The Head Center
Enneagram Types Five, Six, and Seven
This article is one in a series of three that explores the nine Enneagram personality types, suggesting specific spiritual practices and prayers for each to assist us in creating new neural pathways that are helpful in waking us up to our lives. The Enneagram acknowledges our three centers of intelligence—head, heart and gut— with three personality types in each of these centers. This article explores the types in the head center, types Five, Six, and Seven. Types in the heart and gut centers are discussed in separate articles.
The Head Center
Personality types Five, Six, and Seven are thinking types who respond logically and systematically to situations and like to have a plan for what is to come. Predictability and security are highly valued. These Enneagram types have an active inner world and vivid imaginations. They are comfortable exploring possibilities and thinking in the grey zone. Black and white thinking is foreign. However, they can over-think to the point of not acting or not following through. Fear is a key issue for people who lead from this center. “What if” thinking can be paralyzing for type Six, which makes decision-making difficult. For type Five, fear prevents initiating and self-disclosing, and for type Seven, emotional pain is avoided for fear of falling into a bottomless pit of sadness.
Because of this center’s fascination with the inner world of thought and imagination, symbols, icons, chanting and movement are essential to their spiritual lives as a means of drawing them out into the external world. Head types often find comfort knowing that all are held in the bosom of the Divine, and from this refuge of grace, they can act with courage.
Though each of these three personality types have great similarities, let’s now consider the nuances of each and the practices that can deepen self-understanding and lead to compassion for self and other.
Enneagram Type Five: The Observer
Energy Follows Attention
Believing that detaching keeps them safe, Fives scan the environment for who or what may be intrusive. A withdrawing and rationing energy distances this type from connecting. They think things over, censoring their speech, decisions, and action before engaging in the world, if they engage at all. Overanalyzing freezes Fives. They seek predictability and like knowing when the beginning and ending of events will occur.
The driving emotional habit for Five is the vice of avarice. Fives hold onto those resources they believe will maintain their privacy and autonomy. They prize self-reliance and work to stay unaroused to avoid self-disclosure. Feeling is delayed until a time and place deemed safe. Allowing emotions to arise in the moment seems dangerous to Fives, who unconsciously believe that their soul will be taken if they reveal too much of themselves. They highly regard emotional control and confidentiality.
The Path and the Barrier
The journey to the divine heart for type Five begins when they turn their attention inward and notice when they are detaching from the experience of the moment. Detaching is Fives’s pattern for protecting the resources they think they need in order to maintain privacy and independence. This protecting or withholding is the vice of avarice showing up. Analyzing and reasoning push feelings in the background, as knowledge replaces emotion. With their minds, Fives quickly engage content, but are unaware of the feeling of the content—its impact. Up and in feels safe.
They may learn a lot, but experience very little. For Fives, engaging passionately with others offers possibilities of connection and nurture, an unbelievable idea! And personal development is dependent on these connections. Conversion of the energy from avarice (withholding and rationing) to non-attachment—the virtue of Fives—allows this type to engage life with generosity, knowing that there is enough.
Engaging as a Spiritual Practice
Fives deny being fully themselves when they isolate, withdraw, and contract. When they explore engaging as an entry point for deepening their capacity to give and receive love, Fives open themselves to the possibility of not knowing ahead of time. By engaging in the moment, we risk sharing ourselves and our feelings without benefit of a predictable outcome. It is possible the connection may drain us. Also, it is possible that we become more of who we are. It’s worth the risk. Not risking these connections dooms us to a shriveled and isolated life.
It isn’t that Fives aren’t passionate. They are and are capable of strong feelings. However, much of their energy is used to contain, contract, and censor. Fear drives these responses; fear of depletion to the point of nonexistence. When Fives lessen the mental activity and ground themselves in their bodies, more energy is available. They can allow themselves to experience feelings and emotions in the now, without pulling away to analyze.
The practice of engaging enriches relationships, deepens connections, and nourishes those in connection. We know from our hearts, not just our minds, who we are and who we can become. These connections provide a safe and loving container and companions who support us in our journey to a God who desires our return to wholeness. We discover the access to full knowing in the arms of community, not in isolation. Ground in your body, then practice initiating sharing and connecting. You will receive riches beyond your anticipation.
Our practices are ways of saying “yes” to our journey to the divine heart. These practices are designed to assist in the creation of new patterns of behavior that allow for more creative options and deepen our heart’s capacity to give and receive love. At the threshold of what has been and what can be, Fives’ conversion process will be supported by these practices. Keep in mind that these practices are designed to bring up the very thing that your ego tells you to resist. You will experience discomfort; please allow these feelings. Sooner than later, they will dissipate. What we resist, persists. So allow feelings of discomfort, sitting with them with an open heart.
• Say “yes” to three of the next five invitations or requests.
• Offer appreciation each day to two people.
• Notice when you internally detach from a situation. Ask why? Try re-engaging.
• Initiate sharing something about yourself with others at least twice a week.
• Notice when you may be substituting information for emotion. Check in with yourself and experience what you are feeling.
• Remember a time when your were surprised by the generous nurturing of another. How did that feel to you? What made that possible?
• Notice how little space you take up physically and experiment with taking up more space (pretend to be superwoman or superman if necessary!)
• Be physical each day in order to move your energy from your head to your body.
This day’s rhythm supports the emotional nurturing of Fives and allows safe space for spontaneity to occur. If possible, begin Sabbath engaging the body in some form of movement. Stretching, yoga, exercise, a brisk morning walk all enliven the body’s senses. Stay away from the computer today. Stay with your body’s experience of your day’s activities. Follow your body’s instincts rather than your mind’s reason, allowing it to guide you from moment to moment, allowing your senses to reconnect you to God's good creation.
See this Sabbath as an immersion in generosity and abundance. Understanding that “what you withhold from the world, it then withholds from you,” (Tolle, A New Earth) contemplate those gifts and resources that you have to offer. Give something. Whether a donation to a charity, a pot of soup to a sick neighbor, a hug to a friend, give. If married or partnered, don’t rely on her/him to connect you with others. Initiate a phone call today or an activity with someone. At some point during the day, spend some time journaling, remembering the nurturing you received that week. Offer gratitude for each.
Prayer for the Journey
Most gracious and generous God, awaken in me my full knowing, that I may remember my heart’s desire. Give me eyes to see the many ways that life is abundant, the many blessings offered me each day, that I may receive my heart’s desire. Empty me now of my need for predictability that stifles my spontaneity. Empty me now of my stinginess that withholds my gifts and love from others. Give me the wisdom to know when to think and when to act. Loving God, calm my fears of rejection, and instill in me the courage to open my heart and share myself with others in ways that cultivate compassion. As I come to my full senses, I offer gratitude for my body’s wisdom. May I begin each day grounded in that wisdom, knowing that I have enough time, enough energy, information and enough passion to live fully engaged in life.
Enneagram Type Six: The Loyal Skeptic
Energy Follows Attention
Sixes focus their attention on potential dangers in the world. Worst-case thinking drives energy into a hypervigilant scanning for harm. This scanning creates a feeling of safety for Sixes as it allows them to anticipate and prepare for what might come. Feelings get locked out as the imagination works overtime to prepare for a possible worst-case. Sixes might ask themselves how it would feel to prepare for the best possible outcome.
This emotional habit of fear motivates Sixes to seek certainty. Ever watchful for hidden motives, “what if” questioning keeps doubt in play and suspicions heightened. Self-trust is foreign when fear is in control and mistrust gets projected onto others. Internal issues for Sixes get attributed to others or to external factors. Fears are magnified. Collecting more evidence and needing proof is an indication that this type is living on automatic.
The Path and the Barrier
For type Six, the journey home to the divine heart begins when they land in their own power and stand on the prima mater within, knowing they can trust themselves to move through an uncertain world. The understanding that we live in the loving lap of the Holy and are not abandoned to a dangerous world gets lost in the Six-type structure that spins doubt, creates anxiety, and fears the worst. Feelings of helplessness are a constant companion when Sixes lose sight of the wells of resources within. The transformation from the vice of fear to the virtue of courage allows Sixes to act, to decide and to move forward without all the facts, knowing that they can trust themselves in an unpredictable world. Courage diminishes the scanning and invites the heart wisdom to speak.
Trusting as a Spiritual Practice
For all of us, the ability to trust indicates an awakened heart. The courage to step into uncertainty, to move through doubting and fearful times is an open- hearted response to life. We have a knowing that God journeys with us. Distrust keeps the heart and mind separate. When Sixes are moved by fear, uncertainty is unacceptable, and a strong focus on the external is in play. Paradoxically, it is not certainty but uncertainty that leads us to trust.
In the space that uncertainty gives us, a shift of attention from external to internal can unveil fresh insights and deepen our understanding of who we are. When we abide in uncertainty with a grounded presence, we receive lessons in trust; trust that we will journey through the transition, the unknowing, and be ok. When Sixes land in trust and have the courage to look within, feelings of helplessness shift to a posture of self-reliance.
Just as we know the sky is star-filled in daylight and the sun still burns even when hidden by clouds, we can trust without evidence that God's presence is within us this day and for all the days to come—there to lean into, to rest in, supporting us as we step forward without predictability, into a world of surprises.
Our practices are ways of saying “yes” to our journey to the divine heart. These practices are designed to assist in the creation of new patterns of behavior that allow for more creative options that deepen our heart’s capacity to give and receive love. At the threshold of what has been and what can be, Sixes’ conversion process will be supported by these practices. Keep in mind, that these practices are designed to bring up the very thing that our ego tells us to resist. You will experience discomfort; please allow these feelings. They will dissipate. What we resist, persists. So allow feelings of discomfort, sitting with them with an open heart.
• Notice when worst-case thinking is in operation and inquire how it's appropriate.
• Become aware when you are over-thinking or over-interpreting a situation and take a course of action, however small, to relax the energy of thinking.
• Check in with your own wisdom when you notice yourself seeking the advice or opinion of another. Ask, “What would I do?” before polling others.
• Each week, reflect on your personal success stories, remembering times when your action, your decision, was the right course.
• Spend some time each day in touch with the feelings you shut down in order to feel safe. How might allowing these feelings to be felt the moment they arise benefit you?
• Plan time alone each day when you can offer heartfelt thanks for those in your life who love you and who have your trust.
• Notice where you feel safe and secure in your body. In times of anxiety, try shifting your attention there.
• Exercise each day in ways that bring your energy lower into the body. Intentionally notice each step and feel the ground supporting you.
Sabbath for type Six is a day of nourishing the senses and lessening the need for “evidence” on which to act or make meaning. Create a sacred space with icons and symbols that remind you of God's abiding presence and your own strengths as well as your connections with others. Pray in ways most comfortable for you. Prayer settles us into a larger context, allowing us to better understand our interdependence, how we belong, and how we are held in God's loving lap.
This is a day to be in the body. Hiking, swimming, dancing, singing can help to ease over-thinking. During Sabbath, practice making decisions without all the information you think you need. Wing it and trust that the outcome will be friendly. Allow emotions to arise without asking “why?” Simply note your sensations and feel the emotion in the moment. Notice when your mind goes to worst-case thinking and use your quick wit to playfully disengage it. Go lightly this day, for this time is to rest. Rest your worries, your fears, your anticipation. Take this day to reflect on all that has gone well in the past week and on all the moments you trusted yourself to know what to do. These moments are evidence of your own authority and power. Celebrate that.
Prayer for the Journey
Abiding God, You are within me and beyond me, forever present. Your love enfolds me as I go about my days. I am not alone. My suspicions fade when held in your unwavering assurance of me. Empty me now of my anxieties, doubts and imaginings. Assuage my fears. Create in me a refuge for trusting myself. Remind me of my inner resources and power. All I need is within me. My act is to call this forth in trust as I stand on my own solid foundation. Knowing your steady Ground is with me, I move forward in an uncertain world. Guide me as I travel the path of courage so I may lean into myself when the waters are troubled, having faith in the unfolding, growing myself into my own authority. Hold me in the fearful times, hold me in the fearless times. In your Holy Ground I rise to offer my full and powerful self in each moment.
Enneagram Type Seven: The Epicure
Energy Follows Attention
With a focus of attention on best-case possibility, Sevens move quickly from one activity or plan to the next. Engagement can be superficial as their minds wander away from the present to securing the next stimulating adventure. Boredom surfaces quickly. Commitment for Seven is “one foot in,” a peripheral investment that allows Sevens to maintain control of how they spend their time. Driven by the fear of being restricted, Sevens may rationalize away commitments as their minds go to much better future options. Imagination offers the perfect playground and is a strong lure away from commitment and the present moment.
Gluttony, the emotional habit of Sevens, responds with appealing options when limitations are sensed. Sampling life rather than engaging is the trance of this type, and filling time through sampling one experience after another prevents Sevens from deepening and staying with the experience in the moment. Moving on quickly to the “next,” whether internally or externally, keeps the stimulation up and Sevens’s ego assured of control.
The Path and the Barrier
The path to the divine heart for type Seven lies in the conversion from filling to emptying. Sevens manage their fear and escape anxiety by planning the next exciting adventure. They fill the mind with imaginative plans and fill their calendars with new experiences. The vice of gluttony is in play when Sevens’ active imagination and planning for the positive leave little or no time for feelings of grief, sadness, and no space for emptiness. When Sevens can relax into emptiness, experience their sadness and allow their heart’s voice to speak, their excited energy transforms into joy. The virtue of sobriety allows Sevens to know that genuine joy cannot be experienced without acknowledging and feeling sorrow.
Emptying as a Spiritual Practice
Emptying is an age-old spiritual practice named in many religious traditions. It is a difficult one, but beneficial for all of us. This process requires that our image of God be one of love and trust.Emptying enables us to shed our roles, expectations, plans, imaginings. This shedding is crucial for the work of spiritual transformation. Who we are awaits us beyond that which we use to fill ourselves. Keeping busy, staying full, is a barrier to the connections we seek with ourselves and others.
With their compulsion to “fill,” type Seven has a particular resistance to this practice. Their world view claims the world is a limiting place, and being confinement-sensitive, Sevens avoid limits. They can fall into a rhythm of filling, then fleeing, filling and fleeing. This addictive cycle itself is limiting, though this awareness is usually lost on Sevens. “Empty” feels like no more options, a bottomless hole of emotional pain, like death for type Seven.
Multiple options eventually prove to be wearing and overwhelming, and within the unconsciousness of Seven is the desire for limits. They seek the freedom that only emptiness offers. If Sevens can imagine emptiness as a great adventure it is, they might approach it, at least to sit on the edge and be curious. What color and shape is emptiness? The ultimate question for this type is, “What am I missing that will make me complete?” The answer lies in the uncharted waters of emptiness.
Our practices are ways of saying “yes” to our journey to the divine heart. These practices are designed to assist in the creation of new patterns of behavior that allow for more creative options that deepen our heart’s capacity to give and receive love. At the threshold of what has been and what can be, Sevens’s conversion process will be supported by these practices. Keep in mind, that these practices are designed to bring up the very thing that our ego tells us to resist. You will experience discomfort; please allow these feelings. Feel these feelings and sooner than later, they will dissipate. What we resist, persists. So allow feelings of discomfort, sitting with them with an open heart.
• First of all, see these practices as guides to wholeness rather than restrictions.
• When you find yourself in planning mode, ask “Is my planning connected or separate from what is occurring right now?”
• Each day practice doing one thing at a time and complete a task before going to the next.
• Try eliminating a third of the “balls” you have in the air as you multitask. Don’t fill the
time with other “balls.”
• Create empty space in your calendar. For example, have a weekend with no plans. Notice how you respond as the weekend gets closer.
• When you notice yourself unusually adventurous, take time to be with your heart to see if some sadness needs a voice.
• When you experience grief or sadness, allow yourself time with it. When you feel ready to move on, stay with the sadness two more minutes.
• Recall when a commitment or boundary offered you deep joy. Stay with the memory and the feeling.
• Slow down the pace of your activity and bring your body’s energy to your midsection. Breathe in the belly, narrow your focus.
• Sense how your body responds to emptiness? (not the mind’s response) Journal your body’s response.
• Spend time each day with a somatic meditation. Notice the body’s sensations and stay with the sensations. Don’t research or investigate. Don’t ask why! Follow the sensations.
This is a day of single focus. To guide Sevens on the inner journey, this Sabbath is structured to soak in the present moment. The great "I Am" is found only in the present, not the past or future. Multitasking is set aside for the pleasure of experiencing one thing at a time. As you experience one thing, notice if and when boredom surfaces. Try staying with the feeling of boredom, noticing where it resides in your body. Ask, “What is boring me?” and see what comes up. Sit with it for 1-2 minutes and notice if it dissipates.
Sabbath for this type is a day to cultivate reverence. Reverence requires paying attention and taking in what is before us, being mindful of where we are in space and time, and who and what we are relating to. Reverence is the heart’s offspring that creates spaciousness for an “I/Thou” relationship to emerge with another. It allows and honors what is. No investigation with the mind. No imagining, no planning. Reverence deepens us to the unfolding of the moment, empties us of everything but “now,” so that we may know the sacredness of our lives and relax into the freedom of God's gentle embrace.
Prayer for the Journey
Holy Creativity, Your love and grace know no limits. You offer the completion I seek. Gently guide me to my fulfillment, awaiting me when I rest in the calm of the present moment. My mind seeks such calm. Empty me now of my obsessive planning and all the ideas that overwhelm me. Allow my energy to deepen me, not scatter me, so that I experience the gifts offered each moment, gifts that lead to my wholeness. Guide me to my heart, that I may feel not only my joy, but the richness of my sadness. Deep down, I recognize that it is my sadness that I seek, it is limitation I desire. For both bring me home to my deeper self where I find the freedom to be me, as I root myself in you, O God. Guide me on the path toward reverence.