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Enneatypes and Fixations

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Enneatypes and Fixations?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Enneatypes and Fixations

A Connection that Expresses How the Spirituality of Nonduality Relates to the Spirituality of the Ordinary Dual World

Within this context, we recognize that we are each born with one quality of true nature, or essential presence. This quality of authentic spiritual presence is related to the holy idea in an interesting way. This connection expresses how the spirituality of nonduality relates to the spirituality of the ordinary dual world. The important insight is that we are born with one quality of Being, or authentic presence, as a particular essential endowment, which means we can access it more easily than the others. In many cases we experience it as children without knowing it; later all that remains is some feeling of it, some appreciation of how it affected us. This feeling—whether intuitive or unconscious—combined with our appreciation of the quality’s characteristics becomes the nucleus of our ego ideal. Thus, the ego ideal imitates the essential quality. We try to be someone who embodies this quality, but we don’t know the quality of presence directly and consciously. We just have a sense—an intuition of it or of some of its main characteristics. This becomes what we idealize, what forms the ego ideal for our type’s fixation. In other words, as the shell develops, rather than embodying the essential quality, we end up idealizing a facsimile of it. The shell develops around the idealization, which is a shadow of the quality, not the true quality. We develop a shell around our core instead of realizing the quality that can help us penetrate the core and dissolve it. 

A Most Effective Tool for Unwinding Our Fixation and Penetrating the Core

By seeing the fake and conceptually constructed idea that forms the ideal, we can come face to face with the real Platonic idea that is the essential quality. We can then recognize that what we are trying to be is something we already have, a quality of our being that we can access directly. We can see it is not a construct, but an authentic presence, a form that the eternal spirit—our true nature—takes. When we become acquainted with this presence and, even better, realize it and know it as what we are, then it can become the greatest help. Realizing this presence becomes the most effective tool for unwinding our fixation and penetrating the core. We begin to understand and appreciate our particular holy idea and how it frees us from the limitations and distortions of our fixation.

An Understanding that Can Help Free One from the Constricting Neurotic Dynamics and Problematic Traits of the Fixation

Facets of Unity presented an understanding of the core of each type’s fixation and how unraveling this core leads to the understanding of one’s holy idea. This understanding can, in turn, help free one from the constricting neurotic dynamics and problematic traits of the fixation. Such a liberation is a nondual realization of reality. It is a tall order, not easy for many students of the Enneagram. At some point, it occurred to me that my liberation came because I was in possession of the particular key needed to work with the fixation’s shell. We each need to understand our shell but also the key to unlock it. This book is a response to that need. We will learn about the key each type needs, and how that key becomes functional in our study and practice. Most students of the Enneagram, just as all beginning students of any teaching, find themselves in the ordinary world of duality and separateness. It is in this world that we need the keys to the Enneagram, where we are living as our fixated consciousness with no idea how to get out of it, how to liberate that consciousness from its fixation. The keys are needed as tools to work with and navigate this world intelligently and to unravel the fixation so that we can be free and open to other ways the eternal spirit expresses itself. The fixation keeps us in one expression and convinces us that this is the only way reality can be. Even when we relax our fixation (while remaining defined by it), freedom, when it comes, is relative and is still within this world. But freedom from the fixations altogether frees us in a different way; it frees us to move to other manifestations of true nature, and one of these is the nondual world.

Each Fixation Develops Around an Inner Core, a Particular Emotional and Cognitive Complex

This is a short synopsis of what I call the inner core of the fixation. So, each fixation develops around an inner core, a particular emotional and cognitive complex. (Refer to Facets of Unity for greater detail about the core and how it develops, and how basic trust is intimately connected to the goodness inherent in adequate holding.) The way to work with the core is first to identify the specific reaction in our life and experience. Recognizing and understanding the specific reaction, which attempts to cover up the specific difficulty, can make the specific difficulty visible. This is an emotionally challenging task that makes us feel uncomfortably vulnerable, which is one reason this knowledge probably stays at a mental level for most people. But if we can experience and tolerate the difficulty and the reaction to it, we have a chance of seeing how they are influenced and informed by the specific delusion, which is a particular deeply held belief about reality. Recognizing the specific delusion and understanding it as a delusion and not reality brings us closer to the holy idea of the type, for the delusion functions as a specific barrier to accessing its understanding.

Each Key Spiritual Quality is Connected to Its Corresponding Holy Idea

We will explore how to work with our fixation in such a way as to find its key. And we will explore each key and how to access it directly and utilize it to free our consciousness from the limitations and distortions of the fixations. Each key spiritual quality is connected to its corresponding holy idea. It is easy to see this connection for some types but more difficult to see it for others. This is because the holy ideas are not qualities or dimensions of our spiritual nature. They are the understanding or wisdom that results from integrating true nature in its nondual expression. But we need to know the many nuances and implications of nonduality that most people miss in order to understand the holy ideas. As that understanding emerges, the connection between the holy ideas and the secret keys to the Enneagram will become more apparent. Finding and integrating the key for one’s particular type opens the door. But passing through it to greater spiritual development and openness requires accessing all nine keys since ego is composed of all the fixations and their delusions, even though one of them predominates. It is when we delve deeper into ourselves that we encounter the other fixations and their cores and the need for all of the secret keys to liberation.

Each Key to the Core of a Fixation Turns Out to be a Unique Manifestation of Pure Consciousness or Spiritual Nature Appearing in the World of Duality

In the Enneagram, each key to the core of a fixation turns out to be a unique manifestation of pure consciousness or spiritual nature appearing in the world of duality. It is the very substance of nondual consciousness appearing in the world of duality. Finding a key is not a matter of awakening to pure consciousness or awareness, which is a more difficult and rare occurrence. Besides, nondual awakening does not function as the necessary key that each type requires anyway. Most people live in the ordinary world, which nondual teachings refer to as the world of illusion or ignorance. But all practice begins in this ordinary world, and most people live in this dualistic reality. The keys are expressions of enlightened consciousness in the ordinary world—spiritual qualities that embody all that is true and timeless about enlightened awareness—but are particular and manifest locally within the individual and their own experience. The keys are expressions of the eternal spirit, true and authentic forms of presence manifesting in particular ways without directly challenging duality or necessitating ego death. These forms of presence are much more accessible to us than nondual consciousness or enlightened awareness, precisely because they are meaningful in the ordinary world and quite useful, actually, for navigating our ordinary lives. Similarly, the obstacles to accessing them are also personal and minor in comparison to the obstacles we face trying to access enlightened awareness in its nonduality. In addition, the keys are helpful for any spiritual practice, since they help to unravel the limitations, distortions, and wrong beliefs of the fixation.

Enneagram Work Only on the Psychological Level Leaves Us Stuck on the Psychological Level

Each Holy Idea represents a particular direct perception of reality as a specific characteristic or facet of the unobscured perception of what is. The nine Ideas, then, provide us with a comprehensive view of objective reality. The transmitted view of the Enneagram is that each ennea-type fixation is the expression of a limited mental perspective on reality, and that each of the nine egoic perspectives is the direct result of the loss or absence of the enlightened perception of one of the Holy Ideas. The Enneagram of Fixations reflects the deluded or egoic view of reality, expressing the loss of the enlightened view, which is represented by the Enneagram of Holy Ideas. The notion that each fixation is the result of the loss of a particular unconditioned perception of Being implies that ultimate freedom from this fixation is possible only through the experiential realization of the corresponding Holy Idea. This is reflected in Naranjo’s definition of Holy Ideas: “aspects of reality that have the virtue of dissolving the individual’s fixation or implicit cognitive error.” (Naranjo, 1990, p. 1) The teaching that the fixations arise as the consequence of the loss of the Holy Ideas goes far deeper than the conventional psychodynamic understanding which relates psychological patterns to early formative experience. Working with the Enneagram only on the psychological level leaves us stuck on the psychological level. Working with the Enneagram as part of a larger spiritual work, however, leads to a much deeper realization of truth and thus, a freedom from personality patterns that is literally unimaginable from the perspective of ego.

Need to Study All the Fixations – their Cores and their Shells – as they Manifest in Our Lives

In my experience, it is quite useful at the beginning to work with one’s particular type. The knowledge seems stunning and the connections almost miraculous. We are amazed at how well the type describes our character. And if we do more than learn our type and its description—in other words, work with the traits and dynamics so that we process and understand them—in time a change occurs. We attain a measure of awareness of ourselves and freedom from the rigidity and narrowness of the type’s fixation. Yet the more we study, the more we notice that the type does not seem to fit as neatly as it did at the beginning. We come to see in our experience and behavior the traits and dynamics of other types. Sometimes it feels as if we are moving around the Enneagram, and we might think our typing is wrong. In time, we might learn that we are actually the totality of the Enneagram. Even though one type will dominate as we begin studying ourselves using the tool of the Enneagram, all the fixations are present in every ego. This becomes apparent as we go deeper in our inner exploration and appreciate the nuances of our inner dynamics. We discover traits that don’t fall under the pattern of our primary fixation. This means that if we are genuinely interested in spiritual learning and liberation through the Enneagram, we need to study all the fixations—their cores and their shells—as they manifest in our lives.

No Amount of Psychological Processing Can Release the Soul from the Ego Fixation

While it is useful to know and to have explored one’s ennea-type, this is not the basic orientation of this study. Our orientation is that the nine Holy Ideas are representations of one reality, each highlighting a different facet of its direct perception. The nine delusions are principles inherent in all egoic structures; they underlie the totality of egoic existence. Understanding the delusions inherent in one’s experience is useful not only to penetrate and understand one’s own fixation, but more importantly, it is useful for understanding the principles that form the foundation of egoic experience. Regardless of one’s particular ennea-type, it is important to observe all the nine cores in one’s experience, and to penetrate experientially into all nine delusions which keep one’s egoic experience going. In our experience, this is more important than recognizing one’s particular delusion, because the deeper we penetrate into what determines our experience, the more the universal principles and the barriers to realizing them are recognized in their entirety. At that point, one’s particular ennea-type becomes less significant. All nine delusions make up the obscured or conditioned experience of egoic existence, and all need to be recognized and seen through if one is going to transcend that existence. One’s work on oneself must lead to accessing the realm of Being, for it is the alienation from Being that is the fundamental cause underlying egoic experience. While psychological processing is a necessary part of the work, no amount of psychological processing can release the soul from the ego fixation. Ultimately, Essence must emerge and transform the consciousness. For this reason, work on the Enneagrams of the egoic dimensions, like those of the Fixations and Passions, cannot be fully completed except by penetrating to the delusions underlying them, and these delusions cannot be penetrated except by direct experience of the Holy Ideas. Only this direct experience of the dimension of Being, and its integration in such a way as to illuminate the delusions as delusions instead of as incontrovertible truths, can fundamentally free the soul from its fixations.

Facets of Unity, pg. 16

One Type Dominates but We Find that Our Personality Also Includes All the Other Fixations

It is important to remember that each ego self contains all the types. One type dominates, but when we investigate this type deeply, we find that our personality also includes all the other fixations. In other words, the ego self has all nine fixations, all nine delusions, in its inner core. By exploring each fixation as it appears in our sense of self, we may access its idealized aspect. This means it is possible for us to access nine idealized qualities by studying our fixated ego self, which in turn will make penetrating the inner core of our type much easier since we have many powerful qualities of presence to aid us. It is rare that an individual will access all nine of the idealized aspects, and I am not saying we need to do this in order to be able to penetrate our inner core. But the more essential qualities we integrate, the easier it is for us to open up the core of our type and access its holy idea. In fact, there is the potential for us to penetrate the cores of all nine types and access all their holy ideas. In this way, the Enneagram map functions as a powerful tool for spiritual realization and liberation.

Point 1. Ones Believe they are Good and they Want that Good for Others

Ones believe they are good, and they want that good for others and, hence, to improve things and make them better, more perfect. This desire is sincere when Ones are free from the constraints and the limiting patterns of their fixation. Many Ones throughout history have done a lot of good this way, notably the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius. But when they are not free from the ego ideal, it can become a rigid and fixed movement toward a standard of perfection and goodness that comes from Ones’ mind, from the patterning of their early experience, and from the distortions they have of the true quality related to this ideal. They might have a feeling or intuition that things can be right, but they can’t help but distort this rightness through the lens of their superego. Hence, they can become critical both of themselves and others. They can become judgmental and resentful, trying hard to reform themselves, others, or situations according to the standards of their superego. A clear example is the case of the many missionaries who traveled to distant lands to convert the indigenous population into perfect Christians, not according to Christ’s teachings but according to their internalized standards of perfection.

Point 2. Fixated Twos Give in Order to Get. It is a Kind of Manipulation

Point Two, which Ichazo called Ego-Flat and is also called the Helper, brings us to a different terrain on both the personality and essential levels. Twos flatter to get what they want, which is love and connection, especially connection to an idealized figure in whose shadow this type feels he or she can get the love, attention, specialness, worth, and support they feel they lack. Twos idealize helpfulness and related traits that compose a whole picture of an ideal. When they are healthy and free of the knots of the fixation, the helpfulness is genuine, heartful giving. We see that on the Enneagram of idealizations the phrases relevant for type Two are “helpfulness” and “giving.” The helpfulness is an expression of true loving connection. However, the fixated type gives in order to get. It is a kind of manipulation. They can be codependent this way, but unconsciously they crave their independence and autonomy. Their insecurity, coupled with their need for specialness, manifests in a distinct sense of pride that is obvious to others in social situations. Relationships are central in their lives and the focus of most of their libidinal and emotional energy.

Point 3. Threes are Concerned with How People See them and they Value what they Interpret as Success

Point Three—Ego-Go according to Ichazo’s original parlance, the Achiever in others—is very concerned about image. But that image is based on a model of success that accords with the culture in which the Three lives. Threes are concerned with how people see them, and they value what they interpret as success and then work hard to achieve it. They are practical and effective in what they do, and they tend to get the job done. They are doers and accomplishers, and they possess abundant energy for achievement and excellence in whatever field they happen to choose. The Enneagram of idealizations describes the ego ideal for type Three as “I am successful” and “I can achieve.” But the more fixated they are, the more deceptive they are toward themselves and others, for truth tends to elude them. They value success as seen through the prism of their community over a deeper, truer sense of value. The image of success or fame—being the star who is valued by society—is their overriding concern, which results in total avoidance of the helplessness that characterizes their inner core. Their specific reaction of striving appears as the ego ideal of efficiency. Threes are usually efficient but not at embodying their fundamental nature. Instead, they are efficient at creating the image of the idealized paradigm of society, as if this is what a human being ought to be. Naranjo writes, “In the service of efficiency, thinking tends to be precise and there is often a leaning towards mathematics. A fast tempo is also characteristic and has probably developed in the service of efficiency, as well as out of a desire to stand out through special efficiency.”

Point 4. Fixated Fours Experience Themselves as More than An Individual with Some Differentiating Characteristics

Fixated Fours experience themselves as more than an individual with some differentiating characteristics. At the center of their sense of individuality, their sense of self, is a feeling of identity, of who they are. This is true of ego in general, for ego is the soul that became structured as an individual with a sense of identity. You can be an individual and not have a sense of who you are, but the feeling of identity provides the emotional and conceptual marker that tells you who you are through the changes of life and the passage of years. It is always you, regardless of the changes that occur during encounters with life situations. Modern depth psychology has shown that issues around our sense of identity can be destabilizing and make us more sensitive and narcissistic. The extent of instability around our sense of self determines our degree of narcissism, which the Diamond Approach understands as the distance our identity is from who we really are. In spiritual teachings in general, we don’t find a clear distinction between the individuality of ego and its identity. They are conflated as the ego or the self that stands in the way of our realization. We see this in the following, where Naranjo correctly describes the particular estrangement of type Four as follows: “Yet, more basically, the pursuit of being through the emulation of the self-ideal stands on a basis of self-rejection and of blindness to the value of one’s true self.”

Point 4. The Tragic Type Known for their Melancholy and Grief

Type Four is the tragic type known for their melancholy and grief. They tend to be sad and dramatic, as if always missing something essential in themselves. Fours behave as if they have been separated from a beloved they can no longer find, so they pine away, though sometimes not knowing for what. They feel convinced of their originality, specialness, and aesthetic acumen. Their model is the archetypal suffering artist, talented but overlooked, abandoned and unable to find their way to a contented life.

Point 5. Fives May Idealize Knowledge and Its Accumulation

The primary defenses of type Five are avoidance and emotional distancing, which led Ichazo to refer to them as Ego-Stinge, for withholding emotional connection. Their ego ideal is related to knowledge and understanding, learning and figuring things out. They may idealize knowledge and its accumulation, but it is usually in the service of understanding. Riso and Hudson write the following:

We have named personality type Five the Investigator because, more than any other type, Fives want to find out why things are the way they are. They want to understand how the world works, whether it is the cosmos, the microscopic world, the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdom—or the inner world of imagination. They are always searching, asking questions, and delving into things in depth. Since the idealization is a reflection of an essential quality, the knowledge and understanding they value is mental rather than essential. The Enneagram of idealizations offers two phrases to express the ego ideal of the Five: “I know” and “I am full.” Since Fives place so much importance on knowing, it is logical that emotional detachment would become part of the idealization. This can make them loners who prize privacy and conceptual learning over social relating. Sandra Maitri writes the following: “What a Five feels she lacks and believes she needs is more knowledge and understanding. This makes sense, since if you take the stance of an onlooker at life, knowing what is going on becomes central to your very sense of survival.” For Fives, knowledge represents nourishment that they feel they lack. They are constantly trying to fill this underlying emptiness of disconnection with more knowledge. However, it is an emptiness that can never be filled in this way.

Point 6. Most Sixes Have a Distortion of Personal Will but in Various Degrees, some of them Coming Close to True Will

The indications of the ego ideal patterning in point Six lie in one of two categories: phobic or counterphobic. Both express the ego ideal, but the phobic Six does not feel successful in approximating it while the counterphobic does. Both reflect the idealized aspect and point to it. However, it is not easy to recognize the reflection if we have no idea what the idealized aspect is or what some of its characteristics are, because the latter do not always correspond to conventional knowledge the way type Eight characteristics do. The traits that are relevant for us are those of stubbornness, hard-headedness, unyielding determination, and a refusal to listen to others. When relating to authority or parental figures, these traits manifest as rebelliousness, an insistence on having one’s way, and obstinate persistence in spite of opposition or challenges. The counterphobic Six tends to oppose authority—being rebellious, suspicious, fearful, and even paranoid, as well as self-reliant, sometimes to an unrealistic degree. The phobic type Six (Ego-Cow in Ichazo’s parlance and also known as the Loyalist) tends to revere authority—committing to it in a sustained way, which can become compliance, sometimes to the point of subservience. Phobic Sixes can also show respect, adoration, loyalty, and deference to authority, which can be laudable qualities but can go to extremes, even to the point of giving up choice and self-determination.

Naranjo writes: “Just as it is true that at the psychological level proper the ennea-type VI individual gives up his power before authority, it is also possible to say that it is the very sense of being that is given up through its projection upon individuals, systems, or ideas endowed with a “greater than life” importance or sublimity.”

Point 6. Will that is More Akin to Wilfullness

The type Six idea of will is more akin to willfulness and what is commonly known as an unbreakable will, which can be so inflexible and hard that, when idealized, it is referred to as an “iron” will. Many consider an iron will to be a good quality. However, this iron quality makes a person defensive and inflexible, even insensitive and inhuman. It also appears as hard-headedness. We can confidently say that Hitler had an iron will because he persistently exercised ruthless authority and did so at the expense of many victims whom he suspected or feared. This reflected the fact that he was disconnected from true will and most likely was suffering from a sense of castration and deficiency that he defended against with an unrelenting dedication to power and authority, a dedication that could not deviate or retreat, change course or yield. Of course, most Sixes are not like Hitler, but we are using his example to show in caricature how far this distortion of personal will can go. Most Sixes have a distortion of personal will but in various degrees, some of them coming close to true will. The term we use in our teaching to refer to this kind of defensive determination is “false” will. When we find ourselves willful in an intractable and insensitive way, we can actually sense in our solar plexus an iron ball that is hard and unyielding.

Point 7. Sevens Shun Suffering and Pain as Merely the Wrong Perspective on Life or One’s Situation

The ego ideal of the Seven is one of optimism and positivity, based on this self-image of “okayness.” But it is more than just okayness; it is pleasure and adventure, lightness and delight. Sevens idealize the ability to discover, create, and imagine magical, fascinating worlds and endless opportunities for enjoyment and pleasure. They shun suffering and pain as merely the wrong perspective on life or one’s situation. Instead they prefer to look forward to what delights life will bring, and should life disappoint, they simply shift course and aim for some new possibility. They see their strength as one of not being pinned down or limited, always keeping the door open to move on if things get too dark. And yet they can manifest a drive for consuming new experiences that belies their easy-going self-image.

Point 8. Ego-Venge’s Fixation is More Obvious than Other Types Because Overt Expression Characterizes Its Expression

Each ego idealization patterns the type so pervasively that it colors, even determines, many of its traits, attitudes, and preferences. We start with point Eight, Ichazo’s Ego-Venge (also called the Challenger), because its ego ideal is easiest to understand, and its idealized aspect is the most accessible to the average person. Ego-Venge’s fixation is more obvious than other types because overt aggression characterizes its expression. Eights can be easily angered and use belligerence as a primary mode of relating to the world. They are often boisterous, loud, bullying, and more inclined to fight things out than other types. Naranjo writes: “Related to the characteristic of hostility of the ennea-type is dominance. . . . Related to dominance are such traits as ‘arrogance,’ ‘power seeking,’ ‘need for triumph,’ ‘putting others down,’ ‘competitiveness,’ ‘acting superior.’” Eight’s idealization, according to Naranjo, is “I am powerful, I can do.” This is a close approximation of the idealized aspect. Of course, not all Eights have such coarse manifestations; many are simply assertive and strong and find the emotion of anger easily available to them.

Point 8. Most of the Time the Fixation’s Aggression is Just Bothersome, Not to the Point, Not Useful, Just Hurtful

However, the word aggression has more often had negative connotations. There was a time when psychoanalysts struggled to conjure a word that implied aggression that was not destructive or angry. One result was “neutralized aggression,” but this is inadequate to describe the true aggression of Being. We might call it aggressiveness, or simply courageous assertiveness. But it is also expansive and can become explosive in the service of truth, destroying falsehood and lies. It can enlist anger if it is in the service of good ends, not just for oneself but for all others. That is why some realized people express anger, usually referred to as wrath. But wrath is a far cry from the anger and aggression that characterizes the Eight’s fixation in its extreme or raw expressions, where anger is more often fury and rage in the service of revenge, energy that can turn into cruelty and brutality. Most of the time, however, the fixation’s aggression is just bothersome—not to the point, not useful, just hurtful. It is reactive anger, automatic and conditioned, not sensitive or attuned..

Point 9. Fixated Nines Can be Understood as Being Numb to What they Feel, to what is Important and Significant

Fixated Nines can be understood as being numb to what they feel, to what is important and significant, which is why they are constantly seeking distraction and busy hoarding and collecting. Ichazo calls the type Ego-Indolence, and it is also known as the Peacemaker. To understand the Nine’s ego ideal, we need to look at their other traits and dynamics. Maitri describes them as follows: Rarely asserting themselves, they like keeping things harmonious and pleasant, and have difficulty doing or saying anything that others might find offensive, uncomfortable, or controversial. So, they shun confrontations, rarely express negative feelings or opinions, and focus on the positive. They are excellent mediators, able to see everyone’s point of view, but often have difficulty discerning and expressing their own. Naranjo elaborates further:

“The combination of loss of interiority and the resigned and abnegated character that goes along with it results in a syndrome of a good-hearted, comfortable “earthiness” that may be exaggerated to the point of literalness and narrowness.”

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