Self-Preservation Three

The Dimishing Returns of Material Success

Judith Searle, in her marvelous book, The Literary Enneagram, picks out a phrase from Gone with the Wind that nails the dynamic of a self-preservation Three.

Scarlett O'Hara returns from Atlanta to find her homestead in ruins.

"Hunger gnawed at her empty stomach again and she said aloud: "As God is my witness, as God is my witness, the Yankees aren't going to lick me. I'm going to live through this, and when it's over, I'm never going to be hungry again. No, nor any of my folks. If I have to steal or kill-as God is my witness, I'm never going to be hungry again." (p. 428)

Material success, especially financial success is at the heart of the self-preservation Three. This pattern is difficult to discern here in the United States because our culture has this trance. The ideal is to go from rags to riches. This Horatio Algier pattern is beloved here.

The early childhood poverty or some kind of hardship provides the energy for the struggle for wealth and fame. Tom Robbins wrote "Ultimate Power" and on the very first page was his story of sleeping in a bathtub and being 75 pounds overweight. The polarity is between previous poverty and current success. The success is on the outside, but the poverty is on the inside, in the driver's seat.

The polarity makes both experiences (outward success, inward poverty) depend on one another. Oprah Winfrey is a good example. She is the richest and most powerful woman in the US and the movie she chose to make several years ago was about her slave ancestry. The richer she gets, the more she is aware of her humble origins.

The money serves both image and functions as proof of lovability. "If I work hard and am successful, then people will love me," is the narrative that sustains the 70 hour work week. Everybody loves a winner, don't they?

This style seems to be particularly hard on women, because so many men are simply intimidated by rich powerful women instead of attracted by them. Further, the women know this and either scorn or suspect men who are not more rich and powerful than they are. If the woman is not confident of her sexuality, she has a difficult time relating to men. She does not trust offered affection. She fears that she has "earned" it by her hard work and that is not enough.

But all unhealthy self-preservation Threes make the same devil's bargain. " If I work hard and earn your love, you will love me for myself and not my achievements." Lots of luck.