How We Deny Some of Our Tendencies

The Enneagram is a terrific overlay. Take any ordinary good insight and apply the Enneagram and you have nine, apparently quite different, understandings of a single truth.

Take, for example, the ordinary phenomenon of projection. Everybody does it, but each of us does it in one of nine ways. Let's start with the proverb:

I looked, and looked, and this I came to see:

That what I thought was you and you,

Was really me and me.

When we are trapped in our own idealized self image, or persona, as it is often called, we are inwardly impoverished. This impoverishment comes about because we deny in ourselves some of our tendencies: anger, ecstasy, erotic impulses, courage, fear, deceit, assertiveness or any one of a dozens of fully human tendencies.

When we deny them, they don't go away. They go live in the environment some place (in one person, in a group, in animals, in movie stars and sports heroes--they have lots of hiding places). If you want to find a few, just ask yourself who/what really delights or irritates you. You will notice that some people others find quite nice, you "see right through" and can tell, when nobody else can, that this person is a complete jerk.

I'm a marvelous bad example. I'm a Seven. Naranjo calls Sevens charlatans because "some" Sevens have a certain tendency to deceive. They do it elegantly, with charm and discretion, of course. For some years I loathed Richard Nixon. Now lots of people did, but he had a special charge for me. Well, trick Dicky is a liar. I was not in touch my own power and proclivity to deceive. So I hated my deception in him. When I read about projection, I thought of him. It was one of the most disgusting, and one of the most freeing, moments in my life.

But you're not much better (except you may be healthier...or you may not realize yet that you're doing the same stuff).

So let's watch how each style projects. Style One is polarized against sensuality, so projects sensuality and lust on to others - and attacks it in them. Listen to a One rant about sex in the movies and you'll hear someone who doesn't acknowledge his or her own sensuality. Instead it gets projected onto "them." They're the sensual beings, those lascivious libertines. One of the steps toward health in a One is a reclaiming of lost (projected) sensual pleasures. I assigned a One who was a retired librarian the discipline of reading poetry. She found it very difficult, couldn't see any sense in it. She couldn't enjoy even the sensual pleasure of reading for the sheer joy and nothing else. It was awfully good for her, she confessed later.

Style Two projects his or her own needs onto others. That is why the Two doesn't experience any personal neediness but the people around them sure do. The Two experiences theirs and they experience the Two's. If a Two can get in touch with the projection of needs, then he or she can claim them. Then, surprise(!) the people around the Two becomes much less needy.

Style Three projects his need for approval on to others. Style Three is not aware of is his own inner authority. So he gives this authority to approve or disapprove onto others. They have the power to affirm or deny his self-worth. And standardized tests are wonderful because they have this undeniable ability to affirm or deny you. So do trophies, badges, certificates and awards. But the Three has projected it on to them and denies that he can affirm himself. But if he can claim self-authority, the trophies lose a lot of their lustre - and their hold over him. They no longer make him work untold hours to get employee of the month.

Fours project their inner value onto others - where they envy it at a safe distance. Fours envy in others what they have refused to claim in themselves. Their lamentations of worthlessness celebrate the vacuum they have created themselves. They don't acknowledge their own gold, so they spend a lot of time admiring the jewelry of others and resenting the imbalance of wealth in the world.

Fives project their greed on to others. They live in fear that others will take from them (as they would really like to take from others). This fear of being "taken," is experienced as a concern for being overwhelmed. They feel poor. Bill Gates is a Five who is worth 51 billion dollars. That's $2,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States. He's stated publicly on a number of occasions that "he could lose it all tomorrow." And as a Five, he means it. He has little or no inner wealth. (He compensates royally, we must admit). The world is full of greedy people who will take everything you've got. Even 51 billion.

Sixes project their hostility. They have no anger, it is the others who will attack and try to harm them. It is the others who cannot be trusted. It is the others who lack integrity, who are unfair and uncaring. And they are to be watched carefully. Without the energy of anger, Sixes tend to see themselves as unprotected and edible. Sixes feel fear because their power, their anger-energy has been given to others who will now use it against them the first chance they get.

Sevens project their freedom on to others. The others have their freedom. They are trying to control the Seven, so the Seven feverishly works hard creating multiple options (a low form of freedom) because they do not acknowledge or claim their inner freedom. Everybody has the power to take away their freedom so they try to charm them into giving the Seven what the Seven should be taking for himself: full freedom. Seven can't commit very well because that is an act of inner freedom and self-possession. That's been given away in projection. The world of full of kill-joy tyrants who won't let Seven do what they want.

Eights project their vulnerability. Eights see themselves strong and see the others as wimps. They're the vulnerable ones, they're the ones that need nurturing. So the Eight, after projecting vulnerability onto others, sees him or herself as powerful. The world is a battlefield, it is not safe to be vulnerable, so they jettison it and put vulnerability on others. Then, being powerful, they feel sorry for the vulnerable ones and proceed to take fine care of those who are most vulnerable.

Nines really project their sense of self onto others. At the core of Nineishness is a conviction that they don't have a life. Their self has been deleted to avoid conflict with those who do. When they want a self, they go looking for where they put it - in others. To get a life, they merge with someone who has one. They are dreadfully angry at not having a self and it feels unfair that life should make demands on someone without a self. So they don't act because if they did that would mean they have a self and they know they don't. "It's easy for you to talk, you have a life."

References: I like the descriptions of projection and its context in Ken Wilber's No Boundary. You'll probably have to get in a library, it's a 1981 copyright. Chapter seven deals with our persona and how projection works. He is clear and profound and incredibly erudite throughout the book.


  1. What do you lack in your life? How did you get rid of it?
  2. What three people bother you most in your life? Have you thanked them for carrying your projection recently?
  3. What causes you the most pressure in life? Can you admit that you really want to do what you feel obligated by others to do? (You feel pressured by others only if you accept the pressure because you have an unacknowledged desire of your own. All pressure is internally generated, it doesn't come from the outside.)
  4. Can you identify people who are projecting onto you? (For example, whom are you mothering that isn't a child?)