converting vice to virtue on the path of personal transformation
The enneagram personality typology provides a map of the territory of your personality, showing you the borders of conditioned responses within which you live. Expanding your territory first requires recognizing these borders so that you are no longer limited by them. Once you have acknowledged the automatic thought pattern, habitual behavior, and underlying defense mechanism that drive you, you may begin the life-long process of transcending your confined territory so that you may feel at home everywhere in freedom and peace.
On the path of transcending the type with which you identify, there are many pieces of equipment that will facilitate your journey. Primary among these are self-observation, mindfulness, relaxing into the moment, and open receptivity. In the ordinary circumstances of life, not in cases of abuse and neglect where survival tools are necessary, these resources act as guides along the journey.
Self-observation is the practice of noticing your body’s cues, your mental narrative, and your emotional reaction when you are upset or uncomfortable. Where do you feel this discomfort in your body? Is it in the pit of your stomach, around your heart center, as a headache, in holding the breath, in rapid heartbeat, or becoming flushed? What is the story you tell yourself and the remedy you devise to escape or control the situation? What emotions rise up within you? Once you know your mental, emotional, and physical reactions to stressful situations, then when they occur, you can utilize the next tool of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment, not lost in thought or kidnapped by emotional reactivity, but awake and alert to the reality of right now. Mindfulness allows you to dis-identify with your own triggered responses in ordinary circumstances and to name what is actually happening. For example, “This person just said something that I took personally. I am feeling ________,” or, “I just heard some distressful news, and I feel ________.” Once you are fully aware in the present, you can utilize the next tool of relaxing into the moment.
Relaxing into the moment is the practice of connecting to your breath and consciously releasing your mental, emotional, and physical resistance; in other words, intentionally relaxing your body, softening around your heart, and detaching from the story that you are telling yourself in your mind. By following your breath and drawing your attention inward, you facilitate the loosening of tension and defensiveness and can more easily offer compassion to yourself and others. Once you have relaxed into the present moment, you can utilize the tool of open receptivity.
Open receptivity is the intentional dis-identification with the conditioned responses of your personality. Taking a stance of openness allows you to access your intuition and to welcome experience, rather than opposing it. Connecting with your instinctual center helps you to know what is true for you and what you need in each moment, without projecting blame. From this state of receptivity, you may more easily choose to apply the virtue of your type. When you are open and receptive, you understand that the only problem in any ordinary circumstance is your own reactivity to it.
Below are the enneagram’s descriptions of the conditioned responses of each type that we are working to transcend. May you embrace the significance of your quest and feel valued and loved as you travel on your own unique journey.
Type 1 wants autonomy and control; focus of attention is on what could be improved. Type 1 views the world from the perspective of making things better.
· mental conditioning: the habit of resentment and desiring acknowledgement
· emotional conditioning: the habit of feeling frustrated and angry
· behavioral conditioning: the habit of seeking control through being correct
· vice: anger
· virtue: serenity through acceptance of life as it is (inherent perfection)
Type 2 wants connection, attention, and validation; focus of attention is on the needs of other. Type 2 views the world through the lens of what others need.
· mental conditioning: the habit of self-flattery (entitlement) and desiring to be appreciated
· emotional conditioning: the habit of feeling righteous indignation and self-cherishing
· behavioral conditioning: the habit of seeking esteem through giving
· vice: pride
· virtue: humility through joining with the flow of life, without interference (inherent freedom)
Type 3 wants connection, attention, and validation; focus of attention is on accomplishing tasks. Type 3 views the world through the lens of getting things done.
· mental conditioning: the habit of focusing on making a good impression, wanting validation, and desiring to be understood
· emotional conditioning: the habit of feeling ashamed, embarrassed, and guilty
· behavioral conditioning: the habit of seeking approval through shape-shifting and/or achievement/success
· vice: deceit
· virtue: authenticity through owning one's place in the inherent harmony of the workings of the objective, natural (inherent) laws of the cosmos, which results in hope
Type 4 wants connection, attention, and validation; focus of attention is on authenticity and uniqueness. Type 4 views the world through the lens of searching for the ideal.
· mental conditioning: the habit of longing for what is missing and hypervigilance of self-image
· emotional conditioning: the habit of feeling melancholy and fatally-flawed
· behavioral conditioning: the habit of seeking attention and approval through being unique and emotionally expressive
· vice: envy
· virtue: equanimity through acceptance of inherent belonging (origin)
Type 5 wants security through knowing; focus of attention is on greater understanding. Type 5 views the world through the lens of learning.
· mental conditioning: the habit of conserving resources
· emotional conditioning: the habit of detachment, with underlying anxiety; fear of not knowing
· behavioral conditioning: the habit of seeking security through detached observation and gathering information
· vice: avarice (withholding or hoarding resources)
· virtue: generous engagement through participation in life as a part within a whole with access to inherent omniscience (knowledge)
Type 6 wants security through preparation; focus of attention is on what could go wrong. Type 6 views the world through the lens of minimizing danger.
· mental conditioning: the habit of preparing for the worst case scenario
· emotional conditioning: the habit of meeting fear with fight, flight, or freeze; fear of not being prepared
· behavioral conditioning: the habit of seeking security through doubt and skepticism
· vice: fear
· virtue: courage through trusting in the fundamental nature of one's own being (inherent strength), which results in faith
Type 7 wants the security of a bright future; focus of attention is on new ideas. Type 7 views the world through the lens of grand adventure.
· mental conditioning: the habit of distraction through planning
· emotional conditioning: the habit of overlaying fear with positivity; fear of missing out
· behavioral conditioning: the habit of seeking security through staying busy, being upbeat, and engaging in fun opportunities
· vice: gluttony
· virtue: contentment and constancy through staying present in the moment (inherent wisdom), trusting that there is a universal design unfolding (inherent plan), and that this design is revealing itself in each moment (inherent work or workings)
Type 8 wants autonomy and control; focus of attention is on maintaining power/dominance so as not to appear weak. Type 8 views the world through the lens of dualities, such as strength vs. weakness, wrong vs. right, and good/bad guys.
· mental conditioning: the habit of desiring to right a wrong (focusing on fairness, justice, and/or vengeance) and black or white (duality) thinking
· emotional conditioning: the habit of explosive anger
· behavioral conditioning: the habit of seeking control through intimidation and domination
· vice: lust for power/control
· virtue: mercy through acceptance and acknowledgment of the interconnectedness of all beings (nonduality) and their inherent innocence (the truth of objective existence)
Type 9 wants autonomy and control; focus of attention is on maintaining peace. Type 9 views the world through the lens of creating harmony.
· mental conditioning: the habit of avoiding stress and conflict and conserving energy
· emotional conditioning: the habit of feeling stressed, often without awareness of underlying anger and annoyance
· behavioral conditioning: the habit of seeking control through passivity, resistance, rumination, and numbing out
· vice: sloth
· virtue: decisive action through acknowledgment of inherent worth (intrinsic preciousness; inherent love)
(Note: To discover your enneagram type, you may utilize a free assessment tool accessed at: https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/dotest. Just because you score highest in one type does not mean that it is your type. You may share characteristics of several types, so it is important to read about your top three results and look particularly at the underlying vices or core temptations. I offer enneagram consultations for those who would like assistance determining their type or to dive deeper into utilizing this personal growth tool. For more information on booking a consultation, visit my website here: https://www.alovecenteredlife.com/spiritual-direction.)