Enneagram Type Two
~converting vice to virtue on the path of personal transformation
The enneagram is a nine-pointed symbol that was explicated as an esoteric system of personal transformation which evolved into a personality typology. George Gurdjieff, a Greek-Armenian born around 1875 and a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, introduced the enneagram symbol to the modern world. Gurdjieff articulated a program, currently known as The Work, that is an integration of psychology, spirituality, and cosmology which centers around the enneagram symbol, the law of three, and the law of seven. He did not teach the Enneagram Personality Typology System (EPS), however. The EPS originated in its present form in the early 1970’s through the work of Bolivian-born philosopher, Oscar Ichazo, and Chilean-born psychiatrist, Claudio Naranjo. As a personality typology system, the EPS can be an efficacious tool in personal growth, and its nuances continue to evolve.
This is the second article in a series reviewing the core features of each enneagram type.
Type Two: The Helper or The Need to be Needed
“Fundamental to [type Two] is the strategy of giving in the service of both seduction and self-elevation.” (Naranjo, 1990, p. 36)
Naranjo named type Two, “Egocentric Generosity” and Ichazo called this disposition, “Ego-Flat.” Type Twos are open-hearted, warm, and sincere, with a particular focus on interpersonal relationships. They are considerate, attentive, and often charming. For Twos, focusing on others is the way to feel loved and appreciated, which leads to the opposite problems of neglecting their own needs and a lack of self-care. Behind their self-sacrificing orientation are unacknowledged expectations and emotional needs. A type Two may say, “What the world needs now is love, and I know how to give it. I am indispensable to those I love.” When in the flow of Essence, Twos are selfless servants, giving unconditional love to others and themselves. The invitation for Twos is to offer the same level of nurturance to themselves that they give so generously to others. The holy idea of type Two is Holy Freedom/Holy Will, which states that one is free to act in a manner that is congruent with one’s natural self-expression, without trying to garner the approval of others or manage the flow of life.
Twos are part of the heart triad who try to manage emotions, most readily feel aspects of shame, and have hidden hostility. Being on the edge of the instinctual triad, Twos can also easily drop into anger. According to Riso and Hudson (1999), in childhood, Twos, “. . . most wanted attention: to be seen and validated by their parents” (p. 63). Self-image is important in the heart triad, and these types compensate for their own feeling of a lack of love by constructing and identifying with a pleasing façade, then offering this persona to others in the wish that it will garner a sense of value, love, and validation.
Two’s vice or passion is pride (a disproportionate sense of self in relation to others), and their mental fixation is self-flattery or the desire to be appreciated. Helen Palmer, EPS expert, described the Two’s focus of attention as attending to the reactions and desires of others. Twos typically see themselves as having what others need, but not needing anything themselves. According to Riso and Hudson (1999), the internalized message is, “It’s not okay to have your own needs” (p. 31). In pathological terms, Naranjo correlated unhealthy Twos with histrionic personality, seductiveness, and the defense mechanism of repression (especially of neediness).
Type Two’s basic fear is of not being worthy of love, and their basic desire is to be loved unconditionally, which sometimes degrades into a craving to be appreciated. Twos are identified with the concerns of others and fulfilling their needs and long to hear that they are wanted just for who they are. They resist acknowledging and prioritizing their own emotions and needs; hoping, instead, to be seen as a selfless, thoughtful giver.
Like type Ones, Twos attempt to solve inner conflict by being compliant/dutiful to their superegos. They aspire to be champions and supporters of others, even rescuers. Twos defend against loss and disappointment by maintaining a positive outlook and offering a reframe in times of disappointment. They prioritize displaying a pleasing self-image of love, caring, and good intentions and minimize their own feelings of anger, disappointment, and neediness. The thought is, “You have a problem. I am here to help you” (Riso & Hudson, 1999, p. 68; italics in original).
When Twos handle stress unskillfully, they move toward the unhealthy Eight. They have a sense of entitlement and try to exert control and dominance. When Twos respond maturely, like the healthy Four, they practice admitting and accepting all emotions, welcome or unwelcome, and recognize self-nurturing as natural, rather than selfish. At their most mature, they embrace the virtue of humility and embody unconditional love.
The path of growth for Twos is understanding that love is not a commodity for exchange but the natural state of flowing with Essence. Twos must practice admitting and prioritizing their own needs. Ultimately, Twos must learn that they will not mend their broken hearts by sacrificing but by allowing themselves to relax into the love that already is.
Coming soon: Enneagram Type Three
Almaas, A. H. (2000). Facets of unity: The enneagram of holy ideas. Shambhala Publications.
Chestnut, B. (2013). The complete Enneagram: 27 paths to greater self-knowledge. She Writes Press.
Hudson, R. (2021). The enneagram: Nine gateways to presence [Audiobook]. Sounds True. https://www.amazon.com/Enneagram-Nine-Gateways-Presence/dp/1683645790#:~:text=With%20The%20Enneagram%3A%20Nine%20Gateways,self%2Dknowledge%20and%20spiritual%20attunement.
Lilly, J. C., & Hart, J. E. (1975). The Arica Training. In C. Tart (Ed.), Transpersonal psychologies, (pp. 329–351). Harper & Row.
Naranjo, C. (1994). Character and neurosis: An integrative view. Gateways/IDHHB.
Naranjo, C. (1990). Ennea-type structures: Self-analysis for the seeker. Gateways/IDHHB Incorporated.
Palmer, H. (1988). The enneagram: Understanding yourself and the others in your life. Harper & Row.
Riso, D. R., & Hudson, R. (1999). The wisdom of the Enneagram: The complete guide to psychological and spiritual growth for the nine personality types. Bantam.
May your mind be peaceful and calm, may your body be relaxed and comfortable, and may your heart be filled with love.
Thank you for reading.
Blessings and gratitude, Ani