An example of why the Enneagram is so helpful in relationships.
I saw this postcard on PostSecret and it broke my heart a little bit.
This is a perfect example of how much the Enneagram can help people. I would guess that this person is an Enneagram Type 5.
5s have the lowest amount of energy of all the numbers on the Enneagram. Therefore, they conserve their energy. They budget their energy like we do our money, deciding when to use it and whom to use it with. If a 5 is choosing to use some of their limited energy being with you, that 5 loves you.
5s are not necessarily anti-social or anti-people. They are called the Observers and the Investigators because they are constantly taking in information when out and about in the world. But they don’t process all that info until they are alone. Once alone, they are able to work through it all, including how they feel about it. They are very logic based. Most people speak a language different from their own, especially when that person is a feeling based person. It’s not that 5s don’t feel emotions. They do, but in a different way. 5s need to be alone to process their emotions. They literally think their way to them.
With this knowledge, it makes sense that a 5 would love their family, but not necessarily want to be with them all the time. Unfortunately, our societal norm is the belief that if you love someone you want to spend time with them. That belief is translated into spending ALL your time with them. People in love are described as inseparable. Family’s that love each other are called “tightly knit.” For a 5, this type of lifestyle is impossible.
So, if you were a 5, and you knew that the rest of the world follows this belief of “being with the one you love,” you might think something was wrong with you. Are you heartless? Do you care less than others? Are others thinking you are heartless or uninterested because you behave differently? And yet, you know there is something amiss with these questions because you DO love your family. You DO spend time with them. You DO care about them. BUT . . . you just don’t have it in you to constantly be present with them.
Enter the Enneagram. It would be a relief to learn that your behavior was normal to other 5s and that this is just the way you were “built.” It would help your family to learn that you DO love them. Your aren’t “closing yourself off to them.” You aren’t getting away from them because you can’t stand them anymore. You just need time away to regain your energy, like sleeping.
It goes even deeper than that. With this knowledge, your family can learn how to work with you. Your family can plan a bit better knowing you can’t handle a “fun packed full weekend!” That if you know there is a full day of socializing ahead because your child just graduated from high school, you can plan time before and after to recoup. Your family will learn that you don’t want to leave the holiday party early because you don’t like the people, you just need to sit and process.
Understanding how you maneuver in the world and WHY is so important to your own health as well as the health of your relationships. For example:
My friend Laura and her husband were staying with another couple the husband knew as a resting point on a road trip. Laura was warned the wife sometimes would leave in the middle of a social gathering to take a nap. So, Laura and the wife were hiking on path near the house while the husbands were off doing their own thing. In the middle of the hike, the wife suddenly says, “I need to take a nap.” She abruptly turns around and leaves. Laura was a little stunned. Luckily she had been warned so she wasn’t instantly concerned for the woman thinking she might be unwell. Furthermore, Laura didn’t take this sudden decision to leave personally. AND, she knew to just let the woman go instead of saying, “No problem! We can head back.” Laura knew the woman wanted to be left alone. So, Laura just let her go and went on her own happy way hiking still a little baffled, but otherwise unconcerned.
The Enneagram helps us understand the motivations behind people’s actions. When we understand the motivation, we learn that 90% of the time their actions have nothing to do with us. When we understand that, we stop taking things personally. When we stop taking things personally, we have room for compassion.
This isn’t just true with the people around you, it is true with yourself. If you understand why you are acting the way you are, you can start to find compassion for yourself. From there, you can start working to act differently.
In “The Road Back to You” by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile, Enneagram personality type 5 is described as “Analytical, detached and private, they are motivated by a need to gain knowledge, conserve energy and avoid relying on others.” Their biggest fear is being helpless, incapable or incompetent. You can see how such a fear would not only create a need for independence, but also for a gathering of information. 5s need time alone.
According to The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Riso and Hudson, their motto is “I don’t need much, but I need my space.” They are extremely private people. Because of this, they are usually very trustworthy. They understand the desire for privacy and wouldn’t tell anyone else your confidences.
Finally, there are different levels of health in every personality. For the 5, a more healthy version would know how to budget their energy and might be able to “be alone” while being in the same room with you as long as you left them alone in their thoughts. While an unhealthy 5 might closet themselves in their own private room where no one else is allowed, rarely coming out or interacting with the family.
So, to the person who sent in the PostSecret, nothing is wrong with you. You are probably a 5 on the Enneagram which is a wonderful thing. 5s bring so many gifts to the world. And, yes, other people feel the same way.
Could you be a 5 on the Enneagram? Do you think anyone in your life could be a 5? If you have questions, please feel free to email me. I can talk about the Enneagram all day long and would love to help you out. I also offer Enneagram consultations and workshops. Check out the “Services” page for more information.
As stated on PostSecret, “PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.” The postcards are usually decorated along with the written secret. New postcards are posted every Sunday. There are also books published of the postcards. I’m there every Sunday reading the new secrets. I talked about a secret in a previous post about obsession with weight. I highly recommend checking PostSecret out. It is a peep-hole into humanity.
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