When I have had Enneagram courses, we’ve looked into the Hornevian groups. We look at the different social strategies, what they are and what they contribute. Usually, we have the different groups gather and reflect on themselves and the others. And often, the same thing happens — a thing which, as I see it, illustrates a deep need in our current society.
You know the Hornevian groups? It’s the three-by-three cut out of the types that Don Riso and Russ Hudson named after the German psychoanalyst Karen Horney. Horney, in turn, identified three interpersonal trends in people: moving against, towards or away from others. Among the Enneagram types, Riso-Hudson identified the Three, Seven and Eight as “moving against”, while the One, Two and Six were the “moving towards”, and the Four, Five and Nine were “moving away from”.
How the different groups respond to their environment
As you might already have gathered, this says something about how each type moves in response to being poked, approached or basically just energetically touched by others. This movement is on a neurological level, but often in practice, too. The first (“moving against”) group, that they called the assertives, will rise in response to others and meet the energy of the request, event or person.
The second group (“moving towards”), got the label duty types (after initially being called “compliant types”). They respond by taking a a kind of inventory. What they take inventory of differs, but it will be some form of authority other than themselves: other people present, a group they belong to, or an internalised set of rules, for example. Then, after this orientation, they can decide how to proceed.
And the last group of three, called the withdrawn types, will respond by taking a step back. This step might be physical, but whether it is or not, it’s always energetic. They need space to process the request, event or whatever happened, before deciding how to respond.
Different processes, same (or not) outcome
This might make it sound like the withdrawn types are slower, which is not necessarily be the case. Sometimes, they are just not prepared to release half-baked thoughts the way other types might be comfortable doing; they want the whole thing complete in their mind before they open their mouth. And the same might go for feelings: they need time to sort them out, or to let stuff percolate — but then the brew is finished, they might know for much surer than someone else (or not, of course 😉). The point is, we just process things differently.
Invisible space; silent emptiness
Looking into how each group contributes to the whole, sometimes people struggle with the withdrawns — not least the withdrawns themselves. Its traits and preferences seem offer a subtraction rather than an addition). So how does this group contribute?
As a contribution, things like space and emptiness are notoriously easy to miss. Space, after all, is a nothingness, a no-thing. If someone gives nothing, they haven’t contributed anything – right? Well. A universe devoid of empty space would be a useless, infinitely dense clunk of matter. And picture a gathering where everyone asserted themselves, or tried to orient themselves towards something to adjust their aim. There would be no room to think, feel, digest or process.
Life needs space
For things to develop, grow and mature, space is needed. Stillness and pauses are needed. And as far as what the withdrawn energy contributes, in my experience, this is it 🧡.
Of course, it takes some measure of grounding for withdrawn types to bring this into a room full of non-withdrawns. If you wait for an opening before you introduce your energy, you easily get drowned out. As for the rest of us, it takes at least a bit of openness to not just plough on. It’s hard to force-feed anyone space.
But still, space — pauses, stillness and room for reflection and gestation — are so desperately needed in our world today. Increasingly, we tend to sacrifice all things “invisible” in our quest for (what seems like) greater efficiency, and this is not good for anyone. Our fellow Four, Five and Nine friends have a precious gift to share with us. Please, do ❤️