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  • Writer's pictureClaire Bentley

ENNEAGRAM TYPE 9

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.



The nine Enneagram personality types arranged 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.




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 9 OVERVIEW: THE PEACEMAKER


Zoomed-in drawing of Type 9 on the Enneagram

PERSONALITY TRAITS

· Easygoing

· Harmonious

· Modest

· Receptive

· Supportive

· Agreeable

· Complacent

· Stubborn


SUMMARY

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

“Nines are accepting, trusting, and stable. They are usually creative, optimistic, and supportive, but can also be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace. They want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict, but they can also tend to be complacent, simplifying problems and minimising anything upsetting. They typically have problems with inertia and stubbornness. At their Best: indomitable and all-embracing, they are able to bring people together and heal conflicts”.


DESIRES

To have inner stability, connection with others, and peace of mind.


FEARS

Of separation and loss.


MOTIVATIONS

· Create harmony in their environment

· Avoid conflict and tension

· Preserve things as they are

· Resist things that upset or disturb them


WINGS

Nine with an Eight-Wing: the Referee

Can feel internally conflicted with regard to anger, but have more ability to express your emotions openly in the face of conflict. You are more confident but may also have passive-aggressive and stubborn tendencies.


Nine with a One-Wing: the Dreamer

A strong sense of right and wrong when working towards your goals and are more likely to take part in social justice. You are more introverted and self-critical.


DIRECTION OF GROWTH

Adopt behaviours of a healthy Type Three: energetic and self-developing


DIRECTION OF STRESS

Adopt negative behaviours of a Type Six: worry and anxiety


ARE YOU A TYPE 9 CREATIVE?

Do you recognise yourself in the description above? I know I do!


If you are a Type Nine creative then you may yearn for inner and outer peace, and for peaceful and harmonic connection with others and with the wider world. You prefer to avoid conflict, adapting to people and situations to keep the peace, sometimes at your own cost.


It may be that you are grounded in your physical world and in your own body, possessing great power and magnetism. However, conversely, you may become distant and disengaged from your instincts. You may find yourself retreating into your mind and your emotional fantasies, becoming static, inert, and passive.


Personality Type Nine is sometimes referred to as the ‘crown’ of the Enneagram because it is at the top and seems to incorporate aspects of the whole system. Nines may possess or imitate the behaviours of any of the other personality types, especially if it helps avoid conflict. The danger of this is that you may not have a strong sense of your own identity: you would rather follow someone else or exist in your daydreams, and the thought of asserting yourself is anathema. Witnessing others arguing or confronting someone may also cause you anxiety.


You like to focus on the bright side of life. You may ignore, or numb yourself to, more disturbing aspects of life in your quest for inner peace. You may respond to pain and suffering by denying it, running away from it, prematurely blocking it out, or trying to find a simplistic and painless solution. You fear losing connection with others, and you may be in danger of making considerable and unwanted compromises in trying to resolve conflict.



Cuddly toys lined up in a row at the top of a bed
Type Nines seek inner and outer peace and harmony


YOUR WORK PATTERN

A stable working environment is likely to be crucial for you. Bonus points if those around you are warm and like-minded.


Work which involves finding solutions to problems, or helping others to do so, allows you to make good use of your peace-seeking strengths. However, you may also enjoy working alone. You can handle stress as long as there is little hostility in your environment and as long as the work isn’t too fast-paced.


YOUR STRENGTHS

· Agreeable: receptive, peaceful, and easygoing

· Understanding: excellent synthesis skills, and can understand multiple viewpoints and find common ground. Highly empathetic and work hard to find solutions which suit everyone

· Patient

· Supportive

· Genuine

· Calm: will take time to assess different options

· Open-minded: slow to judge and willing to forgive


YOUR WEAKNESSES

· Conflict avoidance: may hesitate to confront another person, or avoid it altogether, even at great personal cost

· Self-sacrificing: it may seem easier to ignore a problem, to live with it, or to compromise too far, leading to harm and resentment

· Passive-aggression: may experience frustration due to conflict-avoidance, and take this out on others through passive-aggression rather than being direct


RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GROWTH

· Be aware of when you are going along with others to keep the peace. Be independent and be yourself so that you can truly be there for others (and yourself) when they need you

· Pay attention to what is happening around you rather than disappearing into daydreams and distractions

· You have negative feelings like anyone else: recognise them and process them

· Examine your own role in how conflicts play out in close relationships

· Use exercise to help control your emotions and to help you pay more attention to your inner self


TYPE 9 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 Nine individual might start off as self-effacing and accommodating because they fear conflict. They go along with the wishes and expectations of others even if they do not want to, to appease them and gain peace. They may use cliché statements and philosophies to deflect others.


The individual may be disengaged, inattentive, and unreflective. They are complacent and indifferent, and minimise or walk away from problems without expending any effort to try and solve them. They may believe nothing can be done to change things, and so become stubborn and fatalistic, relying on wishful thinking and magical solutions.


They may retreat into their minds, tuning out reality, daydreaming, and becoming hazy in their thinking. They may become unresponsive to others.


HOW MIGHT YOUR CHARACTER GROW?

A healthy Type Nine may become self-possessed, autonomous and fulfilled. They are content and at one with themselves, meaning they are intensely alive and fully and profoundly connected to others. They are emotionally stable and serene. They trust themselves and others, are at ease with themselves and their life, are patient, good-natured and accepting of others, and they are a genuinely kind and compassionate person.


A healthy Type Nine individual may have a healing and calming influence on those around them. They are optimistic, reassuring and supportive: they bring people together. Their desire for peace makes them an effective leader and decision-maker, even feeling able to tackle conflict within their social group, without making unacceptable compromises or feeling resentful.


HOW MIGHT YOUR CHARACTER DISINTEGRATE?

A Type Nine character is in danger of becoming highly repressed, undeveloped and ineffective. They are unable to face their problems and so block awareness of anything negative that might affect them, dissociating themselves from all conflict. They learn to give up what they want and give in to the demands of others. They may become socially anxious, and / or may be neglectful of and dangerous towards others.

The individual may become numb and unable to function, having lost their sense of identity and knowledge of what they desire from life. They may be disorientated and catatonic. They are prone to dissociative personality disorders, lack of self-care, and addictive behaviours.


DEVELOPING YOUR TYPE 9 CHARACTER: WORKED EXAMPLE


Let’s say the one-line theme of your story is ‘you must have a voice if you are to achieve inner and outer peace’. You could make your main character a Type Nine because they desire peace but prefer to avoid arguments, which could trigger fascinating internal conflict. They begin the story with the misbelief ‘I must stay quiet to keep the peace’ (the ‘lie’, or the opposite of the story’s theme).


It may be that the character is a young adult with forceful and overbearing parents. In the beginning of the story the character is kind and compassionate, but they are meek and conforming when interacting with their parents because they are afraid of disturbing the peace. It might be that the protagonist wishes to pursue a career that the parents disapprove of, so their child quietly goes through their life conforming to their parents’ wishes. They may adopt uncharacteristic behaviours to do this, thus becoming more distant with their own identity and desires. They subconsciously grow resentful towards their parents: they are anxious and unhappy, and increasingly sullen and passive-aggressive. It may take a relatively small event (e.g. their best friend becoming successful in the career the protagonist desires) or a relatively large life-changing event (e.g. someone close to them dying) to shake them out of their passivity and make them realise they must confront their parents in order to lead the life they wish to lead. If they succeed then their courage may bring them internal peace, and possibly external peace (e.g. a healthier and more empathetic relationship with their parents).


If the protagonist is in a negative change arc then they may fail to confront their parents and follow their desires. Over time they become catatonic, uncaring and voiceless: a shell of a person, no longer sure themselves of who they are and what they want, going through the motions to keep everyone around them happy.


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.



Desk, chair, pile of books
Type Nine character is forced down an unwanted route and must speak out


TYPE 9 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!)


HARRY POTTER

I have categorised the main protagonist of the series as a Type Nine in the Enneagram system (possibly with an Eight wing).


Harry is kind and empathetic. He is an excellent peacemaker and mediator, and is fiercely loyal to and supportive of those he cares about. He is an excellent judge of character, and is able to adapt his own behaviour depending on the person he is interacting with (which is one of the few traits I find compelling about him). Different people in his life see different sides of his personality, so it his perhaps no wonder many characters misunderstand him or feel unsure of his true feelings and motivations (apart from those who are closest to him).


Importantly, Harry has not chosen to be a rebel or an instigator for change: the main external conflict of the series is thrust upon him whether he likes it or not (and most of the time it’s ‘not’). All along his actions and dialogue indicate a deep yearning for inner and outer peace and connection with others, regardless of, and perhaps because of, the extreme challenges thrown his way.


Harry has strong leadership qualities, and he is not afraid to speak his mind or cause conflict. For this reason I suspect he may have an Eight wing, especially when considering that he tends to respond with anger and (arguably) rash action rather than passivity during many of his low points in the series. This theory makes even more sense when we consider that Voldemort is a Type Eight, and it is made clear throughout the series that Harry has the potential to become just like his enemy.


REMUS LUPIN

Lupin was the peacemaker and mediator among James Potter’s group of friends, and he continues to fulfil this role in his adult years and in his relationship with Harry. He is calm, kind, and extremely perceptive (except when it comes to his own desires and motivations).


Unlike Harry, Lupin is prone to conflict-avoidance, e.g. not speaking up when his friends bullied Snape, and initially avoiding a relationship with Tonks. However, these are actions he later regrets, and he works to undo some of the harm his passivity caused.


Interestingly I find Lupin far more complex and compelling than Harry. I like many of the characters in the series, but (for a number of reasons) Harry is one of my least favourites. He almost always behaves morally, and seems to find it easy to do so (when most of us don’t). Lupin sometimes struggles to overcome his fear of conflict and do the right thing: it is (of course) Harry who judges him on these occasions and (of course) Harry who helps Lupin realise how his inaction hurt others.


EXAMPLES: ENCANTO


MIRABEL MADRIGAL

I adore the main character of Encanto! She is warm, compassionate and empathetic, and she works hard to look out for her family and keep the peace between them. She respects and goes along with their quirks, and conforms to the iron-clad rule of her Abuela, even though Abuela both fears Mirabel and looks down on her because she didn’t receive a magical gift.


On the surface, Mirabel takes her lack of magical abilities with good grace and humour, and throws her energy into supporting her family. However, as the film progresses it becomes clear that, deep down, Mirabel questions and resents her lack of powers. Rather than facing this internal conflict, she suppresses it and works hard to support her family and erase the other (external) conflicts which fester under the surface.


When the family’s ‘miracle’ becomes unstable due to the conflicts between various family members, it is not magical abilities which save the family: rather it is Mirabel’s ability to empathise and work with individual family members to uncover the roots of the resentments and start to address them. In the end, it is her ability to do this for her Abuela, the matriarch of the family, which finally heals the Madrigals’ interpersonal conflicts and allows the miracle to survive and thrive within them. Mirabel helps Abuela see that the miracle is not in the gifts, but in the family members themselves and in their love for each other.


It is so fitting that Mirabel, as a Type Nine protagonist, doesn’t receive a ‘magical’ ability of her own because her gift (the most important one) is to be the ‘glue’ within her family.


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 9? Are any of your characters Type 9? 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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