9 Negative Character Arcs in the Enneagram

From Writers Helping Writers:

The Enneagram personality theory is a wonderful tool for writers. Beneath the surface of the system’s nine types, you can find development guides that include all the working parts of solid transformational character arcs. Last week, we discussed the positive character arcs in the Enneagram. Today, we’re going to look at the flipside: nine negative character arcs in the Enneagram system.

As a personal-development tool, the Enneagram can help us identify, first, which of the nine types best suits our own tendencies. From there, we can use it to bring awareness to any number of our own pain points, growth factors, and potential blind spots.

But there’s much more to the Enneagram than just that. Particularly as presented by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson in their groundbreaking book Personality Types, the Enneagram also offers several vertical maps of progression and regression within each type. In short, it can offer hints as to where someone (ourselves or our characters) may be sitting within a spectrum of mental and emotional health.

For our personal use, the Enneagram can help us move higher up the ladder toward optimal health—to achieve positive character arcs. That’s what we looked at last week. As authors, however, we also sometimes need to write about characters who are headed in the opposite direction—away from health. In character-arc speak, the thematic movements of a positively arcing character will be away from a Lie or limiting belief and toward a more expansive and liberating Truth. Meanwhile, a negatively arcing character will be moving away from the story’s posited thematic Truth.

. . . .

As I discussed in the last post, the Enneagram system is a deep well to dive into, full of many complexities. What’s in this post is the barest ripple on its surface, based on my years’ long personal study and growth within the system and particularly on the type comparisons and descriptors found in Riso and Hudson’s book The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

In that book, they introduce the Enneagram like this:

The core truth that the Enneagram conveys to us is that we are much more than our personality. Our personalities are no more than the familiar, conditioned parts of a much wider range of potentials that we all possess.

The nine personality types of the Enneagram.

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

PG continues to lead a sheltered life and must admit he had never heard of Eneagrams before.

He did a little quick and dirty online research and discovered the following:

Definition and Meaning

The Enneagram is a system of personality which describes people in terms of nine types, each with their own motivations, fears, and internal dynamics.

The Enneagram is an emotionally focused system of understanding people — honing in on one’s core emotional motivations and fears. Each of the nine personality types has its own driving force, which is centered around a particular emotion.

Some Enneagram types experience strong emotions, while other types aim to avoid emotions in one form or another. However, whether running from emotions or diving into them, each type describes some aspect of emotional experience.

. . . .

The nine types of the Enneagram are divided among Heart Types, Head Types, and Body Types.

  • Heart types depend on their emotional intelligence to understand their own reactions and connect with others.
  • Head types depend on their intellectual intelligence to make sense of things and navigate the world around them.
  • Body types depend on their instinctual intelligence to follow their “gut” and respond to threats and opportunities.

The Heart Types of the Enneagram

Heart types react with emotions first. They connect with other people on an empathetic level, and make sense of the world by understanding their feelings about it. These types are guided by the feelings connected to their emotional relationships with other people. They value things such as emotional support, recognition, and inclusion. Types Two, Three and Four are the heart, or feeling, centered Enneagram types.

Type Two

The Giver

Twos want to be liked and find ways that they can be helpful to others so that they belong. This type fears being unlovable. Read more about Twos.

Type Three

The Achiever

Threes want to be successful and admired by other people, and are very conscious of their public image. Type Threes fear failure and not being seen as valuable by other people. Read more about Threes.

Type Four

The Individualist

Fours want to be unique and to experience deep, authentic emotions. Type Fours fear they are flawed and are overly focused on how they are different from other people. Read more about Fours.

The Head Types of the Enneagram

Head types react with analysis first. They connect with other people on an intellectual level, and make sense of the world by understanding the systems and theories that underlie what they observe. These types are primarily focused on control, which they gain by maintaining stability, security, and competence. Types Five, Six, and Seven are the head-centered Enneagram types.`

Type Five

The Investigator

Fives seek understanding and knowledge, and are more comfortable with data than other people. The biggest fear of the Type Five is being overwhelmed by their own needs or the needs of other people. Read more about Fives.

Type Six

The Skeptic

Sixes are preoccupied with security, seek safety, and like to be prepared for problems. For the Type Six, the greatest fear is being unprepared and unable to defend themselves from danger. Read more about Sixes.

Type Seven

The Enthusiast

Sevens want to have as much fun and adventure as possible and are easily bored. Type Sevens fear experiencing emotional pain, especially sadness, and actively seek to avoid it by staying busy. Read more about Sevens.

The Body Types of the Enneagram

Body types react with an instinctive, gut feeling. They connect with other people based on their physical sense of comfort, and make sense of the world by sensing their body’s reaction to what is happening. The primary drive for this triad is to maintain their independence and limit control from outside influences. They respond by being either overly controlling, overly passive, or overly perfectionistic. Types Eight, Nine, and One are the body, or gut, centered Enneagram types.

Type Eight

The Challenger

Eights see themselves as strong and powerful and seek to stand up for what they believe in. The greatest fear of the Type Eight is to be powerless, so they focus on controlling their environment. Read more about Eights.

Type Nine

The Peacemaker

Nines like to go with the flow and let the people around them set the agenda. Type Nines fear pushing people away by prioritizing their own needs, and they tend to be passive. Read more about Nines.

Type One

The Perfectionist

Ones place a lot of emphasis on following the rules and doing things correctly. Type Ones fear being imperfect and can be extremely strict with themselves and others. Read more about Ones.

Link to the rest at Truity

PG is not certain he entirely understands (or even vaguely understands) Enneagrams. However he found another article on Truity titled Myers and Briggs vs Enneagram.

PG had heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test. However, he doesn’t understand that one very well either, but when he took what was supposedly a short Myers-Briggs-like test a long time ago, he was classified as an extraversion something something, something. (PG isn’t quite certain how may somethings there were.)

During his wander through online personality tests, he discovered The 5 Best Free Online Personality Tests which evidently gives you options in case you don’t like the results of a single personality test.

At any rate, he does think that the various character features mentioned in this sort of thing may help an author with the task of constructing fictional characters that aren’t all the same.