Why did I select the antelope to represent Enneagram style Seven? There are many reasons, but I primarily did so because they are elegant, fast, and most are graceful yet elusive. In this blog, there are three pictures of antelope, not just one, because antelope can look so different from one another, yet also look so similar. Here are more reasons why antelope are a great animal to represent Sevens.
It’s all in the name
The English word “antelope” first appears in 1417 and is derived from the Old French antelop, itself derived from Medieval Latin ant(h)alopus, which in turn comes from the Byzantine Greek word anthólops, first attested in Eustathius of Antioch (c.336), according to whom it was a “fabulous animal haunting the banks of the Euphrates, very savage, hard to catch and having long saw-like horns capable of cutting down trees.”
It may also derive from the Greek word anthos(flower) and ops (eye), perhaps meaning “beautiful eye,” alluding to the animal’s long eyelashes.
Enneagram Commentary: There are so many ways in which the derivation of the word antelope describes Enneagram Sevens. Sevens are wild and fabulous, wild because they refuse to be constricted in any way and fabulous because they are so mentally agile (too agile?). The idea that the name may come from a reference to the antelope’s long eyelashes can be taken as a metaphor for the seven’s charming demeanor (as in batting one’s eyelashes as a flirtation) and not to be missed is the fact that Narcissism is the psychological characteristic that is often associated with Sevens, although narcissism is not exclusive to Sevens.
There are 91 species, most of which are native to Africa. There are eland, red hartebeest, kudu, nyala, sable, gerenuk, klipspringer, impalas, and more, plus antelope come in a variety of sizes.
Not surprisingly for animals with long, slender yet powerful legs, many antelopes have long strides and can run fast. Their ability to run swiftly has also led to their association with the wind.
All antelope species have horns, although in some species they are only found on the males. The horns are made of a bony core, encased in a hard material made largely of keratin. They are permanently attached – not like a deer’s antlers, which are shed each year. Antelope use their horns in defense against predators, and males – and sometimes females – also use them to establish their position in a herd or to fight rivals.
Their eyes are placed on the sides of their heads, giving them a broad radius of vision with minimal binocular vision. The fact that most species have their pupils elongated horizontally also helps in this respect. Acute senses of smell and hearing, give antelope the ability to perceive danger at night out in the open (when predators are often on the prowl). Like many other herbivores, antelopes rely on keen senses to avoid predators.
Enneagram Commentary: Just like antelope, Sevens come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Also similar to antelopes, Sevens run fast (metaphorically); their minds race in quick associational patterns, and they reframe negative so quickly as they run away from painful or uncomfortable experiences. In addition, there is an “airy” quality to most Sevens, very much like the wind rather than the earth. And like antelope, Sevens usually have highly acute sensory functioning that helps them be highly alert to stimuli in their environment.
These same senses play an important role in contact between individuals of the same species: markings on head, ears, legs, and rumps are used in such communication – many species “flash” such markings, as well as their tails; vocal communications include loud barks, whistles, “moos” and trumpeting; many species also use scent marking to define their territories or simply to maintain contact with their relatives and neighbors.
Enneagram Commentary: I know one Seven (highly extroverted) who does not stop talking all day. Once I spent a full day (18 hours) with him and don’t think I ever had a chance to say anything, so much so that I asked him if he talked in his sleep. He thought this was very funny and told me that he did talk to himself during the night. I also know another Seven (highly introverted) who rarely talks at all. I asked him what he did with all those thoughts racing in his mind, to which he replied, “I am very busy internally and never bored!” In either case, Sevens are extensive communicators verbally and non-verbally. They often “flash” their eyes when excited, “bark” when angry (often in public venues), “whistle” when they want us to listen (which is often), and ”trumpet” when we are not addressing their ideas (and there are many of them).
Responses to fear
Antelope pursue a number of defense strategies, often dictated by their morphology. Large antelope that gather in large herds rely on numbers and running speed for protection. In some species, adults will circle around the offspring, protecting them from predators when threatened. Many forest antelope rely on coloring and good hearing to avoid predators. Forest antelope often have very large ears and a dark or striped coloration. Small antelope evade predation by jumping into dense bush where the predator cannot pursue. Open grassland species have nowhere to hide from predators so they tend to be fast runners.
Antelope calves have two survival strategies: either they hide out to avoid predators, or they start traveling right after birth so they can join the protection of the herd.
Enneagram Commentary: Although most antelope appear satisfied and peaceful, their fear lurks right behind this exterior, just like Enneagram Sevens. And like antelope, Sevens have a variety of defensive coping strategies to deal with their fear. First, is positive possibility thinking. If that doesn’t work, Sevens engage in reframing something negative into a positive. If that fails, Sevens resort to blaming. If that doesn’t succeed, Sevens will self-implode and/or hide – for example, not showing up for appointments, quitting a job precipitously, or other forms of moving as far away as possible from that which scares them.
Domestication: “Don’t Fence Me In”
Domestication of animals requires certain traits in the animal that antelope do not typically display. Most antelope are difficult to contain in any closed in space due to the territoriality of males. In some cases, antelope display an aggressive disposition that can easily kill a human. Because many have extremely good jumping abilities, providing adequate fencing is a challenge. Also, antelope will consistently display a fear response to perceived predators, such as humans, making them very difficult to herd or handle.
Enneagram Commentary: Have you ever tried to domesticate a Seven? It rarely works – Sevens, like antelopes, do not like to be fenced in, cornered or anything else that restricts their freedom. From the Seven point of view, all of their options must be available to them and only they themselves have the right to institute restrictions, which they rarely do.
An underestimated animal
Most people tend to underrate antelopes, in comparison with other bigger or stronger animals. But the bushman who is so well attuned to the rhythms of the natural world has discerned subtle qualities in the eland – the largest of Africa’s antelopes. This animal has a special place in his spiritual life and he indeed believes it can connect him to God. It is taken as an animal endowing peace, well-being, healing and prosperity. The eland is almost invariably represented in bushman rock art throughout southern Africa.
Enneagram Commentary: Many Sevens have a very strong spiritual capacity, a trait overlooked by many of the rest of us. Most Sevens live in a world of infinite possibility, which is not nearly so realistic as it is perpetually optimistic. Why not dream? And in the world of dreams and possibilities is also the world of spiritual capability. But like antelope, Sevens get underestimated, and this is just one way this underestimation occurs.