Values are the guiding principles by which we live or, at least, they are aspirations that help us align our actions with our principles. Without values, we would be living in an immoral or amoral world of interpersonal confusion and existential chaos. At the same time, too strong an adherence to our values can create a counter-effect of personal and interpersonal difficulties. And too strong an identification with these values keeps our type structures in place, thus inhibiting our growth potential.
Enneagram 2s emphasize three important values: service, compassion and kindness. They often think or say the following: “Others always come before me.” “I must understand the suffering of others and support them through this.” “To think or feel negatively about others – and especially to act negatively toward another – is unkind.” Enneagram 2s also take pride in never being selfish; trying to attribute positive motivations to others whenever possible, or at least explaining another’s poor behavior as the result of extenuating circumstances; and feeling they should try to offer resources – for example, time, money, food, support etc. – to those in need.
These three values – service, compassion and kindness – support the Enneagram 2 “ego ideal” of being the “loving person,” a person who is here to provide love and support to all in his or her reach. The “ego ideal,” according to Enneagram author and teacher Jerry Wagner, is the idealized self that people use as a positive definition of self, a partial answer to the question “Who am I?”
The issue is that while our type-based values are positive ones, we can hold onto these values so tightly and narrowly – after all, our idealized self depends on our firm belief in these principles – that these values can become impediments to our growth.
Service to others is, of course, admirable and is also an important part of both embracing the human condition and supporting its improvement. It is a counterpoint to a primarily self-centered or self-oriented way of life. So what is the down side for Enneagram 2s? An adherence to service to others has several non-useful results: 2s lose touch with themselves, including their own feelings, desires, wants, and needs; 2s start to think they are superior to others because they sacrifice their own needs on behalf of others; and 2s assume that they are not-at-all self-oriented because they miss the point that this service is not without a payback. The payback for 2s is an inflated self-worth.
Heartfelt compassion for another person is a gift, but too much compassion can get Enneagram 2s into difficulties. Here are some of the challenges 2s experience from being so compassionate: 2s can become empathic sponges, taking on the feelings of others because their emotional boundaries are not sufficiently strong; 2s can unintentionally use other people’s deep feelings as a way to not explore their own feelings in depth, which is related to their primary defense mechanism of repression, the holding down of their own feeling depth until they eventually explode; and 2s can want this level of compassion from others – both toward themselves and others – and feel deeply disappointed when this doesn’t happen. The 2 wonders, “Why can’t other people be as loving and compassionate as I am?”
Kindness goes with love, and we name it loving kindness. But sometimes 2s can be kind more than they can afford to be and more than they even want to be. 2s can give away their time when they don’t have the time to give. At work, 2s may drop everything on their desk to support another person who is stressed or overworked. When 2s do this, they also feel responsible for completing their own work as well – and on time – so 2s can work themselves to exhaustion. In terms of finances, 2s may “lend” someone else money that the 2 actually needs for something, then suffer the consequences when the money is not returned. These examples are really about effective boundary setting, something which 2s have to work hard to create. And when 2s say “no” to an explicit request or “no” to something another needs but was not asked for, 2s have to deal with their internal guilt and feeling like they are not as generous or kind as their “ego ideal” would want them to think. This guilt can plague 2s as if they have done something unkind and deeply wrong, rather than their perceiving saying “no” as good boundary setting and self-caring.
Values are the foundation of civil communities. Type-based values are organizing principles for people of each type. However, when our values are held too tightly, they limit our development.
Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of seven Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs and training tools for business 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: TheEnneagramInBusiness.com | firstname.lastname@example.org