Sometimes people talk about “wounds” that form the basis of each personality type, and then a debate erupts whether our personality is actually wound-based, or whether this is an old, outdated notion that stems from obsolete psychology.
After a while, it generally transpires that the wounds referred to are childhood wounds, such as not getting enough attention, being punished or otherwise treated unfairly, or any other common childhood experience. And no, those are not causing our Enneagram type. But there is another sort of wound that is, a strong factor — a much deeper type of wound, and much more existential in nature. It is, in the words of Russ Hudson, our wounded heart: the wounding that comes from abandoning our true essence, losing touch with our essential nature and instead trying to emulate that, as best we can, with ego resources.
The wound of homelessness: Losing our connection to Essence
Our energetic, non-anatomical heart lives in and through essence, and when we are connected to our essential aspects, this heart is nurtured. But few if any humans spend very long totally enveloped in our essential energy, as our new life in this physical body calls for us do develop our sense of a separate self and, to that end, a functioning ego. Ego-development is part of us growing up; it’s not a mistake or an accident, but something programmed into our core as human animals.
But unfortunately, each step closer to our identification with an ego usually also means a step further away from our identification with our true, essential nature. This has two main reasons: firstly, ego and essence belong in two distinctly different planes of awareness, so while we get immersed in forging and making sense of our ego-reality, it follows almost automatically that we lose touch with our essential nature. The only thing that might, in theory, remedy that is if our caregivers were balanced, present and aware enough to support this deeper aspect of us while raising us.
This brings me to the second reason: Such a set of parents would be extremely rare. Since they were unlikely to have received any assistance from their own parents realising their essential nature — and since most people don’t consciously choose to remedy this as adults (and even those who do rarely get ’round to it before they have kids of their own) — our parents are clueless that this would even be a good thing, let alone what it would mean in practice. And none of this is any reflection on how much they loved us, how our family structure looked, or whether they were “good parents” or not. Our upbringing might have had the best and most harmonious settings and still not contributed one iota to our awareness of our essential nature.
This means that for most of us, by the time we enter adulthood, essence is deeply buried underneath aspects of the ego — misunderstandings, fears, and “solutions” to these fears — and the misunderstandings, fears and misguided attempts at achieving balance are actually, ironically, what causes our heart wounds. The wound is not even caused primarily by the loss of contact with essence, but in our unconscious efforts to make up for this loss (but without actually restoring the contact). What the heart needs and longs for is true, essential nurturing — and instead, we offer it ego-based efforts to make up for this loss, which are heavily based in our type’s passion. These “passionate” efforts, in turn, nurtures not our heart but our fixations — and suddenly we have fertile ground for the whole construct of personality. Its innocent aim is to amend the imbalances, but, unwittingly, it is just exacerbating them. These wounds then, in turn, nurture not our heart but our fixations, and there you have it — the whole personality hoopla, chomping at the bit to amend the imbalances, but, unwittingly, just exacerbating them.
Again, though, we need to understand that this is not happening because we are bad, stupid or flawed in some way. It happens because we forgot, and because we innocently attempt to restore what, somewhere deep inside of us, we sense was lost.
The names for these various heart wounds originate from Russ Hudson’s type teachings. Some of them have changed slightly through the years, to better capture the energy of each predicament, so you might see other names ones in other contexts. (However, when this happens, I think the different names for the same type usually just serve to further pinpoint what happens for each type.) So don’t get hung up on the semantics, but rather — as usual — try to soak up what they are pointing to. That way, your understanding for and insight about each type can take root, deepen, and integrate more profoundly.
The heart wounds in brief
Type One’s is the Grief-Stricken heart
The primary essential awareness that Ones have forgotten is of the genuine goodness and innate perfection that lies behind existence. The goodness seems forever lost, and this causes immense grief.
Type Two’s is the Severed heart
The primary awareness that Twos have forgotten is of the unconditional love enveloping and holding all of existence (including the Two), so that love seems to be absent.
Type Three’s is the Empty heart
The primary awareness that Threes have forgotten is of the innate value, the absolute worthiness, of each living soul. The heart feels empty in and of itself — a blank, useless space.
Type Four’s is the Stabbed heart
The primary awareness that Fours have forgotten is of the innate depth and beauty of life and of themselves, and this feels like a stab-wound to the heart, and as if their heart is forever bleeding out.
The Five’s is the Desert heart
The primary essential awareness that Fives have forgotten is of the clarity and wisdom of resting in an unchanging truth. To have access, I need to be aware of my heart — but something within me feels barren; dried out.
The Six’s is the Fear-Siezed heart
The primary awareness that the Sixes have forgotten is of being grounded in inner guidance. The heart is frozen with fear, not knowing where to go, whom to trust or what the right choice is at any given time.
Type Seven’s is the Starving heart
The primary awareness that Sevens have forgotten is of the pure joy and satisfaction of existence itself. There seem to be needs that are not met, and a shortage of fulfilment unless I actively claim it for myself.
Type Eight’s is the Dying heart
The primary awareness that Eights have forgotten is of the pure life energy, the force of sheer aliveness. There is an undefined feeling of longing for this raw power, but the best that the ego can do to emulate it is doing life.
Type Nine’s is the Shattered heart
The primary awareness that Nines have forgotten is that of union and harmony; the state of interconnectedness that exists between everything in existence. There seems to be only division and fragmentation.
Often, I see questions in Enneagram groups like, “Which type is most likely to cheat on you?” ”Who is likely to take the high ground/make it in marketing/get divorced/react to XXX”? It seems that many people who are familiar with the Enneagram are yet not familiar with the levels of development.
The idea of these levels comes from Don Riso, who was the first one to describe them. I don’t know if the Enneagram Institute is still the only one teaching them, but considering who important they are to type descriptions, it’s hard to believe that any decent-level Enneagram teacher would fail to incorporate something to that effect in their teaching — even if it wasn’t the EI levels, specifically.
The levels of development
In brief, the levels of development are levels of psychosocial maturity. Phrased differently, they are a measure of how much we are in the grip of ego. Yet differently, how “liberated” or expressive of our essential nature we are. By analogy, we might say that the levels provide topological information to the Enneagram map. Without them, we have a flat sheet of paper. With them, we get hills, valleys and overall depth. This makes it so much easier not only to navigate, but also to understand the territory we’re viewing.
To illustrate, take the Five (just picking a random type). Here, we find the likes of Hannibal Lector — but we can also find Albert Einstein and Eckhart Tolle. If we look at Ones, we have Nelson Mandela — but also Osama bin Laden. It doesn’t take much to realise there’s more than one way of being the same type. (If you want to find out more about the developmental levels, please follow the link in the first paragraph.) So what is type, then, if it’s not the expression of personality? Or, rather, what constitutes this expression, if “type” does not suffice?
So what is type, then, if it’s not the expression of personality? Or, rather, what constitutes this expression, if “type” does not suffice?
In recent years, many twists and elaborations on the interpretation of the basic Enneagram model have surfaced. Thus, if you threw this question out there today, you might get lots of suggestions. ”It’s down to the tritype, not only type.” “No, you have to look at subtypes; if you don’t take instinctual aspects into account, you won’t get it right.”
Well. These elaborations (for lack of a better word; I’m not debating their validity) will all affect how our core type is expressed. But there’s a vertical aspect here, too, that is the developmental levels. This vertical aspect needs to be taken into account before it makes sense to try and further detail the horizontal aspect of a certain behaviour or trait. And when we realise that this vertical aspect exists, we also understand why “what type does X” questions won’t work. We need to look at psychological maturity.
Maturity, not just type (or tritype, or subtype)
So many of the things we do and choose depend on our current level — not our type. That is, if we were a different type, the same level might of course generate another action or choice. But my point is that ethics, communication skills and personal resonance aren’t type-specific. If anything they are LEVEL specific. (For sure, they are also strongly affected by our instinctual preferences. But that arena, too, is rife with misunderstandings and simplifications, and it’s never down to specific behaviours or opinions).
For the record, course how we act is also affected by our childhood and later life experiences. Our current conditions and situation. A virtual sea of non-Enneagram-related factors. But, as these things cannot realistically be categorised, the developmental levels are still a very good tool to use 😉
So many of the things we do and choose depend on our level, not our type. Ethics, communication skills and personal resonance aren’t type-specific; if anything they are LEVEL specific.
So we need to get a decent grip on the types and their respective levels of development. I don’t mean that we need to memorise them verbatim, but we need to understand each type’s “trajectory”. Only then we can start really understanding what the Enneagram types are. Now, we see much more clearly what motivates them. We realise what they fear and value, and how they respond to those fears and values. Then, if we like, we can get on with the finer details.
Growing with the Enneagram
So we need to get a decent grip on the types and their respective levels of development. Only then we can start really understanding what the Enneagram types are.
I can’t stress this enough: if you want to deepen their understanding of the model, the types, the instincts and themselves, you need to look at motivations. Look at the types’ fears, and their defences against those. This, incidentally, is the material of the developmental levels. With this knowledge, we can notice how the ego’s offered “solutions” remain consistent regardless of psychological maturity.
Yes, these things are much harder to “look at” in others, as they don’t show as clearly. And no, these things don’t always come out when you talk to people. But that is the point. We cannot “learn the Enneagram” as a theoretical system, apply it mechanically and expect to get any value from that. We have to experience it from within ourselves, as it were; learn the basic theory and then investigate and experience it within ourselves and with others. Then, the questions we ask others are likely to be very, very different 🧡