In the previous lesson we covered the Enneagram Wings. This lesson is about the Enneagram Arrows.
Recall that the Enneagram is a circle with the numbers one through nine around it. Each number represents a Core Personality and each is connected by two lines. Those lines are called Directional Arrows. The Enneagram Arrows help explain behavioral patterns for each Core Type, and in today’s article I’ll show you what it all means.
The Enneagram Arrows describe behavioral patterns for the Nine Enneagram Types. Each Enneagram Arrow is said to represent patterns of stress and patterns of health. When you feel stressed you will show traits of one pattern, and when you feel healthy you will show traits of another.
In my own experience from applying the Enneagram Arrows in real-life situations, it goes a bit deeper than that, and below I’ll show you what I mean.
Enneagram Arrows Explained
Each Core Personality Type on the Enneagram exhibits a variety of patterns. You have the Triadic Patterns (high-level approach to the world). Then you have their Core Patterns. You’ve also go the Subtype patterns (from the Wings and Instinctual Variants). Finally, you’ve got the Enneagram Arrows.
Where the Core Patterns and Subtype Patterns display common traits of a personality, the Enneagram Arrows show you how those patterns might manifest under pressure or relief
Enneagram Arrows Type Eight Example
Type Eight, The Challenger, is known for their big presence, big picture outlook, directness, and a desire for power and control. Those are all normal parts of their personality.
When working with an Eight, you can expect that they will be straight-forward. They will use vague language. They will have a commanding presence, and they will work until the job is done.
But let’s say something happens. The Eight gets laid off from his job. He’s got a family to feed and bills to pay and suddenly has no source of income. He hasn’t saved much money and doesn’t have a buffer, so he suddenly feels a lot of .
The Two Enneagram Arrows
Enneagram Type Eight has two connecting lines. The first line runs to Type Two and the second line goes to Type Five.
Traditional training says that an Eight under pressure (in a negative state of mind) will show patterns of Type Five. This means the normally direct, powerful eight can suddenly become much more quiet and internally focused. He retreats inside his mind to plan, strategize and ultimately figure out how to solve his problem. And the deeper he goes inside, the more he puts up walls and isolates himself from the rest of the world.
This state of going deeper into negative mental places is called Disintegration. We’ll talk about it more in the next lesson.
Now, let’s say the Eight wins the lottery. Suddenly he can cover all of his bills and never has to work again. This relieves the pressure and brings him into a more positive state of mind. Now the Eight moves in the direction of Integration and begins to show positive traits of Type Two. For instance, he might buy his parents a house to take care of them (displaying the duty of an Eight with the love of a Two).
Enneagram Arrows & Fluctuations
As I said before, traditional training suggests that each type will adapt the behavioral patterns of either their “stress” arrow or their “health” arrow when pressure is applied or relieved. But in my own experience, it doesn’t work quite like that.
Instead, there are fluctuations. That means each Core Type will actually exhibit patterns of BOTH Enneagram Arrows whether they are in states of health or stress.
For instance, in my own life I can describe this from the perspective of a Five. Traditionally, Five goes to Seven in stress and Eight in health. But if my laptop broke right now and erased this post as I’m writing it, there is a 99% chance that I will do the following:
- Scream at my laptop in anger
- Pound the desk
- Toss around ideas to fix it
- Think about which new laptop to buy
Type Seven can show anger at times, but explosive anger is a negative EIGHT trait. Likewise, pounding the desk is also a negative EIGHT trait. So as you can see, my behavior would exhibit traits of Type Eight under that instant pressure.
Likewise, tossing around ideas to solve the problem is a POSITIVE Seven trait. Considering which new laptop to buy (optimism) is also a POSITIVE Seven trait.
Enneagram Arrows Reversed?
What I described above appears to be a reversal of what traditional wisdom tells us. So how can that be the case? Simple. All Types operate in patterns. And it is my theory that when it comes to pressure, we show patterns of both our “Integrating” Arrow as well as patterns of our “Disintegrating” Arrow.
And my personal theory about how this manifests goes something like this:
- Under immediate pressure we show negative patterns of our Integration Arrow
- Under sustained pressure we show negative patterns of our Disintegration Arrow
- Under immediate relief we show positive patterns of our Disintegration Arrow
- Under sustained relief we show positive patterns of our Integration Arrow
Basically, we do different things under immediate pressure or relief than we do under sustained (long-term) pressure or relief.
This is important for practical applications, because if you don’t account for the type of pressure applied, then you could mistype others at best, or misinterpret their behavior when it counts most.
Enneagram Arrows Conclusion
In any event, keep in mind that the Arrows are not set in stone. There is still a lot of theory which must be applied in determining an individual’s state of mind. Use the Arrows as a guide to point you toward the more common possible patterns a Type might display in different situations.
That’s all for this lesson. In the next training, we’ll go a little deeper with the Arrows by adding the Levels of Health.
By the way, if you want to take your training deeper, click here to get my full course, Enneagram: A Simple Introduction to the Nine Types for just $9.99.