Enneagram Styles: Resilience, Eustress, And Distress

by Jerry Wagner, Ph.D.


     Evolutionarily speaking, the nine Enneagram styles may have been around for a long time.  What has helped each survive and thrive for 50000+ years?  Since we are the inheriting beneficiaries of their characteristics, we, too, have access to their resiliencies.  And, presuming human nature contains all that is human within it, what makes each style resilient so we can profit from all of them?


     Stress is a challenge to our resilience.  Is there such a thing as good stress and bad stress or inevitable suffering and unnecessary suffering?  Some stress and suffering come from being alive and some we bring on ourselves.

     How does stress effect each Enneagram style?  What’s good stress for each style?  (Like the late Congressman John Lewis’s notion of “good trouble”.) And how does each style create their own distress?  What’s the natural resilience of each style?  And how does overdoing a good thing (eustress) bring about a bad thing (distress)?


     Somewhere in every introductory psychology textbook is a chart that looks like a bell curve or a Volkswagen Beetle that shows an optimal level of functioning and arousal at the top of the bell curve.  To function at our best, we need a little stimulation, excitement, anxiety to get us up for the game.


      If we are feeling too confident or relaxed, we don’t exert enough effort to function optimally to win the game or at least play well.  On the left side at the bottom of the beginning of the curve lies sleep.  This is where my undergraduate students dwelled.  If there is not enough stimulation or if we are bored, we fall asleep.  Unless we do something to wake up and get excited.  Fidget, check the latest sales on Google, pull the hair of the person in front of us.  (No, wait, that was grade school.)

     If we get too excited (like when I talk about the Enneagram) or overly anxious (like our scholarship depends on passing this test or our opponent just won their last 127 games), this extra energy interferes with our optimal functioning and we flub the fingering of that Bach cantata or hit the ball into the net or, in my case, into another fairway.  At the bottom on the right side or downside of that bell curve lies a panic attack, the end result of too much anxiety.

     A little excitement and nervousness promote optimal functioning; too much stimulation leads to shutting down, tuning out, and falling asleep or ramping up, spinning out, and shooting energy in all directions, like a Van de Graaff generator. 

     So, what does each Enneagram style do to reach optimal functioning?  How does just the right amount of stress become eustress?  What characteristics make each style resilient? And how does each style overdo their strategies to create distress?  Like the three little pigs, you want your porridge not too cold, not too hot, but just right.  Which brings us to the ONES.



     What gets ONES motivated, functioning optimally, and what is their natural resilience?

     ONES get up for the game by wanting to perform really well.  They want to do all they can to make a really good product – whether it be a good term paper, a good chicken fricassee, a good relationship with their spouse and children – anything they are engaged in.  They have a passion for excellence and feel good when they have done something exceptionally well.   Excellence is its own reward and is eustress at its best.

      ONES’ resilience comes from their desire to be all they can be and do what they are doing impeccably.  They are naturally persistent, conscientious, responsible, intense (like a laser, not a forest fire.)

     ONES’ idealism is a source of their resilience.  They have the vision and drive to make the world a better place.  Their inner sense of rightness propels them to act and no obstacle is going to stand between them and their mission.   They might be deterred but not defeated.  They are willing to sacrifice for their ideals and they get a sense of satisfaction in doing the right thing.  They appreciate order, the proper way of proceeding.  Conviction, conscientiousness, clarity aid them, and us, in their journey. 

    These are words ONES use to describe their resilience:

Detail – rule – policies – order – justice – integrity – conscientious – responsible – purpose driven – principle centered – hard working – earnest – committed – clarity – vision – trust in basic goodness – dutiful – Integrity – self-controlled – disciplined – quality-minded – precise -thorough – fair – ethical – upstanding – organized.

     While these qualities come somewhat naturally to ONES, we are all capable of acquiring and using them.

     When confronting a stressful situation, we might ask ourselves: What is the right thing to do?  What does integrity require?

     So, what’s the ONES’ version of turning good news into bad news?  Doing too much of a good thing.  Want to distress yourself?  Tell yourself you HAVEto be perfect and do everything impeccably.  If you want to be loved and accepted, you have to be right and you can’t make mistakes.  Who says so?  The ONES.  Or their ONE parents, teachers, church, culture, etc.   Being a good person leads to optimal functioning.  Being a perfect person leads to why bother trying or dying trying.  Neither bring about particularly good results.  I like the English essayist G.K. Chesterton said: “Anything worth doing is worth doing half well.”  Not a good clarinet player?  No matter.  Making music is a good thing.  Either Chesterton was not a ONE or was a reformed ONE.

     ONES bring on themselves distress and unnecessary suffering by trying to be perfect.  Too many “shoulds” make their blood pressure and resentment rise.  They need to find that happy point between not trying and trying too hard.  “I’m doing the best I can with what I have available right now.”  See the 12-step prayer for wisdom.


     What gets TWOS motivated, functioning optimally, and what is their natural resilience?

     TWOS say they enjoy giving and loving and being helpful.   It’s something that flows naturally from their nature.  They are attuned, both innately and through practice, to other’s feelings and needs.  And they generously respond to others’ requirements.  Giving is their version of a “flow” state. It’s almost like they cannot not help.  It comes easily and naturally and is intrinsically reinforcing.  Getting appreciation is a nice bonus, but not required.

     Seeking out connections and relationships contributes to their own as well as others’ well-being.  Forming community fosters their resilience.  Their optimism and prosocial nature help them survive and thrive by giving them meaning and purpose, and ferrying them through life in the company of others.

     Empathic attunement is a key to surviving and thriving.  Love, nurturing, care keep us all going.  Isolation leads to death; relating leads to life.  TWOS see the best in people and care about them.  Love is a powerful source of both their resiliency and authority.      

     Here’s a quote from a TWO:

Whenever I was devastated, degraded, and deprived, I relied on my ability to LOVE.  Love kept me going (my wing THREE).  Love kept me from being overwhelmed by feelings of revenge and hatred (resisting the EIGHT arrow).  Love gave me faith and hope for the future. Love for myself kept me alive.  Love of God kept me grounded in doing what’s right (right wing ONE). Love gave me creative ideas for maintaining relationships (my FOUR arrow). At the same time my healthy gut EIGHT gave me the energy to draw strong boundaries for my own self-respect.

     These are words TWOS use to describe their resilience:

Connected – related – inclusive – compassion – adaptable – humility – love – attunement –optimistic – generous – helpful – friendly – caring – supportive – encouraging – warm hearted.

     When confronting a stressful situation, we might ask ourselves: What is the loving thing to do?  What does love require?

     And how do TWOS invite distress into their lives?  By doing too much of the above.  Their helping becomes something they HAVE to do to gain approval and avoid rejection.  They erringly believe their worth comes more from giving themselves than simply being themselves.  To get their needs met, they have to meet everyone else’s needs first.  And since, according to the rules of their TWO paradigm, they are not allowed to ask for what they want, they have to indirectly get their needs met.  We, of course, don’t catch onto what they need, since they’ve never expressed them. So, they get resentful.  And that’s stressful.

     So, how do they reduce this brought-on distress?   Acknowledge and express their needs.  It won’t kill us or them and it surprisingly makes them even more lovable.  Who would’ve thought?


     What gets THREES motivated, functioning optimally, and what is their natural resilience?

     THREES get energy and satisfaction from getting things accomplished.  A good day for THREES is when they got a lot done.  They like progress. They like to win.   A particularly irascible famous tennis player said it wasn’t so much winning that he liked; he hated losing.  They enjoy promoting their products and rallying their team.  

     They value movement.  “Motion is the lotion,” as my physician likes to say.  When an obstacle presents itself, keep moving.  Go around it, over it, under it, through it.  But don’t let it stop you from getting to your goal.  Perhaps THREES were the original peripatetic philosophers.  They thought best while walking.

      Pushing, challenging, competing get their energy up. Like the “little engine that could,” they believe they can do it.  And like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, THREES don’t stay down for the count very long.  Failures are just learning experiences for what doesn’t work.  Try something else.  Don’t give up.  This “go get ‘em” attitude keeps THREES and us going.   Their confidence, competence, and enthusiasm carry us along.

     These are the words THREES use in describing their resilience:   

Efficient – competent — get things done – don’t waste time – detail – network – motivated by challenges – optimistic – high expectations – self-motivated – friendly – outgoing – positive – enthusiastic – energy – confidence – can do – multi task – industrious – focused – persevering – order – engage – proactive – keep moving – start stuff – organized – adaptable –- self-driven – energetic – dynamic – efficient – pragmatic – ambitious – productive.

     When confronting a stressful situation, we might ask ourselves: What is the most productive and effective thing to do? What will get results?

     How do THREES distress themselves and bring on unnecessary suffering?  They push themselves too much, straining their emotional and physical muscles.  The body wears out and the psyche gets depressed.  Instead of bringing us along with them, they run over us or drag us along.  So, they are either out there ahead alone or they are running with logs (us) tied to their legs.

     They manufacture the wrong idea that they MUST succeed in order to be admired and be sent to the head of the class or the corner office verses relegated to the back row or the cubicle.  They confuse being effective with being a workaholic.  Burning out is the THREES’ version of the Phoenix.  Fortunately, as we saw, they frequently rise from the ashes of bankruptcy, divorce, lost tournaments, etc.

     When we’re in a “flow” state, our actions flow effortlessly.  When we’re rushing instead of flowing, we miss the present.  As the proverb advises: “Slow down and smell the roses.”  Which brings us to beauty and the FOURS.


     What gets FOURS motivated, functioning optimally, and what is their natural resilience?

     FOURS function well in the sea of feelings and imagination.  Their feelings give them energy; their imagination gives them hope and direction.  FOURS remind us that creativity is very healing and life-giving, as is beauty.  We can only take so much ugliness before we get sick to our stomach and soul.  A forest cleansing refreshes the spirit.

    FOURS are sensitive to suffering – their own and others – which helps them process it and find meaning in it, which is a source of resiliency in FOURS.  It addresses those four givens that existentialists talk about: death, responsibility, isolation, meaninglessness.  Subjects that most of us would prefer to avoid.  But FOURS invite us to the depths of our existence.  While we might say: “No thanks;” they say: “Don’t be afraid of the dark.  Make friends with your shadow.  There’s a lot of good stuff there.”

    FOURS recognize the value of suffering.  Their long-suffering helps them endure and deepen.  They find meaning and significance in sorrow.  They can take in suffering and turn it into a “creative malady.”   Through mastering their struggle, they can guide us through ours.  Their suffering doesn’t have to turn them in on themselves but can lead them to being “wounded healers.” 

     They have an inner power of emotion and connection. FOURS can expand to take in the breadth and depth of feelings.  This capacity draws others to them and connects them to the mainland.  Their ongoing search for meaning and authenticity enriches all of our lives.  Their spirituality gives them a longing to get through the dark to get to the light.

      When confronting a stressful situation, we might ask ourselves: What would our authentic self do? How can we bring beauty to bear here?

     These are the words FOURS use in describing their resilience:   

Presence – awareness – depth – creativity – imagination – understanding – think outside box – meaning – connection – passion – balance – vision – endure pain – expressive – creative –sensitive, — original – intuitive – perceptive – unique

     So how do FOURS bring on distress and unnecessary suffering vs. the “necessary losses” that come with existence?  They spend too much time in the shadows and not enough time in the light.  Their melancholy or sweet sadness descends into depression and they tire of life.  Their suffering makes them special and appears in their subtypes when they become long-suffering, or wear their suffering on their sleeves, or make us suffer for all we’ve done to them.

     They get the wrong idea that there is something wrong with them and they are missing something.  Their ego misses what is there.  They might salubriously repeat the mantra: “Right now, I have everything I need to be perfectly happy.”  No need to be depressed or enviously look around at others’ good fortune.  You already have what you are longing for.  Recall Dorothy, the scarecrow, tin man, and cowardly lion.  They were already home, had a brain, a heart, and guts.  All three centers bring us home.  Can’t beat it.


     What gets FIVES motivated, functioning optimally, and what is their natural resilience?

     FIVES function well in the land of concepts.  Thinking turns them on.  Their passions are of the mind.  This may sound pathetic unless you’re a FIVE.  A little analysis, a little connecting the dots, a little seeing how this situation fits in with the big picture, a little research into the best product for the best price – all these get FIVES excited and up for the game.  FIVES love to learn.

     Their ability to detach, stand back (but not stand down), be objective, let their inner observer notice what’s going on are all sources of resilience for FIVES.  In Karen Horney’s theory, in the circumstances we find ourselves in we all need to move towards in cooperation, move against in assertion, and move away from in detachment.  FIVES got the moving away from down; EIGHTS specialize in moving against; while TWOS are really good at moving towards.

     FIVES are good listeners and are perceptive.  Then they need to act on what they hear and see.  When they let themselves experience, they learn good judgment from their experience.  And experience comes from bad judgment.  We learn from our mistakes.  Hence the gift of the FIVE: wisdom.

     By showing us how to use it, FIVES remind us that we all have an “inner observer,” an internal “fair witness.”  FIVES can step back to unattach and observe.   This freedom allows them to make wise decisions.  From an objective distance, they can get the whole picture and then contribute to, challenge, or step away from the scene.  Looking before leaping doesn’t mean not acting.  It means mindful acting. Prudence, being guided by reason, can be effective, not boring. 

     When confronting a stressful situation, we might ask ourselves: What would our wise self say about this? What is the reasonable thing to do?

     FIVES’ resilience shows up as an ability to weather difficult and intense emotions through distancing and objectivity; through perspective-taking to see all sides of a situation before reacting; through creating and maintaining boundaries in various settings; by persevering, especially when learning something new (e.g. meditation techniques, coding, etc.); by being self-reliant; and not taking things so personally. 

     These are the words FIVES use in describing their resilience:   

Logical problem solving – analysis – connect dots – science – non-attachment – inventors – innovation – detachment – objective – perspective – observant – clarity – figure it out – flexibility in models – curiosity – critical thinking – perceptive – innovative — observant – logical – knowledgeable – reasonable – analytical –self-reliant –detached – now what – don’t look back

     So, how do FIVES distress themselves?  They think too much and may experience analysis paralysis.  Sometimes “the heart has reasons that reason knows not of.”  Thank you, Blasé Pascal.  And sometimes the body knows and “keeps the score.”  Thank you, Bessel Van Der Kolk.  Sometimes FIVES need to cede their head’s pride of place to their heart or gut.  Or, keep all three; IQ, EQ, and SQ.  Thank you, George Gurdjieff.

     Backing into their cave and refusing to come out leads to unnecessary suffering for FIVES.  It gets cold, sparse, and boring in the castle.  FIVES fear being deprived.  But who’s doing the depriving?  If FIVES believe the world is withholding, they offer their own withholding in return.

     In addition, their loner stance leads to not speaking up, not saying what they want or don’t want, and not asking for help — all of which bring about more trouble and suffering than they would have us believe.


    What gets SIXES motivated, functioning optimally, and what is their natural resilience?

     The good and the bad news for SIXES is their fear and anxiety get them up for the game.  Too little energy and they fall asleep like NINES; too much anxiety and they tremble and doubt like, well, SIXES; just the right amount of stimulation and they function really well like THREES.

     A modicum of worst-case scenario thinking leads to trouble shooting, problem solving, being prepared, and coming up with Plans A through Z.  Mother Nature has built in an alarm system in the amygdala to help us survive so we can thrive.  When the alarm is stuck on red alert, SIXES spend a lot of energy on mythical monsters.  They are good at scaring themselves.  Their natural safety features malfunction or over-function and become debilitating rather than life-saving.

     Mother nature has also figured out that we survive and thrive best when we are with others.  SIXES are good groupies.  They contribute their skills to the group (like, hey Zebras, there’s a lion over there) and the group in turn shares its wisdom with SIXES through culture.  Pretty good exchange.

     Speaking of being prudent, being cautious is not a bad way to stay alive.  SIXES have been around for a long time because they’re careful.  Their skepticism keeps them, and us, from being misled.   Considering the pitfalls of any given action and devising strategies to deal with those eventualities, SIXES make good trouble-shooters.  Not only do they look before they leap, they have contingency plans for what might happen after they leap.  SIXES also value the law.  It keeps us all safe and operating within the limits of healthy functioning.  If we take in too much sugar, salt, alcohol (or too much of anything), if we experience too much injustice, ugliness, abuse, lifelessness, we get physically and psychically sick.  SIXES are careful about deficiencies and excesses.  They keep us all alive and growing. 

     When confronting a stressful situation, we might ask ourselves: What is the safest choice in this situation? What is the prudent thing to do?

     Here is a quote from a SIX:

I am Type 6, 75 y/o and still a spiritual seeker. After decades of trying just about everything else unsuccessfully, I have found resilience in the motto, “to let go and let God.” The journey on this side of things is a trust walk. Do you place that trust in your own abilities or entrust your life to God’s divine mercy and infinite wisdom? It is very difficult to give up (our illusion of) power and control as we struggle for safety and security in our lives. Even though I am now in my 8th decade on good ol’ terra firma, I still struggle with this. I have found that the more we/ I leave outcomes in God’s hands, the more I trust Him, the less I rely on myself, the less I worry and the more resilience I have when the outcome is not what I hoped or expected. When that happens, I find great comfort in knowing that I am part of a much larger whole, that we are all in this together and this is all headed (by a very circuitous route) somewhere good. I have no idea how we are getting there; I just know that we are. In hindsight I can sometimes see how my action contributed to the success of something much larger than myself. As the Apostle Paul said in Roman’s 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” I really hang my hat on that one.

     These are the words SIXES use in describing their resilience:   

Security from relationships — fear and threat forecasting– fear goes to confidence – engaging—responsible –reliable – prepared – dutiful – sensible – loyal – trustworthy – faithful –truth seeking – structure – committed – persevering – focused – stable – good in crisis – planning – vigilant – questioning – organized – hard workers – caution – problem solvers – courageous – details – contingency plans – values – tradition – early warning – rules

     Like the rest of us, SIXES bring on distress when they engage in too much of a good thing.  They often see danger where there isn’t any.  They get a lot of false positives.  That is, they leave the building in the middle of the night when there isn’t a fire.  On the other hand, staying in the building when there is a fire (a false negative), isn’t a great idea, either.   

     Being alert to hidden intentions or creatures lurking in the bushes is beneficial.  Being paranoid paradoxically leaves one isolated, which Mother Nature discovered was not a good defense.

     While a little self-doubt saves one from the downfall of the proud and over-confident, too much doubt leads to not trusting oneself or others.  Goodbye self-efficacy; hello over-reliance on or suspicion of outer authorities. 

     Erik Erikson said trust and mistrust were skills to be learned in the first stage of our development.  Too much trust and we are Pollyannas; too much distrust and we are paranoids.  Just the right amount of both and we are perfect.  But we’ve already talked about the ONES.  What about the Pollyannas?


     What gets SEVENS motivated, functioning optimally, and what is their natural resilience?

     SEVENS are blessed with an optimistic, sunny, enthusiastic, curious, creative nature.  What’s not to like?  All of this leads to the “Unsinkable Molly Brown.”  SEVENS just keep coming back for more.  We’ll see that this is not an unmixed blessing.  But the optimum amount of optimistic good cheer makes SEVENS very resilient.  It’s hard to keep a helium balloon under water.

     SEVENS have the ability to soar above or ahead of troubles.  Their facility to plan for future fun-filled possibilities gets them moving forward.  In their worldview, the world is their oyster, filled with adventure and all good things.  This is a definite improvement over other world-views that the universe is critical, selfish, chaotic, abandoning, withholding, dangerous, hostile, and uncaring.   As SEVENS say: “Who wouldn’t want to be a SEVEN?”

     Optimism is a powerful prophylactic.  A positive mindset helps us see options and gives us the hope to pursue those options.  SEVENS’ buoyancy keeps them afloat and moving forward.  While the brain is said to be Velcro for negative experiences (we remember the bad things) and Teflon for positive experiences (we forget the good things), SEVENS accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.  Positive thinking can lead to effective action while negative thinking can stop the show.  Being positive doesn’t have to be pollyannish.  Hoping for the best provides the energy to go for it.

      Abraham Maslow wrote about the “Farther Reaches of Human Nature.”   SEVENS are exploring that.  And we all have that adventuresome spirit. 

     When confronting a stressful situation, we might ask ourselves:  What is the most heuristic option?  What leads to the most choices?  (If we have one choice, we are stuck; if we have two choices, we have a dilemma; if we have three choices, we have an option.)

     Here is a quote from a SEVEN:

     I think for me resilience comes in that positive attitude, I cannot stay down for too long, I will quickly get up and identify what is good, fun, and positive about what is happening AND then joke about it!

     Rationalizing also comes in handy, reframing the experience and seeing it from a different perspective.

     Maybe the 8w also helps, being able to take a lot on, that “I can take it” attitude and that nothing is too much, until then of course it is and I am forced to reach out for help, or distraction.  And with a 7s extended network it comes easily.

     In thinking about it more I think resilience for me is more going into the 5, focusing, staying with what is AND THEN using the positive attitude to get up again. When something happens and I get up too quickly then it leaves an aftertaste. But when something happens, and I stay with it, even if for just a while, look around me, just pause, retreat a bit AND THEN pick myself up, then it feels complete. No aftertaste.

     And one other thoughtful reflection:

    Now for resilience.  My Style 7 patterns lead me to be positive and to look on the bright side when coping with difficulties and troubles.  I realize that this is a result of using my defense mechanism of reframing in order to be okay.  By appearing buoyant, I look to the future and try to move on.  However, buoyancy can mean that I remain on the surface and only process issues at a superficial level.  It’s a way of escaping from suffering, although only temporarily.  By not acknowledging the pain, which comes with loss or disappointment, I allow it to remain beneath the surface ready to re-emerge at a later date.  Style 7 may seem to be one of the more resilientof the 9 Enneagram styles but our resiliencemay not stand the test of time if we have not put in the necessary and sober work to provide it with a strong foundation!

     These are the words SEVENS use in describing their resilience:   

Diversity –different plans and strategies — adaptable – partnership –visionary — positive reframe — inner bounceback — fast action — optimism – gratitude – joie de vivre – energy – hope – laughter – positive – confidence – flexible – inclusive – presence – engaging – joy – happy – dreamers – see possibilities – enthusiasm – innovation – connections – spontaneous – versatile – visionary—charming — light-hearted – friendly — innovative

     How do SEVENS bring on stress and unnecessary suffering?  They try too hard to stay up and avoid getting down.   Once depressed, always depressed they fear. So, look up and look ahead.  But their FOMO, fear of missing out, ironically leads them to missing out on some good things.  They don’t believe anything useful can come from the “Winter of Our Discontent.”   Things do grow in the cold and the dark; suffering can be redemptive; desolation can be as beneficial as consolation.  That’s all pretty much of a stretch for SEVENS.  Try it.  You may not like it.  But it might be good for you.

     By spending too much time in the future, SEVENS don’t savor the present which is the only real time.  They believe that when they get there, they’ll be happy.  Actually, it’s when they get here that they’ll be happy and fulfilled.  Their future-focused fantasies pull them out of the nourishing satisfying experiences in the present.


     What gets EIGHTS motivated, functioning optimally, and what is their natural resilience?

     EIGHTS are said to have the most energy of all the Enneagram types.  They are naturally robust, vital, confident, and decisive.  They believe in “carpe diem.”  Take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.  “Strike while the iron is hot,” especially useful for blacksmiths.  Obstacles are challenges, not show-stoppers.  An initial “no” is just the opening gambit to “getting to yes.”   They take pride in being independent, autonomous, their own person.  As Fritz Perls pronounced: they’re not here to live up to our expectations; they do their thing; we do our thing.

     They are not overburdened by unnecessary guilt.  They have a winner, come out on top mentality that makes them very resilient.  “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” (Or, get shopping – but that’s the previous type.)

      With their positive outlook, magnanimous heart, and storehouse of energy, EIGHTS are equipped to survive and thrive.

     EIGHTS have a sense of confidence and competence.  Their motto is: “I can do it.”  As the saying goes: “Success comes in cans; failure comes in cants.”   This “can do” spirit keeps them going in the face of adversity and occasional defeat.  They are not afraid of their own power and are not afraid to use it.  Nor do they seem especially intimidated by anyone else’s power.  Getting big is one way to survive just as getting small and disappearing is another way to survive.  We all have an expansive capacity in us as well as the ability to shrink.  When we need to, we can get solid, strong, and upstanding.  The EIGHTS’ sense of justice also impels them which helps them thrive and others survive.

      When confronting a stressful situation, we might ask ourselves: What is the just thing to do?  How much force do I need to bring to bear to move this situation forward?

     These are words EIGHTS use to describe their resilience:

     Will do attitude and energy — resolve and intensity — inner core of strength —   full steam ahead —  guardedness —  this will not happen again —  there’s always a way out vs powerless —  energy –anger —  justice – make decisions – strength – problem solver – doers – enthusiastic – bold – courage – risk taker – confidence – BIG – direct – zeal – force – will – can do – strategic – decisive – vision – passion – long hall – courage – loyal – initiative – zest – intense– self-confidant —  decisive – assertive – direct — self-determined — big-hearted – loyal – dealing with a situation here and now – going full out – denying fatigue and pain — intimidation

     So, how do EIGHTS turn eustress into distress?  By living with too much gusto, intensity, and independence.  We are interdependent beings – not too dependent and not too independent.  Again, balance.  EIGHTS tend to tip the scale to independent, then find themselves unsupported.  Their tough shell protects their tender innards but doesn’t let that inner self be nourished and grow.

     They bring about suffering by sensing slights where there might not be any, then feeling indignant and disrespected, then getting angry, then getting feisty or getting even.  Vengeance is mine, saith the EIGHT.  Most of this is made up and so unnecessary.  They fire up their sympathetic nervous system for a fight that may not have to happen.  Fighting for the underdog is good; fighting imaginary enemies is exhausting.


     What gets NINES motivated, functioning optimally, and what is their natural resilience?

     Motivation and NINES seems like an oxymoron.  So, what gets them moving and unsettled? Perhaps conflict acts as a negative reinforcement.  With positive reinforcement, you give someone something they want.  With negative reinforcement, you remove something the person doesn’t want. Either works to increase the desired behavior.

      Negative reinforcement generates an obnoxious situation that creates discomfort, pain, anxiety, etc. that we are stimulated to remove.  For example, a fire alarm creates a pain in the ear which leads to leaving the building; a nagging parent creates a pain in the ear which leads to taking out the garbage or doing your homework; a tantrum-throwing two-year old creates a pain in the ear which leads to giving them an ice cream cone, toy, whatever.

      Conflict makes NINES anxious and moves them to employ their best negotiating and mediating skills to reduce the conflict.  Procrastination also initially lessens anxiety.  Avoidance behavior shows up here. Avoid what makes you uncomfortable.  But we’re talking about positive strategies here.

     Staying calm, unflappable, and steady in the face of adversity contribute to the NINE’S resilience.  Their adaptable nature helps them fit into their surroundings to survive and thrive.  They can even adapt to inhospitable environments.  We all need these strategies given the current happenings in nature and politics.

     When NINES are functioning optimally, they don’t get in their own way.  They go with the flow.  They don’t push, reverse, drain, pollute, or otherwise disturb the river.

     Promoting peace and harmony are ways that NINES found to survive and grow.  Looking for ways to resolve conflict and bring opposing parties together and seeing polarities as two sides of the same coin, have enabled NINES to be around for a long time.  Union works better than division, though, optimally, there can be differentiation within unity and harmony.  A peaceful nature, live and let live, is a resilient nature.  An attitude of acceptance, trusting the flow of the universe and going with the flow, is an effortless way of allowing the unfolding of oneself, others, and the cosmos.  Really, there is only one unfolding and that unitary consciousness is what NINES realize.

     When confronting a stressful situation, we might ask ourselves: What approach will bring about the most acceptance, peace, harmony, and integration?

     Here are words that NINES use to describe their resilience:

Reconcile – mediate – calm – network – patient – allowing – content – encouraging – collegial – peace – inclusive – connect dots – facilitator – take various perspectives – harmony – accepting – open – flexible – big picture – curious – receptive — ability to see many sides of an issue –willing to be part of the collective – reassuring – fair – patient – unassuming – diplomatic – gentle – kind — down to earth — peace maker vs peace keeper —   resolve conflict vs avoid conflict —  ebb (9) and flow (3)

     How does being calm, then, bring about distress?  Well, you can burn if you don’t get out of the fiery forest or drown if you don’t get away from the flooding river.   NINES might stay in a dysfunctional family or with an abusive partner much longer than is healthy for them.  Doing nothing doesn’t necessarily bring about change.  Leaning into their EIGHT or ONE wings might be a more proactive way to go.

     Avoiding conflict doesn’t make problems go away.  It just postpones them.  And oftentimes the conflict is worse when you don’t deal with the situation right away.  Avoiding stress at the beginning brings about distress at the end.   Though, NINES do say they function efficiently an hour before the deadline is due.  Perhaps this is their version of eustress or optimal level of arousal.  They rouse themselves from their self-protective lethargy, get focused, get busy, and get the job done.  That sounds a lot like the NINE accessing their inner THREE.  The turtle turns into the hare at the finish line.


     Each Enneagram style has its own brand of resilience.   That’s why they’re all still around.  And each adaptive strategy contributes to the well being and continued being of the community.  Mother Nature evolved some good instincts and styles.

      The right amount of stress, excitement, and arousal lead to optimal functioning.  Too much or too little energy lead to sub-optimal functioning.  Eustress gets us up for the game; distress takes us out of the game.

      In short, stop distressing yourself and start eustressing yourself.  It’s good for all of us.

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