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Enneagram Styles and Spontaneity


This blog was inspired by Gayle Hardie’s insight about Spontaneity. I have added how each of us, depending on our Enneagram style, has obstacles and opportunities to being truly spontaneous.

Experience tells me that the gift of spontaneity lights up the hearts of others. Being spontaneous can be as simple as letting someone know you care when they least expect it or thanking someone for just being in your life, rather than waiting to thank them for something they have actually done.

It is also about trusting your instinct and taking the chance. It is making the choice without the deep rationalizing that often occurs prior to taking the step. How many of us have noticed that when we finally decide that we are ready to move forward, the moment has passed?

I have found that if I recognize my spontaneous action or language as a “gift” to another, the judgment around whether it is appropriate or not lessens, and the risk in taking the opportunity to give increases. When given in that spirit, it has the potential to delight.

Gayle Hardie, a Senior Member of the Enneagram in Business Network, is based in Australia and is co-founder of the Global Leadership Foundation (along with her working partner Malcolm Lazenby), a company that provides training, consulting, and coaching services to organizations interested in transformation at all levels.

How each Enneagram Style can become more spontaneous:

Enneagram Ones
Some Ones may think they are spontaneous because they may make quirky or extremely honest comments at times but, for the most part, Ones are extremely self-controlled, which is the opposite of spontaneity. Some Ones may move to their arrow line of Seven – usually when on vacation or as a “shadow” self that they keep hidden from public view – but this “acting out of impulses” is not spontaneity either. It is more the counter-expression of overly controlled behavior.

To become more spontaneous: Ones need to relax – not get rid of – their vast number of rules for their own behavior, lessen their continuous need for self-control, and recognize that when they move to Seven with complete abandon, it may not be true instinctual spontaneity. It is more likely to be impulsivity.

Enneagram Twos
Some Twos may appear to be spontaneous, while others may be far more restrained. However, the issue for all Twos in being truly spontaneous involves two factors: repression, which is the defense mechanism for Twos, and the “invisible audience” that most Twos carry around with them, often without knowing they are doing so.

To become more spontaneous: Twos need to spend more time experiencing the depth of their feelings – rather than repressing them – so that they then have a choice about whether to express themselves more spontaneously. In addition, many Twos need to recognize the “invisible audience” they have, a kind of imagined group of people that watch their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and judge whether these are consistent with what a good, likeable, thoughtful, kind, and socially appropriate person should be doing.

Enneagram Threes
Many Threes can look spontaneous, except when they are extremely focused on a particular goal and under internal or external pressure to perform. They may appear spontaneous because they are generally more optimistic than pessimistic and typically have effective interpersonal skills. This combination can make them look comfortable and spontaneous, though their responses are more designed for positive impact and self-presentation than they are genuine reflections of spontaneous instinct.

To become more spontaneous: Threes need to ask themselves what they really want and how they truly feel, apart from what they think they should want and feel. When they gain more access to their interior lives and truer selves, spontaneity from pure instinct will follow.

Enneagram Fours
Fours may think they are spontaneous in the sense of trying to follow their inner vision, being in-touch with their feelings and desires, and daring to be different. However, none of these qualities are the same as true spontaneity. While Fours may be trying to follow their inner dreams, more often they are continually searching for it or trying to find the way to manifest their desires. And while some Fours are in-touch with their deeper feelings, many Fours struggle to do so. In addition, Fours can mistake the feelings they are aware of for their true feelings, but their most pure feelings often lie below the emotions they are more aware of feeling. Finally, daring to be different or unique – as most Fours try to be – is not the same as being spontaneous and “in the moment.”

To become more spontaneous: Fours live primarily in the past and the future, lamenting or reflecting on the beauty or the pain of things past, or dreaming about and idealizing a compelling future in which everyone and everything is purely connected and filled with meaning and inspiration. However, spontaneity requires being in the present – often referred to as being in the Now – and accessing one’s truest level of experience in the present moment. How can Fours do this? First comes the recognition of the value of being in the Now and the awareness of how their attention shifts to the past or the future. Paying attention to their breathing and asking themselves what they are experiencing Now is the most important step. After that, finding what is pleasurable in the ordinary and mundane experiences of life help Fours stay more and more in the present.

Enneagram Fives
Fives would rarely call themselves spontaneous, nor do they really want to be. At the same time, Fives can be extraordinarily spontaneous when they are relaxed and feel they are in a safe-enough environment. More often, however, Fives are self-contained, self-controlled, and their reliance on the cerebral – combined with the disconnection from their emotions and disengagement form their physical reactions – dramatically reduces their capacity for spontaneity.

To become more spontaneous: Fives need to reconnect with their emotions in real time (breathing fully into their chest areas helps) and reengage with their bodies by walking and paying more attention to their physical cues. However, their willingness to do the above requires them to trust themselves, others, and their environments more. In other words, Fives have to want to do this.

Enneagram Sixes
Sixes can be very reactive, but this is not the same as a spontaneity that arises from your deepest and purist instincts. It is a reaction often based from fear. Pure instinct comes from a calm, still, and centered place, something Sixes must work hard to relax more to achieve. Working hard to be more peaceful can sound like an enormous contradiction.

To become more spontaneous: Claudio Naranjo suggests that in order for Sixes to transform, they must be willing to put down something. According to Naranjo, one-to-one subtype Sixes must put down their “arms” or guns (since they rely on them so heavily as a defense); social subtype Sixes must put down their rules (since they rely on them so heavily to not get in trouble); and self-preserving Sixes must put down their self-doubt (since they rely on second guessing everything in order to find some certainty). Putting away the guns, rules, and self-doubt has the effect of allowing Sixes to rely on themselves and their true instincts.

Enneagram Sevens
Sevens think they are spontaneous because they often say whatever they are thinking and do whatever excites them at the moment. However, this is actually impulsivity, not spontaneity. Although these terms – impulsivity and spontaneity – are sometimes used as synonyms, there are subtle and important differences between them. Impulsivity is action that is “arbitrary,” “capricious,” and “hasty,” and is propelled by a lack of forethought or conscious choice. Spontaneity is action based on “natural” inclinations stemming from one’s own choice without the constraints of formality, pre-meditation, or an adherence to prescribed rules (one’s own or societal).

To become more spontaneous: Sevens need to spend much more time learning to focus and, in particular, to focus on what is occurring internally, particularly in the realm of feelings. When they do this, Sevens will recognize that what they have believed is spontaneous behavior – which they would say is a positive quality – is often an impulsivity that is designed to help them avoid dealing with more difficult issues such as sadness, anxiety, pain, and discomfort.

Enneagram Eights
Eights might or might not consider themselves spontaneous. On one hand, Eights are quite deliberate and strategic (hence, not spontaneous), but on the other hand, they take what they want when they want it. This could be considered to be spontaneity. However, it is more related to the Eight’s ego-need for the immediate fulfillment of desire (the passion of lust), than it is to a balanced, integrated, and natural manifestation of conscious and choiceful spontaneity.

To become more spontaneous: Eights need to let go of many things: the need to control, the desire to have power and influence, the anxiety associated with feeling vulnerable or weak, and more. Eights need to be able to let go and surrender to whatever happens, what they are feeling and truly wanting, and to let themselves truly enjoy the moment from which spontaneity springs.

Enneagram Nines
Nines can be relaxed and natural, but they are not fully spontaneous, primarily because they are not fully awake to their natural instincts. For example, Nines may think something that is completely true and accurate, yet not act on this understanding. They may feel something, but not even let themselves know they are having this response. For example, Nines may be really angry about something, but cut themselves off from their deeper physical reactions where anger resides. It is nearly impossible to be spontaneous when you don’t have full access to your head, heart, and gut.

To become more spontaneous: Nines need to access more of themselves, and to do this, they need to know that they matter and that all of them matters – that is, what they think, feel, and what action they want to take at the deepest levels. This is true spontaneity.

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Robert Crawley
Robert Crawley
3 months ago

I’m Allegedly a three and MBTI type ENFJ. I like everything planned at minimum 24 hours in advance but will go with as much lead time on scheduling as possible. I plan out unscheduled time for spontaneity. It’s not really spontaneous. I usually have a plan of two to four choices for the time. It upsets and flusters me to change plans outside of work—I have to be flexible to succeed there. I loathe doing so off the clock.

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