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Defense Mechanism: Guardians of our Type-based Ego Structure | Type 5


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 5.

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.

FIVES’ Ego Ideal | The Wise Person | Always knowledgeable and autonomous; never emotional or transparent

FIVES’ Fixation | Stinginess | A scarcity paradigm leading to an insatiable thirst for knowing, a reluctance to share and to strategizing about how to control one’s environment

FIVES’ Passion | Avarice | An intense desire to guard everything related to oneself, combined with automatic detachment from feelings

The FIVES’ Primary Defense Mechanism | Isolation

Isolation occurs in Fives as a way for them to avoid feeling overwhelmed, drained or energetically empty and depleted. Fives isolate themselves by retreating into their minds, cutting themselves off from their feelings, and compartmentalizing – that is, isolating each part of themselves from the whole or the related parts. For example, Fives separate their thoughts from their feelings and/or feelings from behaviors, as well as separating their personal and work lives. Five may also isolate themselves from other people and separate their relationships so that their friends never meet one another; in fact, some Fives even have secret lives.

Isolation Examples

Fives demonstrate subtle and blatant forms of isolation on a regular basis. Examples of a Five’s isolation include the following: responding to either very negative or highly positive coaching data in a totally impassive manner; being neutral or emotionally vacant about something that would normally upset someone; refusing to discuss topics that they admit to having some feelings about; and seeming far more remote or removed that normal.

Here is a very specific and common example of a Five’s defense mechanism of isolation operates. Another person wants to discuss an important issue with a Five, and the issue involves emotional content. Instead of engaging in a discussion that requires him or her to feel anything, the Five becomes entirely intellectual, disconnecting from the feelings to such a degree that he or she is not only unaware of having any feelings but also experiences no real empathy for the other person. In other words, the Five completely cuts off from the other person, but more important, completely cuts off from him- or herself.

How Isolation Serves as a Guardian of the Type Five Ego Structure

The type Five ego structure needs to maintain its idealized self of being the wise person who is observant, complex, private and autonomous, but never transparent, emotional or dependent in any way. Unlike some of the other defense mechanisms for other types, where defense mechanisms ignite when the ego ideal of that type is threatened, the Five’s defense mechanism of isolation works continuously to reinforce the Five fixation of stinginess and passion of avarice. Stinginess and avarice are both ways of keep hoarding, keeping things to themselves and for themselves. The wise person, the Fives’ ego ideal, is someone who keeps and retains resources, information being just one important resource, to retrieve for later use as needed. Isolating ideas from other ideas, information about one items in a file folder int their minds separated from other items, allows their ego ideal to maintain itself, ably served by both their fixation and passion!

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 | ginger@theenneagraminbusiness.com

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