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  • Writer's pictureClaire Bentley

ENNEAGRAM TYPE 6

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

FOR CREATIVITY AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT


INTRODUCTION

The Enneagram is a personality classification system which divides the human population into nine broad personality types based on their desires, fears, beliefs and behaviours. In this series of blog posts I will take you through each of the nine Enneagram personality types in detail, looking at how you can use them to improve your creative work patterns and to inform character development in your artwork.



Diagram showing the nine Enneagram personality types in a circle
The Enneagram circle


There is dispute about the validity of the system as applied to ‘real-world’ humans. I’m not going to enter that debate in this series. However, I believe the system is potentially useful for creatives as a way of framing and understanding both our characters and ourselves. It is important to remember that personality systems are broad tools to aid understanding: there is lots of nuance and individual variation, and people rarely fit perfectly into one category or another.


WHY ENNEAGRAM AND NOT MYERS-BRIGG?


The Myers-Brigg personality classification system is also useful for understanding our characters and ourselves. However, I find it more complex and less intuitive than the Enneagram system. For example, when studying well-written fictional characters I can usually identify their Enneagram type quickly and easily, but I would struggle to identify which of the sixteen Myers-Brigg categories they fall under without reference material and a little free time to work it out. In addition, unlike the Enneagram, the Myers-Brigg types are not evenly distributed through the population: I am an ‘Advocate’ (INFJ), the rarest category at 1% of the population. In the Enneagram system I am a Type Nine, so many more ‘like-minded’ people to learn from.


However, the main reason I prefer using the Enneagram to the Myers-Brigg for character development is because story structure and story theory revolve around identifying the desires, fears, motivations, and misbeliefs of your characters. The Enneagram has these baked in and, even more crucially, the descriptions of healthy and unhealthy versions of each type make it far easier to see how a character might grow or disintegrate during a story (depending on what type of character arc you are writing).


WHY THIS BLOG SERIES?


The Enneagram is useful for understanding your pattern of work and behaviour when it comes to your creative life, so you can work out your strengths and weaknesses, find out what works for you, and identify areas where you could improve.


I have been using the Enneagram to inform character development in my current work in progress and it has been invaluable for helping me shape and develop their personalities, beliefs, and change arcs. There is a lot of information about the Enneagram but very little in terms of how to practically apply the system to character development in creative work. Therefore, I created this series of blog posts to explore each of the nine types in detail, and to provide guidance and examples when it comes to using the Enneagram for character development and plotting their change arcs.


There is a huge amount of information out there regarding the Enneagram and these posts barely scratch the surface! Therefore, I have linked many references at the end of the posts (including the ones which informed this series) if you would like to explore the topic further.


ENNEAGRAM TYPE 7: https://www.clairebentley.co.uk/post/enneagram-type-7



WORKING OUT YOUR ENNEAGRAM TYPE

There are tests out there (both paid and free) which can help you identify your Enneagram type. However, (again unlike Myers-Brigg) you can probably work out your type from the descriptions.


A word of caution: study each of the types before deciding which one best describes yourself. It may not be the one you initially think! When reading through the descriptions I initially couldn’t find one that quite worked for me, then ‘decided’ I was a Type Three, even though there were parts of it that fit and parts that didn’t.


However, when I reached the Type Nine description I had a moment of ‘oh s***, here I am’. If the description feels uncanny and makes you feel uncomfortable, you have likely found the right one for you!


It is worth saying again that people do not necessarily fit perfectly into categories. I had strong scores for multiple Types when I took a test (it turns out Type Nines are good at adopting the behaviours of other types!) I also later found out that healthy Type Nines behave like healthy Type Threes, which could explain why I felt an affinity for the Type Three description.


My point is, study the types first before deciding which one best describes you!


TYPE 6 OVERVIEW: THE LOYALIST


Zoomed-in drawing of Type 6 on the Enneagram

PERSONALITY TRAITS

· Committed

· Caring

· Engaging

· Hard-working

· Responsible

· Trustworthy

· Anxious

· Suspicious




SUMMARY

(https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/)

“The committed, security-oriented type. Sixes are reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. Excellent ‘troubleshooters’, they foresee problems and foster cooperation, but can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious – running on stress while complaining about it. They can be cautious and indecisive, but also reactive, defiant and rebellious. They typically have problems with self-doubt and suspicion. At their Best: internally stable and self-reliant, courageously championing themselves and others”.


DESIRES

To have security, support and guidance.


FEARS

Of being without security, support and guidance.


MOTIVATIONS

· Security

· Be supported by others

· Certainty

· Reassurance

· Test attitudes of others towards them

· Fight against anxiety and insecurity


WINGS

Six with a Five-Wing: the Defender

More introverted, self-controlled and intellectual. You surround yourself with leaders and others who share the same values. You may be seen as aloof because you are comfortable on your own.


Six with a Seven-Wing: the Buddy

Outgoing, adventurous, playful and entertaining. However, you always have a backup plan in case things go wrong.


DIRECTION OF GROWTH

Adopt behaviours of a healthy Type Nine: relaxed and optimistic


DIRECTION OF STRESS

Adopt negative behaviours of a Type Three: competitive and arrogant


ARE YOU A TYPE 6 CREATIVE?

Do you recognise yourself in the description above?


If you are a Type Six creative then you may be fiercely loyal to your ideas, beliefs, and the people in your life, and you will defend all of these to the end. You may or may not conform with the ‘status quo’: you may be rebellious and anti-authoritarian. However, you hold onto both your beliefs and the people you trust with tenacious strength.


You may have problems with self-confidence: believing you do not have the internal resources to cope with life’s challenges alone, or not feeling able to rely on your own thoughts and ideas. You may rely on structures, beliefs, support systems, and significant others for guidance and survival. If these do not exist then you may create them for yourself. If you have sufficient support behind you then you move forward with confidence and inner peace in spite of life’s uncertainties.


You may think (and worry) excessively. You may be indecisive: you may fear the consequences of your decision and taking responsibility, but at the same time fear someone else making the decision for you and having control over you. If your support and security are threatened then you may become anxious and self-doubting.


Your personality may be composed of ‘opposites’: you are reactive in nature, and you may feel you are both courageous and fearful, aggressive and passive, strong and weak, trusting and untrusting, thinker and doer, defender and provoker etc.



Soft toys cuddling each other
Type 6 individuals are loyal and caring

YOUR WORK PATTERN

You thrive on reciprocal stability, responsibility, and commitment. You prefer feeling needed and supported to working in a fast-paced and stressful environment.


YOUR STRENGTHS

· Commitment: you express duty and care in serving people, causes, and responsibilities

· Courage: stand up for your beliefs no matter the risks and concerns

· Preparedness: you are alert to your environment, and act to minimise risks and threats

· Trustworthy: respect rules and authority (as long as they trust their intention)

· Team player: enjoy and thrive on cooperation and collaboration

· Strong interpersonal skills: create strong attachments with those around you


YOUR WEAKNESSES

· Scepticism: you may be cautious about the people you allow yourself to get close to

· Pessimism: for example, preparing for the worst-case scenario

· Low self-confidence

· Excessive worry or anxiety


RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GROWTH

· Remember that everyone experiences anxiety and it is a lot more common than you might think. Try to explore it and use it for your benefit rather than suppressing it.

· Beware of negative moods and thought patterns and try not to project these onto your environment: you might harm yourself more than anyone else does.

· Identify the things and events which make you feel stressed.

· You can’t always manage external events, but you can manage your own thoughts.

· Nurture your relationships with others. People generally find you likeable, and very few people are ‘out to get you!’


TYPE 6 CHARACTERS IN YOUR ART

I will speak to writing because I am most familiar with this, but the lessons can be applied to other creative art forms.


WHERE MIGHT YOUR CHARACTER START?

The ‘average’ Type Six individual may be investing their time and energy into the people and situations which make them feel stable and safe. They are vigilant and anticipate problems.


Their internal confusion and the ‘opposites’ within their personality may make them react unpredictably to people and situations. They may be passive-aggressive, anxious, negative, evasive, indecisive, cautious and / or ambivalent. They may resist demands made of them, e.g. by procrastinating. They may behave in contradictory ways.


Their insecurities may make them reactive and defensive. They may constantly search for threats to their security, and thus divide the people in their lives into ‘friends’ and ‘enemies’, and be tough towards the latter group. They may blame others for their problems, and behave both fearfully of and conspiratorially towards authoritarian figures.


HOW MIGHT YOUR CHARACTER GROW?

Your type Six character may gain self-belief and self-confidence. They trust themselves and others, both cooperating as an equal and acting independently. They have positive thoughts, strong leadership, strong self-expression, and courage.


They are endearing, lovable and affectionate, and are able to elicit strong emotional responses from others. They form strong and permanent cooperative bonds with others. They are dedicated and loyal to individuals and movements in which they believe. They are responsible, reliable, trustworthy, hard-working, and self-sacrificing.


HOW MIGHT YOUR CHARACTER DISINTEGRATE?

If security and guidance are lacking then a Type Six individual is in danger of acquiring an inferiority complex and becoming panicked, volatile, and self-disparaging. They may feel persecuted and helpless, and seek out a protective authority or belief to solve their problems. Their behaviour may become hostile, suspicious, and divisive towards others. They may disparage others and lash out, hysterically and irrationally bringing about the things they fear: insecurity and violence.


The Type Six character may become self-destructive (e.g. through addiction) and suicidal.


DEVELOPING YOUR TYPE 6 CHARACTER: WORKED EXAMPLE


Let’s say you are working on a dystopian story with a ‘corrupt’ leader and society. You could make your main character a Type Six who is fiercely loyal to the regime in charge, but who is also moral and caring (in line with their personality). This would provide fascinating internal conflict and would also mean the character behaves in contradictory and unpredictable ways.


In the beginning the character may be unswervingly loyal to their leader: they work hard and diligently for them, and never question their beliefs, ideals or laws. Perhaps something then happens which causes conflict between the character’s moral stance and the duties they are being asked to perform. In a positive change arc the character may begin to ‘wake up’ to the realities of the society in which they live. As they learn more they may gain the courage to go against their natural instincts, form new bonds and allegiances, and join the rebellious faction of society. They may help to bring down the leader from the outside (or even from within).


If the protagonist is in a negative change arc then they may ‘double-down’ on their loyalty to the corrupt leader. They commit all sorts of atrocities which conflict with their internal morals because the fear of being without the leader’s guidance and support is greater than the fear of disowning the leader and all they represent. The character becomes more and more anxious and self-destructive, and eventually brings about their own end.


This is just one example. Your theme may not suggest an obvious Enneagram type that ‘fits’, but it could be interesting to ‘try out’ your theme with protagonists and antagonists of different Enneagram types to see how these dynamics could impact your story and plot. Remember: a protagonist or antagonist (or any side character) could be any of the Enneagram types, and could grow or disintegrate within their type (or stay the same) during the course of the story.



Line of identical soldiers' boots
The Type 6 character begins to realise something is amiss in their society. Where do their loyalties lie?


TYPE 6 CHARACTERS IN WELL-KNOWN STORIES

EXAMPLES: HARRY POTTER

I do not agree with or condone any form of transphobia, and have not given a single penny to She-who-must-not-be-named since she outed herself. However, the story of Harry Potter helped me a lot as a child, and its characters remain some of the best known in the literary world. That is why I have chosen Harry Potter characters as examples in my discussion of the Enneagram, so that hopefully you can appreciate how the Enneagram might be used to help create strong, unique and conflicted characters. These categorisations are based on my own judgment and knowledge of the characters: please feel free to disagree (and let me know in the comments if you do!)


PETER PETTIGREW

As a boy, Peter’s low self-confidence and low self-esteem inspires him to seek the friendship and protection of James Potter and his friends. He can’t believe his luck when it works. Through them he learns to become an animagus and fights for the Order of the Phoenix during Voldemort’s first uprising.


However, when Voldemort tracks him down, Peter Pettigrew realises he has found a bigger and more powerful protector and turns spy for the dark side. He commits murder and other horrible acts, even against the people he used to call friends. Yet when cornered or questioned he shows a tendency for self-pity and blaming others for his problems.


Peter’s character is full of contradictions. For example, he has courage (how many people would be able to sever their own body parts?) but he is also cowardly (wheedling and pleading when his former friends discover what he has done). Arguably he only has courage when his life is under threat, and only in service of the biggest bully in the playground. He commits unspeakable acts of cruelty (when implored by his master), but shows Harry mercy in their final confrontation (paying for this with his life).


NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM

Harry’s friend Neville is also a Type Six, but by the end of the series has become the best version of himself rather than disintegrating like Peter Pettrigrew.


Neville is also full of contradictions. He can act in cowardly ways but on many occasions demonstrates his strength and courage (more so as the series progresses). Earlier in the series he is viewed as bumbling and unremarkable as a student, and by the end he is highly talented and resourceful, and is one of the heroes of the battle of Hogwarts.

Ironically Neville’s past may have protected him from ever being tempted by the dark side. He is fiercely loyal to his friends and to the fight against Voldemort, helping to bring people together and becoming a key player in the final confrontation. His growth in self-confidence and self-esteem during the series is astounding and heart-warming.


Peter and Neville provide an excellent example of how two characters can be the same personality type yet progress in opposite directions of disintegration and growth.


EXAMPLES: TYPE 6 CHARACTERS FROM ENCANTO

Encanto is one of my favourite films from recent times. The characters are unique and fascinating, and the arcs they undergo are powerful and relatable. Therefore, I have also used Encanto to provide examples of the different Enneagram types in character-based art.


PEPA MADRIGAL

Pepa doesn’t get as much airtime as other family members. However, I have classified her as a Type Six because of her loyalty to the family and her extreme anxiety whenever the safety and security of the family is threatened. There are contradictions within her personality: she is kind but also temperamental, her mood changing in an instant depending on external events. She has the ability to control the weather, which again reflects her personality: she is capable of great contentment and inner peace, but can instantly become stormy in the face of anxiety or danger.


RESOURCES

I couldn’t find much that was geared specifically to fictional characters in writing (or other art forms). However, there is much more to explore within the Enneagram system, and I have listed some helpful resources below:

The Enneagram Institute: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/

Don Riso and Russ Hudson have published multiple books on the Enneagram system

These resources provided a foundation for the blog posts in this series, which I then applied to understanding your creative work pattern and crafting fictional characters.


BEFORE YOU GO…

Are you an Enneagram Type 6? Are any of your characters Type 6? Please join in the discussion (contact details below).


Please feel free to comment on the article and/or contact me if you have any questions!


Socials: @cbentleywriter on most of them!




Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/clairebentley

I welcome respectful and friendly discussion on the topics I write about, including if your opinion differs from my own.


Disclaimer: generative AI

I do not use generative AI to produce or inform my blog, my images, or my fiction. All of my content is generated by the chaotic firing of my own (human) brain! (I have access to some images through my Wix subscription). I do not consent to the use of my content, images, or fiction to train generative AI models. Please contact me to discuss permission and compensation if you wish to use my content in this way.

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