Do Unto Others...

Nine Styles of Relating

What we do to others, we also do to ourselves. Whatever habits of filter, projection, distortion etc we have to use to deal with the world, we also use on ourselves.

Ones are troubled with anger that things are not right and others experience them as frequently being critical. But they criticize themselves most of all. Richard Rohr, a public One, talks about giving a lecture, then on the way back to his room he's beating himself up, scolding himself for forgetting certain examples and telling himself how he should have rephrased this or that point.

Twos see others as needy and put on a front that says they don't have any needs. But on a deeper level, they are keeping track of all their needs and who is meeting them, and woe to you if you ignore their publicly unacknowledged needs! While meeting your needs, they are meeting theirs.

Threes are performing, trying to convince others that they are lovable. But on another level, they are performing to convince themselves that they are lovable. If they could convince themselves, they wouldn't really have to convince others. It is the poor unlovable part of themselves that drives the Three to Herculean exploits and prompts them to cherish all tokens of achievement -- trophies, big cars, gadgets and finery.

Fours see themselves as defective long before they are critical of their lover or friends or spouse. The fault finding and the compensatory search for esthetic is a way of dealing with a feeling of inner despicability. Many Fours describe themselves as having a push-pull relationship with those they love. But first it is with themselves. They think they are simultaneously truly authentic, profound and beautiful (unlike ordinary others) and defective and despicable.

Fives see themselves as empty and drained by others, but they also see themselves as powerless because they already gave their power to those others. They tell themselves that others will take their powers, but they took their own power first and gave it away.

Sixes are often called the devil's advocate, but they also describe themselves as their own worst enemy. Sixes oppose themselves long before they oppose authority. They question every decision they make; they second guess themselves frequently or resort to worry instead of action because they don't trust themselves. They don't trust others, but first they don't trust themselves.

Sevens, also fear based, try to get by on charm. They don't go directly after what they want; they create a series of options because they cannot be certain. They, too, have given away their power to act. In addition to not choosing any person or course of action entirely, they don't choose any action entirely.

Eights are often considered bullies when entranced, but they also bully themselves. They accuse others of not being strong and loyal, and they get very upset with themselves when faced with something they can't do. They bully themselves when they are faced with a weakness. If you ask an Eight to do something they can't do they will get angry with themselves (but might aim it toward you also).

Nines are notorious for not being able to prioritize because they fit in with everyone else. They are also stubborn. They will not do for you what they won't do for themselves -- namely take a stand. They are passive aggressive towards you and toward themselves.

The Central Pattern

The Enneagram illustrates a central pattern of our lives. We are in the middle of that pattern, that worldview and we are consistent. For example, Sixes see the world as a scary place. Well, if it is scary, then I can't trust anyone, not even myself. It would be highly incongruent to be serenely self-confident in a dangerous and threatening world. Hypervigilance is a life-stance and the Six is vigilant about everything, especially themselves.

I personally find it easier to forgive people once I know that whatever they did to me, they have already done to themselves. It makes revenge redundant! This is one way the Enneagram becomes the tool of compassion it ought to be.

    Discussion questions:

  1. You might share something you did recently to someone else that you also do to yourself.
  2. "I'm my own worst enemy." Is that true for you? In what way?
  3. How difficult is it for you to pamper or love yourself. How difficult is it for you do love yourself in a healthy way -- like eating foods that are good for you, getting exercise, taking care of your money etc. Can you take a recurring problem and apply your Enneagram dynamic to it?


  1. Keep a journal for a month, recording all the things you've done to hurt yourself.
  2. Rather than just telling yourself to "just say no," which never works, can you create another set of alternatives? List what resources you have that you don't now use. This might be best done within a group or with a good friend.