Enneagram in a Pandemic: Messages that Motivate Us

We are living in the most unusual time.  We are tired, we are working crazy hours, from home.  And, if you have kids they are nonstop in your hair.

Anxiety is all around. And depression is lurking, waiting, right there in ways we may have not experienced before. There is at least a little fear and distress in all of us, not just the 6s!  heck, they are the prepared ones! They’ve been waiting for this!

Remember, what matters in knowing your number is not really the obvious behaviors you see, but underlying motivation.  You are not a 2 because you are helpful; many numbers do helpful things on a regular basis.  You know you are a 2 if you only feel loved when you ignore your needs to nurture others.  Your personality is not always conscious, or obvious. It is not always things you see, but unconscious, hidden things you are asleep to.

A test may have told you your number, but are these messages below true for you?  Maybe not today, but find time to sit with these regularly for a week to discern, listen deeply, for how these messages motivate you and shape you.

As a leader, you have to be self-aware.  There are no tips, pointers, strategies, or principles that fit all of us.  Stephen Covey talks about habits of being highly effective; the Enneagram points out habits that were developed years ago, decades ago, that you have to see and gradually unlearn – habits that have made you ineffective.

Below, for each number, I list a few key messages gathered from Don Riso & Russ Hudson, Suzanne Stabile, and Richard Rohr.  What Stabile calls the “healing” message can help you unlearn some of these habits if you can foster a way to truly hear it.

As part of your approach to leading through this crisis, stop and meditate, sitting contemplatively in silence for 10 minutes a day, breathing deeply and repeating the healing message.  When distractions come, and they will, simply return to this message.  May it heal you.


  • Wounding (R&H unconscious childhood message):  It’s not okay to make mistakes
  • Need to be right, to do what is right
  • Fear of being flawed/bad/corrupt/defective
  • Healing (R&H lost childhood message): You are good


  • Wounding: It’s not okay to have your own needs
  • Need to be wanted, needed and appreciated.
  • Fear of being unworthy of being loved
  • Healing: You are wanted and loved (…for who you are and not how you care)


  • Wounding: It’s not okay to have your own feelings and your own identity
  • Need to have value, succeed, to be affirmed, to impress
  • Fear of being worthless or without value apart from accomplishments
  • Healing: You are loved for yourself (….for who you are and not for what you do)


  • Wounding: It’s not okay to be too functional and too happy
  • Need to be seen, be special/unique/authentic, to express themselves, to protect self-image by withdrawing
  • Fear of being misunderstood, insignificant, maybe for being “too much”
  • Healing: You are seen for who you are


  • Wounding: It’s not okay to be comfortable in the world
  • Need to understand/know; be competent/ to understand
  • Fear of being useless or incompetent – not knowing what they need to know
  • Healing: Your needs are not a problem


  • Wounding: It’s not okay to trust yourself
  • Need to be secure/safe
  • Fear of not being ok, not having internal and external support or guidance
  • Healing: You are safe


  • Wounding: It’s not okay to depend on anyone or anything
  • Need to be cheerful/happy; for experiences to help avoid pain
  • Fear of being deprived or trapped in pain, boredom, conflict that zaps joy
  • Healing: You will be taken care of / Your needs will be taken care of


  • Wounding: It’s not okay to be vulnerable with anyone or to trust anyone
  • Need to be in control/not controlled; strength
  • Fear of being harmed or controlled by others
  • Healing: You will not be betrayed


  • Wounding: It’s not okay to assert yourself
  • Need to avoid conflict, avoid anything that requires energy
  • Fear of loss of connection, or conflict, because these relational tasks take so much energy.
  • Healing: Your presence matters


These messages are primarily from the Riso & Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram and Suzane Stabile, The Path Between Us. 


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