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Enneagram Twos: Elephant

A Nine said recently, “Please don’t choose the elephant to represent Nines.” I think what she was thinking is that elephants are lumbering animals, kind of lumpy and sometimes slow. Besides the fact that I picked elephants to represent Enneagram style Twos, elephants are nothing like the above stereotype (and neither are Nines). To the contrary, rather than lions, it may be elephants who are kings and queens of the jungle! They actually have no natural predators (other than humans), although lions occasionally kill calves or weak individual elephants. And although a great deal of the elephant’s power is in its sheer size, the elephant has enormous power and versatility in its trunk, as well as highly attuned emotional sensitivity and concern for others.

Sensitivity and emotionality
Although most plant eaters (and the elephant is a herbivore) possess teeth adapted for cutting and tearing off plant materials if the desired food item is too high up, the elephant actually wraps its trunk around the tree or branch and either shake the food loose or simply knock the tree down altogether. The elephant’s trunk is sensitive enough to pick up a single blade of grass, yet strong enough to rip the branches off a tree.

Elephants also cry, play, show anger, and laugh. They are so sensitive to their fellow animals that if a baby elephant complains, the entire family will rumble and go over to touch and caress it. Elephants have greeting ceremonies when a friend that has been away for some time returns to the group.

Enneagram Commentary: Like elephants, Twos are very clever in getting what they want for others or for themselves. If one way doesn’t work, they move to another using subtle strategy at first, a bigger and bolder one if necessary. Twos also display a variety of emotions, moving from one to another quite fluidly as they emerge. And with the reaching out to those in need, who can doubt that Twos are elephantesque?

Elephants can communicate over long distances by producing a sub-sonic rumble that can travel over the ground faster than sound through air. Other elephants receive the messages through the sensitive skin on their feet and trunks. It is believed that this is how potential mates and social groups communicate.

Elephants make a number of sounds when communicating. They are famous for their trumpet calls, which are made when the animal blows through its nostrils. Trumpeting is usually made during excitement. Its use varies from being startled to a cry of help to rage. Elephants also make rumbling growls when greeting each other. The growl becomes a bellow when the mouth is open and a bellow becomes a moan when prolonged. This can escalate with a roar when threatening another elephant or another animal.

Enneagram Commentary: Twos are also highly focused on communication, with an astute ability to read other people’s non-verbal cues. Otherwise, how would a Two know so readily what others need? Also interesting is the variation in elephant communication, from suggestive mating rumbles (maybe the sexual subtype Twos) to the threatening roar when needed. Have you ever seen an angry Two roaring? If not, Twos can make Eights seem like amateurs!

Sociability and protectiveness
The elephant’s trunk plays a key role in many social interactions. Familiar elephants will greet each other by entwining their trunks, much like a handshake. They also use them while play-wrestling, caressing during courtship and mother-child interactions, and for dominance displays; a raised trunk can be a warning or threat, while a lowered trunk can be a sign of submission. Elephants can defend themselves very well by flailing their trunks at unwanted intruders or by grasping and flinging them.

Elephants form deep family bonds and live in tight matriarchal family groups of related females called a herd. The herd is led by the oldest and often largest female in the herd (the matriarch). Herds consist of 8-100 individuals depending on terrain and family size. When a calf is born, it is raised and protected by the whole matriarchal herd. Males leave the family unit between the ages of 12-15 and may lead solitary lives or live temporarily with other males.

Enneagram Commentary: It is wise advice to never get between a Two and another person (particularly a child) whom they want to protect. Most Twos are also social animals, just like elephants, and they are also highly tactile. Twos often reach out to others physically with an embrace, a soft pat on the back, a warm hug (even if some others may not be ready for it). And many Twos are called “mother hens” of their clans, although “mother elephants” may be a more apt description.

Despite their popularity in zoos, and portrayal as gentle giants in fiction, elephants are among the world’s most dangerous animals. They can crush and kill any other land animal, even the rhinoceros. They can experience bouts of rage, and engage in actions that have been interpreted as vindictive.

Enneagram Commentary: Those sweet, adaptive Twos can also be fierce, so never underestimate their real power and the energy they can muster up when required. They may not sit on you and squash you, but Twos have a variety of strategic resources they use when needed. Many years ago when I did a large group workshop on Enneagram styles and their relationship to power, the only type group that had to report out on the topic was the Twos. When asked, they said, “We felt very uncomfortable discussing it.” When asked why, they answered (very honestly), we think about power, influence, and relationships all the time, but it is subtle and implicit. And we don’t like acknowledging that we do this, ‘good’ people that we are!”

Underestimated intelligence
Elephants are extremely intelligent animals and have memories that span many years. It is this memory that serves matriarchs well during dry seasons when they need to guide their herds, sometimes for tens of miles, to watering holes that they remember from the past.

The elephant’s brain is similar to that of humans in terms of structure and complexity. With a mass just over 5 kg (11 lb), elephant brains are larger than those of any other land animal. A wide variety of behaviors associated with intelligence have been attributed to elephants, including feeling sensitivities, making music and art, altruism, surrogate mothering, use of tools, compassion, and self-awareness.

Enneagram Commentary: It is too often said that Twos are not intellectually oriented, and this always implies that Twos have a little less brain-power than people of other styles. Often what accompanies comments that negate the intellectual capabilities of Twos is this: “After all, Twos have no link to the Head Center of Intelligence through their wings or arrows.” Well, many Twos have highly developed cerebral functioning, with right and left brains that are active and even talk to each other. Their social intelligence integrates well with mental intelligence to make a strong, but underestimated, intellectual nature – just like elephants. Never underestimate the brain-power of a Two (or an elephant, for that matter} particularly when you are face-to-face with them!

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8 years ago

This is really interesting! Twos are a bit of a confusing type for me, but I really like the analogy here. I hope you do all the enneagram types. I’m particularly curious about how nines are like alligators!

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