The Self-Preservation Two

"After All I've Done For You"

Twos with a self-preservation focus have a noticeable sense of entitlement. This can be very confusing because Fours also have a distinct sense of entitlement. The difference is that Fours think they are entitled because they are compensating for having gotten a raw deal in life. Being defective needs to be recompensed. But Twos, with the sin of pride, derive their sense of entitlement as a reward for all the things they have done for everyone else. Their theme is "after all I've done for you."

Parents, with understandable righteousness, often use that line with their children if they (the parents) are Twos. They don't understand how manipulative it is and are frequently surprised when the child is ungrateful. Love is always free, never part of a bargain and Twos have a difficult time not perceiving love and emotional warmth as social currency. Self-Preservation Twos can make classic prima donnas and indulge themselves shamelessly.

For example

Hotelier Leona Helmsely is a public self-preservation Two who didn't think she should have to pay taxes because of all the people she employed. Because of her wonderful work in the community bringing famous people in, providing all those jobs, being on committees etc, she really didn't see why should also have to pay taxes. Certainly she should be exempt. She was publicly outraged that they wanted her, her, to pay taxes. Extreme case, but that's the direction. Her talent for knowing how to meet the yet unspoken needs of her customers was the Two's compulsive high side and that's how she made her money. She knew people. Twos do.

Twos with Three wings (a frequent combination in self-preservation Twos) often make marvelous consultants. They know exactly what you need personally and with their Three flair for getting things done, they know how to accomplish things for you.

Pleasing and pleasant, but.

Entertainment is often an accomplished skill with self-preservation Twos. They love to be recognized for their warmth, personal charm and social astuteness. If they are unhealthy, they have a computer-like record of who owes whom what in the social realm. Do not, under any circumstance, forget to invite them back when you throw a party of your own. If they become angry, they can easily move to the low side of Eight. For a gruesome accurate portrayal of a self-preservation Two, go see the movie, Misery, with Kathy Bates as the self-preservation Two.

Self-preservation Twos specialize in the currency of guilt. When love is not freely given, it is an investment. If you do not show a return on their investment, they will feel cheated and you will be made to feel guilty. The stereotypical Jewish mother is a Two and all the Jewish comedians who wish to play with this theme turn to this guilt as a constitutive factor in their lives. How many Jewish mothers does it take to unscrew a lightbulb? "Oh, never mind, I don't mind sitting in the dark."

Madonna, in Truth or Dare, is a self-preservation Two. When interviewed about her 40 million dollar tour, her conversation was filled with her taking care of her cast. To hear her, you would think she was their mother. And in Evita she is practically type-cast from an Enneagram point of view. All Evita Peron wanted (besides wealth and privilege) was to love and be loved by her people.


I've mentioned that all Enneagram styles operate out of models of impoverishment. The belief that impoverishes the self-preservation Two is the conviction that there is not enough love to go around. (Love can be in any form: food, money, attention, health care, concert tickets). If I have to just take my turn, by the time they get to me, it's going to be all gone. But I've done so much and worked so hard, I deserve to be first in line. Everyone will understand because they all owe me favors. I've helped them on numerous occasions.

This impoverishment goes along with an idealized self-image. There just isn't enough to go around but surely everyone should realize that I should get mine first because of (fill in the blank, it really doesn't make any difference.) We all have something that makes us deserving of more than everyone else).

    Discussion questions:

  1. Listen to parents trying to make a case that their children owe them. Of course they do, but only if you don't ask. This is tricky. Discuss the dynamics. What happens when you insist? Why?
  2. Why doesn't guilt work with kids, lovers, spouses or friends? Why do we keep doing it? (What model of the world do we have that says it must work?) Remember Thomson's Third law: Healthy people do what works. Unhealthy people do what used to work.
  3. The parable of the disciples who wanted privilege so they went to the head of the table directly attacks the world view of the self-preservation Two. Read Luke 14:7-11. I explain the parable at some length in my book, Parables and the Enneagram, p. 40-45.