The Angelic Two

An Idealized Self-Image

In a video, Tom Condon works with a healthy Two with an attractive personality. Part of the genius of the Enneagram is that it shows us the dynamics of our style, even in healthy personalities.

Condon uses imagery in the video to help her see that she has an idealized self-image. He asks, with apparent arbitrariness, for an image and she comes up with an angel! She does not think that she is an angel, but she thinks she should be. That's the subtle pride of the Two (every style has its Achilles heel). When they think they should be an angel, they have a difficult starting point. First of all, within the trance of the Two, the feeling is that they have few or no needs. That's angelic.

Thomson's Law

Now, what happens when you think you should be an angel? First of all, you'll find yourself telling yourself "I should" a lot. An angelic ideal (a good metaphor for pride) creates a lot of pressure to be who you are not. Angels don't sweat. They accomplish what they do without much effort. So no effort is too great for an angelic Two. Angels don't get rewarded, so an angelic Two will work without thought of reward.

Time out! When a Two is within the grip of pride, (or any of us in the grip of our compulsion) they fall prey to Thomson's law: "What you don't get up front, you tend to get out back." So when Twos don't expect any reward up front, you can bet significant parts of your allowance that they will expect a reward out back. These rewards take the form of special treatment, gushing gratitude (Twos just love gratitude!), sharing secrets, power behind the throne, reflected glory. The Two assistant will work all night to get the report out. No overtime required. But now the boss owes him and had better find some way to reimburse him.

The problem of the idealized image is clear in Twos, so let me elaborate a bit on how that works. Every style has a slightly different idealized image.

Inner artwork

An idealized image is not made up. It is artistically woven out of our bad parts. It is like the old walls in a lot of café decorations. Old wood, broken guns, lamps that don't work, and a thousand pieces of junk are turned into "art" and used to give the place an ambiance. An idealized self-image is like that. Our longing for dignity becomes pompous and we can't tell. Our attempt at profundity leads us to use big words that we sometimes get wrong (listen to college sophomores discussing a book they don't understand. It's hilarious and it is all of us at times). Or see people who used to be young and sexy dressing as if they still were. Idealized self-image. The pretense is visible to everyone but us, because we are looking at an internal image while others are looking at reality.

Idealized self-image substitutes for real ideals. Real ideals give us energy, purpose and juice. Image-ideals give us guilt, pretense and frustration. In type Two, they see themselves as having no needs while others find them among the neediest of the Enneagram types. They are needy precisely because they are the most personal of all the types, so other people have to meet all their needs.

But Twos will often be great at getting your story (bartenders, waitresses, hairdressers are jobs Twos love) but they don't tell you theirs. Their story gives them power over you while they remain invulnerable - you don't know where they hurt. This makes them feel superior in a hostile world (and our styles are all defensive against a hostile world in one way or another).

You never get enough of what you really don't want

One cannot fulfill the demands of the idealized image. No matter how much service a Two performs, he never gets the feeling he has done enough. We say about some people, "They can't do enough for you." If that is true, it is neurotic, and it can easily come from an unhealthy Two. If they can't do enough, it is because they are not serving you, they are placating an idealized self-image of being an angel.

When coaching an Enneagram Two it is important to remember that they will try hard to please you, so remember to probe for their unacknowledged desires.


  1. Tom Condon works with Style Two.
  2. Karen Horney, Our Inner Conflicts, Chapter six, "The Idealized Image"
  3. Claudio Naranjo, Character and Neurosis, chapter six, "Pride and the Histrionic Personality."

    Questions for Discussion:

  1. If you are a Two, from whom (person or group) do you want gratitude? How do you usually go about getting it? What happens if you don't?
  2. What do you do smilingly that you resent inside? Who is going to pay for that resentment and what will be the currency of payment?
  3. Who is more important than you to you? How well do they appreciate their exalted position? How? Why? Why not?