerate situations they should not out of a desire to avoid upheaval and/or not deal with their feelings, or take on the views of others, without knowing what they want for their life. 8s on the other hand are direct, forceful, high-energy, and determined to go after what they want. The combining energy means a constant inner push-pull between the desire to adapt and go along, to be pleasant and allowed to dwell in one’s happy place without any inside intrusions, and the need to reject other people in favor of one’s own self-perceived toughness. A 9w8 may put on more “you can’t touch me, I don’t care what you think” attitudes than is inwardly true, as they become determined to take care of themselves. They are intentional in what they do, and deliberate in their need for rest; this is ‘how I rest’ (with a beer in my hand, and stay away from my chair!). They are unapologetic about their self-medicating tendencies, whether that’s to dive into a book and ignore the outside world for ten hours at a time, or involves recreational drugs, alcohol, or binge-eating. 8s are over-indulgent and 9s can be slothful, leading to a gluttony for the things that make them feel the happiest, most at ease with themselves, or allow them to block out uncomfortable emotions they do not want to deal with right now. Argile in season four of Stranger Things is a perfect example—a good-natured, cheerful guy who, the instant he starts to feel unpleasant emotions like anxiety, has to get high.

9w8s fight themselves in terms of positivity vs. negativity. 9s want to find the silver lining in every cloud and ignore anything that upsets them, whereas 8s want to loudly draw attention to whatever is wrong and bad about the world. This makes for a tougher, less idealistic 9 unafraid to delve into the darkness inside themselves and in other people, who want to experience the ‘rawness’ of reality, but who also shy away from over-immersion in things they do not like or that does not make them comfortable. They may avoid entertainment that unsettles them because they do not want to ‘merge’ into that kind of a situation or get lost in that character through self-insertion.

They can be uncompromising, due to 8’s tendency to think in black and white (with me or against me) and 9’s equal levels of self-trust. Both types are independent and rely on their own knowledge and strength to make decisions, but the 8 tendency to move against people allows the 9w8 to more readily overcome their withdrawn tendencies and possess more energy for relationships. Because neither type wants to fully embrace negative problems in their life, the 9w8 may re-frame and avoid facing the truth, especially of their destructive tendencies. They may be defensive and refuse to admit they were wrong or find it hard to apologize, since that makes them vulnerable.

The 9’s reluctance to communicate negativity sometimes causes an 8-wing flare-up of aggression that appears to come out of nowhere for other people, but in fact is the result of the 9w8’s boundaries being violated over and over. The “healthy” way to establish boundaries is to communicate and enforce (say what you mean, and mean what you say), but the 9w8 might not say anything, and thus the sudden enforcement shocks people. 

Character Example: Harry Potter shows both the temperate nature of the 9 and the rebelliousness of his 8 wing, throughout the course of the seven Harry Potter novels. A boy often “seething” under the surface, for many years he does his best to avoid his uncle and aunt’s wrath, and lives a quiet life “in the cupboard under the stairs.” When Hermione and Ron spend much of the third book quarreling, Harry is both annoyed at them, and refuses to mediate between them after a certain point, choosing instead to “tune them out.” He is quick to defend others, coming to Neville’s defense against Draco Malfoy, and developing an antagonistic and resentful attitude toward Snape for his bullying tactics. (At one point, he and Ron almost ‘attack’ Snape outside his classroom for making Hermione cry. It’s fortunate Snape did “not hear them swearing at him.”) In the fifth novel, Harry often falls into his 8 wing, in his sheer rage at being left alone, with no news, after the death of Cedric Diggory all summer (Rowling uses ALL CAPS to express how loud, assertive, and angry he has become). Harry accepts his need to die to defeat Voldemort, as a necessary sacrifice, and calmly walks to his “death” surrounded by the loving ghosts of his parents and loved ones. A true ‘surrender’ of self.

9w1: The Idealist

9w1s are the more traditional 9s often read about in type descriptions; their boundaries are more porous due to lacking the bold assertiveness of the 8, and they deal with a lot more self-recrimination and personal judgment, as well as struggle with perfectionism. Their need to do things perfectly, to be above reproach, etc, can exacerbate their tendency for procrastination. They may feel they ‘must’ get all their ducks in a row before they allow themselves a pleasure, or get to do the thing that they most want to do; or they may go directly to the more comforting thing that makes them happy, while feeling guilt and self-loathing for abandoning and ignoring their ‘shoulds” (I really shouldn’t be eating this ice cream while the kitchen is still a mess… I shouldn’t be watching my show when I haven’t texted my friend back in two weeks…).

9w1s are full-bodied gut centers who feel things directly at the core of their being, and who feel battered by the stout winds of life. The 9 does not always know what it wants for itself or how to set a strong agenda and the 1 knows from the center of their being what is right or wrong in their eyes. It has the ‘wrath and judgment of God.’ So the 9w1 notices immediately what is flawed, imperfect, or how people are behaving and judges it, but may turn that judgment around on themselves—or react passive-aggressively toward people, with a distinct whiff of “you are doing wrong” disapproval. Their desire to avoid conflict means they may not directly assert themselves, but when they do, there is a strong moral lecture behind it, in which the other party is told what they should/should not do, according to the 9w1’s standards. They are hard on themselves in their own mind, but also hard on other people… mostly without ever telling them about it. They struggle a great deal with anger—their own at being taken advantage of, ignored, or not allowing themselves to take up space in the world, and with a 1ish tendency to feel that anger is inappropriate, bad, or ‘should not’ be expressed in a disruptive manner. So they repress and deny it more readily than the 9w8.

They are the more idealistic 9, because in place of the 8’s tendency to see things as they are, they possess a strong streak of idealism. Life and people often disappoint them, but they may feel that negatively is inappropriate and disruptive to their inner sense of peace, so they repress it in favor of a more rose-colored view of the world. Anything that comes along to disrupt this idealistic vision is pushed away, denied, or ignored. It can fester for a long time before turning into righteous anger that things are not as they “ought” to be. Along with their idealism is a strong sense of knowing how things should be, and frustration at their imperfections. They can visualize what would be ideal or better, and the reality pales in comparison and leaves them irritated. Nothing is ever quite as good as they want it to be, including themselves and their own creative endeavors.

They are more able to see multiple sides to an issue than a 9w8, far more able to maintain peace with others (out of a desire to not be affected by them; they want to be calm, and if that means others need to be calm for that to happen, they will ‘tone police’ or play peacemaker to ensure their environment is conductive to the atmosphere that pleases them). They will engage in calm discussions to resolve their problems, and avoid the reactivity and escalation of the 9w8 in the process – deliver their opinions in a quiet and assured tone with the full belief that they are right. But they may want to avoid conflict with loved ones so much, they disappear on others and tell themselves the other person deserves it for being rude, dismissive, or incorrect.

They struggle from inertia and going along with situations to avoid conflict, but feel guilt when they accomplish nothing, when going along with it rubs up against their values or beliefs, or even when they have purely negative feelings about their loved ones. In their mind, there is a “right way” to do things, even if that’s just to household chores in a particular manner or in a certain order. (There’s a right way to load the dishwasher, and my little routine for taking off my shoes and hanging up my jacket at night makes me feel calm!)

Many 9w1s feel they ‘ought’ to give back to other people in some way, because of the 1’s relational energy and desire to contribute in a meaningful way to improving things. They may adopt perfectionist tendencies in certain areas of life, or put off doing things because their skill level does not match what they envision in their mind. They do not want to fail, be wrong, or receive criticism, and are hurt by it. It’s common for them to withhold themselves from others or go into hiding to avoid others’ opinions ‘tainting’ their views or their feelings toward someone or something. Others’ views easily rub off on them and can affect their view of what they love, especially if that person is unsupportive of it. If their best friend critiques their favorite show, the 9 can never watch that show the same way again, without replaying the criticism in their mind and struggling to divorce themselves from it. This can make them angry, but they may not assert it, and they certainly can’t forget it.

9w1s struggle to individuate and take up space, because they don’t feel they should or can. They feel torn between a withdrawn tendency toward isolation and self-independence, and a belief that things are theirs to do/take care of when things go wrong and that they ‘should’ do them. (A 9w1 mother might feel they ‘should’ prepare sack lunches for their kids to take to school; or as a dad, that they ‘should’ be there for every baseball game their son plays in, or that they ‘should’ repress their anger and be agreeable, because that is the proper thing to do.) They may wait for others to step up and resolve a problem, but also have a nagging in the back of their mind urging them to take care of it, since no one else will. This guilt only increases if no one resolves the problem but the 9 doesn’t want to do it, leaving them in a quandary between not wanting to get involved and thinking about what others want and need. They say yes to too many things out of a desire to please others, then feel overwhelmed or upset that there’s no time left for them.

There’s a need in them to do their best work, and to be competent at what they do; this can increase their procrastination tendencies, since they turn into perfectionists who want to get it right, but the effort required to get it right drains them of energy or makes them not want to start in on a project. Their awareness of their own perfectionist traits can make them tired in advance, and allow them to remain distracted, intentionally ignore things that need done, and then feel guilt about it. 9w1s can force themselves to focus if they try hard enough, and are capable of doing what needs to be done rather than what they want, but prefer to be left alone and isolated to get it done. Some of them block out the outside world through music or even wish coworkers wouldn’t talk to them, since they just want to do their job. Their sense of duty means they go along with the agendas of loved ones if they feel like they ‘should’ be there for them, even if it leaves them frustrated and tired.

9w1s go along to get along. They are self-indulgent but feel guilty about it and may inwardly berate themselves for their flaws that do not live up to their duty-driven idealism or ideas about their “best” self.” They may hide interests or habits from others out of fear of their rejection or judgment, and they have more of a guilt-trip about their addictions. They are prone to self-medicate to avoid their anxiety (it can be harmless stuff like an activity or baking, or self-destructive like drinking or drugs), but become defensive about it if others point it out, out of a fear they are doing something wrong/inappropriate/bad.

Character Example: The desire to keep everyone around her happy is what we most remember about the capable, but timid Amy Dorrit in Charles Dickens’ classic novel Little Dorrit. Beset by resentful and demanding relatives (a sister who is an actress and thinks she deserves the best, a brother often in debt because he wants more than what he can afford, and a father whose pride has transformed his shame into a ridiculous sense of haughty aristocracy), Amy is the selfless, sweet, and good-natured girl who takes care of them all, who finds their insults hard to bear, who wishes she did not “shame them” so much, passes judgment on their rudeness, and holds herself to impeccable standards of kindness and goodness. She eventually comes to recognize her own self worth, learns to stand up for what she wants, and eventually has complete control over her own life and may marry whom she chooses, but never once surrenders her character.

Social Variants:

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 9

Self-Preservation Nines are looking to experience Essential Harmony through their lifestyle and interests. Self-Preservation Nines are the most independent style of Nine.

Nines dominant in Self-Preservation will typically seek out lifestyles that provide enough independence that they don’t have to be answerable to or at the whim of other people’s agendas. This can mean keeping them in a kind of outward-focused busyness or an immobile slump that distracts them from fully seeing their present circumstances. There is a way in which they also “settle,” not quite going for what they really want to the extent they could and instead contenting themselves with lifestyles and desires that don’t require them to reach too far outside a limited comfort zone. They may view “getting by on a little” as humble or even virtuous and may seek to keep their “world small.”

Self-Preservation Nines are stubbornly entrenched in their habits and routines, so they put a great deal of energy into making sure too much isn’t demanded from them. Despite a reputation for being self-effacing and low-key, when certain boundaries are infringed on or demands placed on them, they can react with intense aggression.

Young Self-Preservation Nines are prone to having a difficult time in knowing what path or direction they want to take through adulthood, and they will delay choosing something definite for a great deal of time. They can be late bloomers in all areas of life, taking a long time to complete their studies or acquire certain skills. Following a path laid out to them by others, or sticking with an unrewarding job while making sure to look busy, are strategies of putting on a performance to parents and loved ones, appearing to be proactively reaching for a goal without taking any real steps. The struggle here is not that Self-Preservation Nines don’t have interests or talents, but they often easily give up on themselves.

Ironically, Self-Preservation Nines have some of the greatest potential for endurance of all the Enneagram Types, so once they have an aim they can get their energy behind, they typically achieve that aim and are not easily dissuaded nor taken off track. The difficulty comes in really pulling their energy out of distractions and into something that will enliven and challenge them.

Character Example: Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown exemplifies this brand of 9. By her own admission a “simple woman” of common needs, she contents herself with a life of structure, small pleasures (walks with her dogs, visits to Scotland, “stalking” deer on her country estates, and discussing homey things). She finds it difficult to know what she wants, and cannot even name her “favorite child” (much to her husband’s amusement) without interviewing each to assess their character afresh according to her moral standards. She is diplomatic, often shocked at her family’s rudeness and quick to reassure her guests or rearrange the schedule around them, but also finds it difficult to access her own feelings. She has become numb to them and sunken into what is ‘expected’ of the sovereign which is to hold no views. Something she urges her son Charles to do also, but… he cannot. Not with the natural ability to suppress, ignore, downplay, and force into the smoldering resentment that comes so easily to her.

The Social 9

Social Nines are seeking to experience Essential Harmony through their relationships and their contributions to others. Social Nines tend to be the most outgoing, friendly, and charismatic Nines. Social Nines tend to be actively involved with other people, and despite their modesty, they often make a big impact. They can easily fall into a kind of caretaker or “therapist” role with others. Deeply supportive and self-effacing, Social Nines can feel taken for granted since they care for friends and loved ones and don’t ask much in return.

For Social Nines, autonomy conflicts can take shape as a tension between how much they give themselves over to relationships versus how much they keep for themselves. This can play out in Nines as compartmentalizing different aspects of themselves that get expressed in different relationships. They can be outwardly the most malleable Nine, while covertly keeping others at arm’s length. It means that the Social Nine stays dispersed and divided, both connected to and outside of relationships at the same time. They allow much of their personal self-expression to be determined more by the perceived needs of the relationship than from fully showing up as their whole self.

Sloth can manifest in Social Nine as preemptive self-rejection of their own gifts. They can hide their capacities, talents, and individuality in order to remain accepted by others. A conflict can emerge for people of this type in both wanting attention and recognition while also feeling that being too singled out is narcissistic or threatens the respect and connections they have with others. This can create a great deal of tension and inner resistance, leading to resentment, and in some cases, passive aggressive behaviors and occasional eruptions of anger.

The checked-out Social Nine may then rationalize they’re looking for a better relationship or better social conditions to more fully express themselves, but this fantasy is often a way to simply delay showing up in the present. Likewise, the flipside is that they may settle with certain friends and relationships that don’t have their best interests at heart or who encourage them to remain in limited identities.

Character Example: Unlike his friend and protector Sam, who finds the journey to Rivendell and beyond tedious in Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins offers very little complaint—about the road or the people they encounter on it. When Sam wishes he was back in the Shire and enjoying the comfort of his own bed, Frodo peacefully tells him to just shut his eyes, ignore the “dirty great root” in the middle of his back, and go to sleep. Frodo has a dreamy nature, forgiving and malleable. He will sacrifice his own life and sanity to carry the Ring to Mount Doom and destroy it for the greater good. Frodo sees the good in Gollum that may or may not be there, because of his nonjudgmental disposition, and treats him with too much kindness and tolerance, and not enough distrust. Frodo is so incapable of withstanding the furious arguments over the fate of the Ring, he volunteers to take it for them. Throughout the story, various characters, from Elrond to Gandalf, remark upon his “extraordinary resilience” to the Ring’s evil, his ability to ignore it. But the closer he comes to its destruction, the more he merges into its evil. Yet, one of his greatest joys in his ordeal was to be in the Fellowship.

The Sexual 9

Sexual Nines are looking to experience Essential Harmony through chemistry and sexual relationships, and their attraction style tends to be more focused on inviting attraction rather than outright pursuit. Sexual Nines have a flirtatious style that balances an edginess with reassuring sweetness. The imaginative quality of this type can lend itself to a great deal of creativity or idealism, but this can suffer from a lack of grounding.

Sexual Nines know how to temper the aggressive edges of the Sexual Drive with attunement more skillfully than other Sexual Types. The good-natured quality of Nine supports people in feeling relaxed and comfortable in letting their guard down.

Despite usually being attractive, however, Sexual Nines can struggle with feeling overlooked, unseen, or unwanted. Sexual Nines are typically confident in their physical appearance, but they suffer when they feel elements of their personality are unacceptable or uninteresting, or when they simply can’t “find themselves.” They can feel they disappear beneath their sexual display or that they aren’t wanted unless they’re attractive.

People of this type will put pressure on themselves to attract yet may come to feel resentful toward their partner for having compromised their own autonomy in order to remain alluring. This can lead them to either spacing out—hiding something of themselves from their partner so they can’t fully “give themselves away”—or mysteriously breaking off the relationship because they’ve felt they couldn’t really be themselves. As an expression of Sloth, Sexual Nines may settle for a partner who may not value them or support their growth. When a Sexual Nine is very unhealthy, they may have a manipulative side, using their desirability and sexuality to get by in life at the expense of really developing themselves. Their sexuality can be dissociated, “leaking” inappropriately, and they can give themselves to partners who don’t value and respect them.

Character Typing: Bella in Twilight is a good metaphorical example of a sexual 9 and how they merge into and lose themselves in the object of their desire. She feels a strong, obsessive pull toward Edward that is inexplicable, and even when she finds out he is a vampire, she is non-judgmental about it and doesn’t see that as a reason not to be with him. She doesn’t care that he could suck her dry and leave her dead; she just wants him. To be with him all the time, to merge into him, to lose her sense of identity inside how wonderful he is, for nothing else to exist but them. Bella and Edward become fused to each other, and when he abandons her in the second book and film because he thinks he’s bad for her, it’s like she’s being torn apart. She has lost her second self and spirals into an intense depression. 9s all experience separation within their relationships as having a limb severed, but for Bella it’s like being murdered over and over again. She cannot exist without Edward. It’s only when Bella becomes a vampire—strong, beautiful, etc, that she feels she can truly hold her own, and even then, all she sees is… Edward.

Spiritual Growth Suggestions

As 9s work on themselves and become more self-aware, they learn to escape the trap of creating discomfort and disharmony by erasing themselves to create peace and harmony. By creating a stronger connection to their own internal world, asserting their needs and wants, and acting more powerfully on their own behalf, they can avoid their tendency to over adjust to others to the point of total self-forgetting.

Notice when you are…

Self-forgetting to go along with the wishes and wills of others. Observe what happens when someone else asks you what you want. Tune in to what’s going on when you have a priority and distract yourself with less important matters. Look out for how you use passive-aggressive behaviors and look for clues about what anger is motivating it. Note any activities you engage in to fall asleep to yourself.

Avoiding/diffusing conflict to stay comfortable and avoid separation. Note all the ways you diffuse tension, mediate conflict, and avoid disharmony. What do you do? How do you feel at the threat of conflict? What makes you uncomfortable? What do you do to stay comfortable?

Getting stuck in inertia over your own priorities. What happens when you need to act and don’t? What do you do to distract yourself? What are you avoiding? What does decision-making feel like inside you? What do you get out of not deciding? How do you feel when change happens?

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 patterns of avoidance and self-numbing 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 self-forgetting to comply to others’ wishes and wills.

  • Practice “remembering yourself.” Tune into yourself, feel yourself, and be conscious of yourself at the moment.
  • Ask yourself what you want and have others ask you too. If you keep asking yourself what you want, after a while, “I don’t know” becomes a specific answer.
  • Fake it until you make it. If you don’t know what you want, make something up. Your “guess” might be close to the truth.

To counter-act avoiding/diffusing conflict.

  • Re-frame conflict as a positive thing that brings you closer to others. Realize that arguments can be a way to get to know each other, learn to trust each other, and resolve differences.
  • Work to get in touch with your anger and be more direct. Anger is power and brings a passion for living. Experiencing anger doesn’t mean always showing it, but directness in expressing yourself and what you want will improve your relationships.
  • Practice giving and receiving feedback. Practice giving feedback to people you trust. Start small and work up from there. Remind yourself that feedback and conflict does not automatically lead to separation.

To counter-act inertia over your priorities.

Remind yourself to stay comfortable leads to discomfort. Denial of practical realities will cause problems. Be proactive and positive about thinking through the consequences of resisting change. Remind yourself that “not choosing” is a choice. Allow yourself to imagine positive outcomes. You need to learn to act to get what you want.

Using your integration and disintegration numbers for self-growth:

Move to 6 by adopting the analytical skills and proactive activity to support self-protection. The 6’s alertness in intuiting and tuning into threats and overall alertness can balance your desire to stay comfortable and self-distraction. Go into your head to analyze what’s happening in your life and internalize how you are self-forgetting and how that might threaten you in the long term.

Move to 3 by reminding yourself it’s okay to want attention and important to value yourself and your accomplishments. Act in positive ways, strive to meet specific goals, and think about how others perceive you. Using 3 integration will reclaim your ability to get things done. 

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; The Instinctual Drives and the Enneagram by John Luckovich. Sections quoted or paraphrased. Please purchase the original books for more information.

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