by Jerry Wagner, Ph.D.
Wonder is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a cause of astonishment or admiration; the quality of exciting amazed admiration; rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience; to be curious or in doubt.”
When I read this definition, I thought of a child’s first encounter with something new in the world. Actually, everything is new to a child.
Then I thought about the Enneagram styles and wondered if wonder flows from and fosters the high side or essence of each style. Wonder seems to accompany the adaptive or divine idea which elicits the virtue or adaptive emotional response. Wonder acts as an antidote to the maladaptive or wrong ideas which stir up the vices of the styles.
The virtue for Style One is Serenity. When you start with the assumption that everything is perfect just as it is now, you can be at ease with yourself, others, and the world. When you experience wonder, you are amazed at the rightness of everything and you are strangely both excited and peaceful. You are drawn towards what you encounter; aren’t frustrated by it and so don’t need to go against it; and don’t feel threatened by it with no urgency to run away from it.
Wonder is an antidote to Perfectionism, the trap of the One, and Resentment, the vice of the One. You’re not angry at and don’t need to fix the source of your astonishment. You simply contemplate it, are grateful, and can relax and enjoy.
The virtue of Style Two is Humility. When you have the belief that it is more blessed to give and to receive, then you have a realistic appraisal of who you are; what you have to offer; and what you need to accept. Wonder puts you in touch with reality, not what you want it to be so you can feel useful. There is no necessity to help the object of your wonder. It doesn’t need your assistance or require anything of you. You can simply be in its presence and be appreciative.
The trap of Style Two is Co-dependency and the vice is Pride. When you contemplate or are in wonder of a sunset or a little child, there is no need to be proud. You’re not responsible for this. And when you are in a state of wonder, you don’t need to do anything for the object of your contemplation. Just enjoy it and be thankful for it.
The virtue of Style Three is Truthfulness. When you have hope that the universe is unfolding as it should without need of your intervention and when you have hope that you are worthwhile and loved for who you are not for what you do, then you are amazed at the mystery of who you are just in yourself. You don’t have to put on airs or perform. You are wonderful simply being yourself. There is a congruence of who you are, who you think you are, and who you present yourself to be.
The trap of Style Three is Workaholism and the vice of is Vanity. Wonder allows you to be as well as to do. Essence is not vain. Your true self is wonderful as is and doesn’t need to pretend to be other than what it is. There are no grounds to be vain about something you are in wonder of. You didn’t make it. You can simply admire what is there. It doesn’t need to be promoted or dressed up. It is complete in itself.
Equanimity is the virtue for Style Four. When you begin with the assumption that you are already original because you are connected to the source of your being, your origin, and also connected to everyone else’s being, then you already belong. Beholding someone or something with wonder elicits admiration and appreciation. The fact that you can recognize an admirable quality outside yourself means you have that quality in you. If you spot it, you got it.
Specialness is the trap of the Four and Envy is the vice. When you genuinely admire and appreciate something, you don’t need to take it out of that person or object and put it in yourself because they have something that you don’t. You are content to leave what you respect where it resides while appreciating your own parcel of talents and gifts. All creatures are extraordinary, including you; and, paradoxically, that makes everything ordinary, including you.
The virtue of the Five is Non-attachment. When you believe that it is just as good to be known as it is to know, and when you believe that you already know enough to act, then you can step into life from the sidelines. You are a contemplative-in-action. When you observe and are in awe of something, you don’t need to possess it and hold onto it. Wonder arises in the present and keeps you in the here and now. There is no need to acquire, collect, and store up what you behold for some future necessity.
The trap of the Five is Intellectualization and Privacy and the vice is Avarice. Wonder gets you in touch with your experience. You can let go of your books and your hiding place and enter the world. You don’t need to figure out or possess what you behold. You simply stay in its presence, let it inform you, and be appreciative. You can let go of any need to own what you admire. It is enough to enjoy it here now.
The virtue of Style Six is Courage. When you believe the force is with you, not against you, and you understand you are a part of creation, not apart from it, then wonder inspires trust. What you encounter and contemplate is not threatening but is inviting and calming. So, you can take heart, Coeur, and have the courage to be.
The trap of the Six is Doubt and the vice is Fear. While awe involves both fear and attraction, the trembling is more from excitement than panic. There is no need to fear what you are in wonder of. It won’t hurt you but welcomes you safely into its presence. Wonder leaves no doubt. You intuitively grasp that this is good.
Sobriety is the virtue of the Seven. When you are committed to the social and personal work you are called to, then you reside and act in the present, taking in only what you need and expending only as much energy as is required. When wonder arises from your essential nature, your inspiration and excitement are appropriate to the object of your attraction. No more; no less.
Pleasure is the trap of the Seven and Gluttony is the vice. More is better. In wonder, what is here is enough. You are satisfied and fulfilled in the present and don’t need to transport yourself into the future to plan for more. Desolation and darkness can lead to growth as well as consolation and light.
The virtue of the Eight is Innocence, the attitude of not harming nor anticipating being harmed. When you assume that the arc of the universe bends toward justice and what goes around comes around, then you don’t have to be the arbiter and guarantor of justice. And that is mysterious and wonderful. You are not afraid of the object of your wonder nor do you need to control what you behold. Hold it gently in the palm of your hand and be grateful for its presence in your life.
The trap of the Eight is Control and the vice is Lust, an over-intensity and over-protectiveness to fill up an emptiness you have created inside by over-valuing strength. While being amazed does call out your energy, your response is measured to the situation. You can allow yourself to be vulnerable in the presence of what you are in wonder of. You can be open and there is no need to defend yourself.
The Nine’s virtue is Right Action, an involvement in the world. Wonder leads to gratitude which leads to action. “Thank you, and what can I do in return?” The object of your wonder is a gift and you want to pass that gift on, to pay it forward. You believe you matter and have a right to be. And you have something to contribute.
The trap of the Nine is Resignation and the vice is Indolence, an inattention to yourself. Instead of settling for what you can get, wonder leads to excitement, not numbing out. Wonder enlivens you. It connects you to yourself and the world. You are an active participant, not a passive unimportant observer in the background.
As the poet says, we are all wonderfully made, a cause of astonishment and admiration, something awesomely mysterious. Something, indeed, to wonder at.