We all live in a duality of our minds, perceiving things as only having two parts, often in segments that create a dichotomy and negate one another. It’s this or that, yes or no, my way or your way, spirituality or psychology! These dualities are most often false mental models and social constructs, ones that leave us limited instead of exploring a world of possibilities without our understanding that we are creating it so. Here are some specific ways each of the enneatypes creates false dichotomies through dualistic mindsets.
Ones | Enneagram Ones live in a world of right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate, correct or incorrect, polite or impolite, and the list goes on and on. This dualistic thinking helps them know what to think, what to feel, and most importantly, how to behave so they don’t make any mistakes. So there is a gain in certainty but a loss in flexibility and possibility. So consider which is more important to you!
Twos | Enneagram Twos don’t think of themselves as living in a dualistic mindset, yet they do think in dualities, just like everyone else. For example, in the world of Twoness, there are friends and not friends, good people and not-so-good people, selfless and selfish people, kind people and tough people, and so on. As Twos sort the world, they tend to sort in terms of people and relationships and to do so in dualistic terms. It helps them organize their vast array of interpersonal experiences and makes it simpler for them, but dualistic sorting is at the expense of the complexity that is truly part of the human interaction. As a Two, do you over-like some people but underlike others? While you don’t really seek revenge, do you ever really fully forgive someone who has hurt you? Think about it!
Threes | Enneagram Threes, although heart center enneagram styles, lock their minds around what they should want or not want and how they should be or not be. They also dualistically sort people (and themselves) into competent or incompetent, confident or unconfident, cool or uncool, can-do or can’t do. The dualities (false dichotomies) assist Threes in being successful themselves and associating with others who add prestige or a positive image by proximity, but at what cost? The price paid is not getting in touch with and/or following what you really want to, feeling like you are always on stage, needing to create a positive impression and never being able to truly relax. The price paid is that the people around you may not be the people you can most learn from or who can support you in times of difficulty. Is it worth the price?
Fours | Enneagram Fours like to think they live in a world of non-duality and complexity, yet there are ways in which they actively engage in dualistic thinking. Authentic or inauthentic, connected or disconnected, and deep or superficial. These are just some of the ways in which Fours hold themselves back by thinking dualistically, and they don’t recognize that they are doing so. What if Fours were not so concerned about whether they and others were always being authentic? They might be more spontaneous and less self-conscious. What if Fours didn’t need to continuously sense whether they felt connected or disconnected from themselves and others? They might relax and be in flow more often. What if they were not so fixated on whether others were deep enough to warrant engagement? Fours might learn to lighten up a bit, be less intense, and enjoy themselves more.
Fives | Enneagram Fives usually know they are living in a dichotomous world – what they may not realize is that it is their own thinking that creates this. After all, Fives live in categories in their minds, where things they consider relevant to each other kept in the same “folder in their mind.” To do this, they have to sort “is it this or is it that?” Consider these common Five dualities: knowledgeable or ignorant, intellectual or emotional, autonomous or dependent. Is this a problem? It’s not if you want to stay safe, feel in control, and highly bounded. It is a problem if you want to grow, be increasingly expansive, and live in a world of possibilities. This gives you something to think about!
Sixes | Enneagram Sixes know they live in a world of dualistic thinking, albeit a complex world of dualities. Authority figures, for example are either good or bad, with little in between. Sixes try hard to be good, because if they are not good, they fear they are bad. In the mind of the Six, others are trustworthy or they are not. This is the right path or it is not. This dualistic thinking helps them feel safe, or does it? Dualistic thinking, while at the same time understanding that the world is full of complexity, has a number of consequences. It makes clear decision making harder because dualistic choices don’t work well in a complex world. A dualistic mindset within the context of complex understanding makes you tired and stressed. Is it worth it?
Sevens | Enneagram Sevens love to think they live a world of plurality, not duality. After all, if you think everything is and should be possible, then where is the dualistic thinking? How about the way in which Sevens sort in terms of pleasure or pain, stimulating or boring, freeing or limiting? How about pleasure and pain equal wholeness? Excitement and boredom equal combined follow-through. How about freedom within limitations equal choice? This is something to consider!
Eights | Enneagram Eights love complexity, but they mostly live in a world of black and white – for example, just or unjust, strong or weak, protector or victim, invincible or vulnerable. This dichotomous or dualistic thinking helps them feel big and strong and in control of their world, but it is their world not the world, and this comes at a price. The price is receptivity, deep compassion, and the ability to disarm and put down one’s guard in intimate relationships. Is this dualistic thinking worth the price?
Nines | Enneagram Nines live a dualistic world of comfortable (which they like) or uncomfortable (which they dislike). Then there’s easygoing (positive) or pushy (negative), calm (positive) or distressed (negative), accepting (positive) or judgmental (negative), laid back (positive) or ambitious (negative). All these positive-negative dichotomies keep Nines from knowing who they are, what they think, and what they want. But, these dualities also keep Nines low key and peaceful. Is it worth it?
So look at the graphic above. Is it a cube and a pyramid? Is it one shape inside (or is it outside) the other? Does it matter?
Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of five best-selling Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs for professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit her website: The Enneagram in Business.com. email@example.com