This blog series describes how the primary defense mechanism for each Enneagram type functions as a guardian of the type-based ego structure, and this particular blog focuses on Enneagram type 2. You’ll learn the following: how the type-based fixation and passion form a continuous loop that helps generate and sustain the type-based ego structure; what happens inside us when this loop contradicts the type-based ego ideal or idealized sense of self; how the ego does not like or know how to integrate this contradiction; and how the type-based primary defense mechanism then colludes with the type-based passion to lessen the dissonance created.
Below is a review of the major concepts: ego ideal; fixations and passions, and defense mechanisms
Ego ideal is how a person wants to be perceived by self and others, an idealized self that seeks to be continuously reinforced. In a sense, the ego ideal is the aspirational self, whereas the ego-structure includes far more than only ego-ideal, with additional elements such as the type-based fixations, passions, false reality, worldview, deepest longings and more.
Fixations and passions are the ongoing states of functioning (mental and emotional respectively) that continuously play and replay in our Mental Center and our Emotional Center, thus fueling our emotional response patterns. The specific fixations and passions that go with each type create a self-reinforcing loop that become a core element of the each type’s ego structure.
Defense mechanisms are unconscious psychological strategies we use to deal with uncomfortable, difficult and anxiety producing situations. These mechanisms to reduce a person’s fear, sadness, and/or anger and to also maintain his or her self-concept and ego structure, appearing primarily when a person is either avoiding something or experiencing a threat of some sort. Although individuals of all Enneagram types use a variety of defense mechanisms at different times, there is one specific defense mechanisms that is most strongly associated with each type.
TWOS’ Ego Ideal | The loving person | Always thoughtful and generous; never selfish or insensitive
TWOS’ Fixation | Flattery | Mental activity focused on how to gain acceptance through giving compliments or other forms of attention
TWOS’ Passion | Pride | Inflated or deflated self-esteem based on doing for other people and the subsequent positive or negative reactions of others
The Two’s Primary Defense Mechanism | Repression
Repression is a defense mechanism by which individuals hide information about themselves from themselves – for example, feelings, desires, wishes, aversions, fears, and needs – that are too difficult to acknowledge consciously. However, the repressed information doesn’t disappear entirely; instead, expression of the repressed data is controlled or held down, but it continues to influence the individual’s behavior. For example, Twos may feel anxious and need reassurance, but they may be only minimally aware of this. Instead of exploring these feelings or seeking comfort, the Two may reassure another person who appears or they imagine to be in distress.
It is in the area of feelings where Twos most often repress. Although almost all Twos repress feelings in the four primary emotional groupings – mad, glad, sad and afraid – many Twos repress anger more strongly than fear or sadness, while other Twos may repress fear more than anger or sorrow. It just depends on a variety of factors such as upbringing, current environment, subtype, and use of arrow lines.
A subtle example of repression in Twos includes being anxious about an event, activity or relationship and acknowledging some concern without recognizing just how deeply anxious or fearful they truly feel. A more blatant example involves Twos who are deeply angry at another person or a situation, but only experience their anger as frustration or annoyance. What happens with repression is that the repressed information can only get held down for so long and then there is an explosion. The explosion is an over-expression of the emotion, furious for anger, panic for fear or deeply humiliated for sorrow.
How repression serves as a guardian of the Type Two Ego structure
The type Two ego structure needs to maintain its idealized self of being the loving person who is never selfish and always thoughtful, generous and kind to others. To this end, the Twos’ fixation of flattery works very well. Constantly focusing on the other person by asking questions, giving them full attention, offering compliments, and making the other person feel like they are very, very important, Twos make friends and influence people, all the while maintaining their ego ideal as a thoughtful and unselfish person. Their flattery then fuels the Twos’ pride, their self-esteem heightened by the affirmation from others that typically results from such flattery. As a result, the loop between flattery and pride continues and the ego is in full operation. But the loop also works in reverse, where feelings of pride inflate or deflate based on the other person’s reaction, then the Two fixation of flattery re-activates, with ideas and subsequent actions that make the other person feel very important. Again, the Two ego structure is in full throttle.
How well this works! The Twos’ ego ideal is that of a very loving person solely focused on you and not themselves; repression as a defense mechanism helps accomplish this. A non-angry, non-fearful and not particularly sad person can focus on you without their own feelings interfering. This very same person appears very loving and kind, with little of their own emotional leakage. For Twos, not being deeply in touch with their own feelings also helps them to not access and identify their own needs. Thus, Twos can make it all about you and not about them.
The above functions rather smoothly, that is, until the explosion that occurs. These momentous occasions are not regular occurrences, but when they do happen, the dam of repression breaks wide open releasing a storm of repressed emotions. The kind and loving person focused on you evaporates, causing others to be stunned and the Two to feel a variety of emotions: relief, shame, and guilt. At this point, the Twos’ ego ideal receives a major challenge to their loving personhood. Once the Two calms down and assesses the situation – and this can take some time – the defense mechanism of repression reasserts itself, thus enabling Twos to keep their own feelings more subliminal and focus once again on you.
Please note that fixations, passions, ego ideals and defense mechanisms are some ,but not all, of the elements that comprise the 9 different ego structures. You can read and view more information about the components of ego structures for each type in my book, The Art of Typing, which you can purchase on Amazon HERE
Special note: the ego-ideal names and basic descriptions are from the work of Jerry Wagner PhD.
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