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Enneagram Nines: Alligator

Alligators are an ideal animal to represent Enneagram Nines! When Lee Kingma, an Enneagram author from South Africa, mentioned the alligator as an exemplar of style Nine, I had a big smile on my face. Why? My ex-husband, a self-preservation Nine, collected alligator objects (but never real or dead alligators), and so we had over 300 such things in our home.

Self-preserving Nines, named “appetite,” often collect objects of the same genre as an unconscious substitute for “inner being.” Although this collecting is obviously a form of gratification of the ego-state, it also made him very easy to buy presents for. He had alligators of all sorts, made up of everything except real alligator skin: plates, ashtrays, staplers, necklaces, neckties, rings, salad servers, bowls, paper weights, figurines, photographs, key rings, stuffed animals, and more. Once, my sister-in-law gave him a genuine alligator head from Louisiana, and my ex-husband was very disturbed by this. She has missed the point of the alligator collection entirely. My son’s first word was “alliga,” just to give you an idea of how many we had around the house.

More on alligators…

Ambient temperature
Alligators are “cold-blooded,” meaning that they are ecto-thermic animals that cannot regulate their own body temperature, but assume the temperatures of their surrounding environment. To warm themselves, alligators bask in the sun, which is when they are frequently observed on the banks of water bodies. On hot summer days they can sometimes be seen basking with their mouths open.

Enneagram Commentary: Just like alligators, Nines adjust themselves to their environments, merging and blending with people, objects, and just about anything they like and find pleasant. Sloths, the animal also associated with Nines, is ecto-thermic as well. Taken as a metaphor, Nines also like to bask in environments where there is pleasurable harmony.

Alligators have a variety of successful adaptations to their ecological niche that have allowed these reptiles to remain almost unchanged since the Cretaceous period. A throwback to the time of dinosaurs, the alligator and its relative the crocodile have changed little in the last 65 million years.

Enneagram Commentary: Although I’ve heard some people say that Nines are the least interested in change and the most interested in conserving, I don’t really agree with this assessment. After all, if they are among the most adapting of Enneagram styles (which they are), isn’t adaptation change? In addition, many Nines are innovative. That said, Nines do like their comforts, and they only change when they need to, much like alligators.

Energy levels and size
Although alligators have a heavy body and a slow metabolism, they are capable of short bursts of speed, especially in very short lunges. Even though alligators are huge and cold-blooded, they can be quite fast, with a top speed of 11 MPH (17 KPH) over short distances. For comparison, the fastest humans running at world-record times in a 100 meter dash, are running about 20 MPH (32 KPH), but a typical adult human is no faster than an alligator.

Alligators have yellow cross-bands on a black background for camouflage. Adults can be long and thin or short and stocky.

Enneagram Commentary: Once, someone wrote on my blog that Obama couldn’t be a Nine because Nines are fat, lazy, and slow. I controlled my response to this person, but he obviously had a stereotype of Nines. Like alligators, Nines come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Sometimes people think that Nines are pudgy (like Santa Claus), but this is more a tendency in self-preservation Nines, if their “appetite” is for food, which is not always the case. Neither are Nines lazy, since the term “lazy” in Nines means a laziness toward their own personal agenda, desires, wants, etc, not a laziness in life. Yes, Nines do procrastinate, but not always and other Enneagram styles also put things off. Many Nines do many things, are extremely active, and can be quite fast, but in spurts, just like alligators.

Eating habits and anger
Alligators eat almost anything. They have very strong jaws that can crack a turtle shell. They eat fish, snails and other invertebrates, birds, frogs, and mammals that come to the water’s edge. They use their sharp teeth to seize and hold prey. Small prey is swallowed whole. If the prey is large, alligators shake it apart into smaller, manageable pieces. If it is very large, alligators bite it, then spin on the long axis of their bodies to tear off easily swallowed pieces.

The alligator is notorious for its bone-crushing bites. One of the more surprising facts about alligators is that although they can be dangerous, attacks on humans are rare. Many alligators are normally relatively timid and avoid humans when possible, only attacking if they are either provoked, disturbed unexpectedly, or defending their young.

The force of their bite has been shown to be enough to lift a small pick up truck! Another, more peculiar alligator fact is that although the muscles for closing the mouth are very strong, the ones for opening it are very weak, meaning the mouth can be held shut with a human hand or duct tape.

Enneagram Commentary: It is impossible to say whether or not Nines eat everything (my ex-husband used to eat a lot of different things and fairly large quantities of the foods he enjoyed), but what is a strong parallel between alligators and Nines is how they deal with their anger. Most Nines don’t get angry very often because they submerge their displeasure as a way to avoid conflict with others, but when they do get angry, wow! They snap and take big bites, much to their own surprise and to the shock and awe of those around them. But something has to really provoke them to do this.

Alligators are usually found in freshwater, in slow-moving rivers. They are also found in swamps, marshes, and lakes. They can tolerate salt water for only brief periods because they do not have salt glands.

Alligators can stay underwater for quite a while. A typical dive might last 10 to 20 minutes. In a pinch, an alligator can stay underwater for two hours if it is at rest. And, in very cold water, an alligator can last up to eight hours submerged. Alligators also tend to be dark in color, often almost black, but color is very dependent on the water.

Enneagram Commentary: Alligators love and need water, but do Nines? There is something extremely soothing about water, and Nines like to sooth themselves in a variety of way: routines, pleasurable pastimes, and other forms of what is called “narcotization.” This term refers to the ways in which Nines avoid conflict, stress, and pressure by engaging in activities that give them comfort. The two songs I often use for Nines are these: “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” (Otis Redding) and “Watching the River Run” (Loggins and Messina).

Have you ever wondered about the difference between alligators and crocodiles?

Alligators and crocodiles are related. However, there are some key differences, including the following: snouts; freshwater versus salt water; and coloring.

Alligators have rounded snouts, while most crocodile species have longer, pointed snouts. Also, crocodiles occur only in tropical and subtropical areas (only south Florida in the United States), while alligators live in somewhat colder climates.

Crocodiles prefer seawater; they have special glands in their tongues which excrete excess salt from their bodies. Alligators also have these glands as well, but they don’t work so well, so they usually stick to freshwater habitats, although they can sometimes be found in brackish water, which is a mixture of salt and freshwater.

Crocodile hides tend to be light tan or olive color, whereas alligators are usually a dark blackish gray (the exact shade varies according to the quality of the water that the alligator swims in, tannin from overhanging trees will make them darker, algae will make them greener).

In addition, crocodiles tend to be bigger and more aggressive than alligators.

Enneagram Commentary: Enneagram Nines may be confused with other styles, just like alligators may get mistaken for crocodiles. Obviously, alligators and crocodiles are related (hence, the confusion by the uninitiated!), and Nines get confused because they blend with others’ energies, even taking on some of the other person’s qualities.

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Martin Snapp
12 years ago

Very witty and very perceptive.

Adelaida Harrison
12 years ago

WOW I really identify with the alligators.
People really don´t know what they will find under water when they see us smoothly swimming in the water. If you give yourself the chance to take a closer look, you´ll be positively surprised.

12 years ago

I love this! I asked my Type One friend what totem would suit him…Border Collie. Quietly assessing and then herding everyone to a goal. He feels I am a dolphin as a Type 7–“you have to be in the water…constantly moving.” Curious, friendly, occasionally diving too deep.Thanks so much, Ginger. All the archetypes in all creatures great and small! Lisa Hake


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