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 7. 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 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.
SEVENS’ Ego Ideal | The Joyful Person | Always optimistic and enthusiastic; never trapped or pessimistic
SEVENS’ Fixation | Planning | The mental process through which the mind goes into continuous “hyper-gear” by moving in rapid succession from one thing to another
SEVENS’ Passion | Gluttony | The insatiable, unrelenting thirst for new stimulation of all kinds: food, people experience, ideas and excitement
The SEVENS’ Primary Defense Mechanism | Rationalization
Rationalization is the defense mechanism by which Sevens explain unacceptable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a way that entirely avoids or obscures their true motivations, intentions, or the effects of the behavior. They also use rationalization to ease the pain and discomfort of others. When Sevens rationalize, they use positive reframing, justifying their behavior by explaining it in highly positive terms as a way to avoid difficulties sadness, guilt, and anxiety, as well as to avoid taking personal responsibility for what has occurred. In fact, they reframe so frequently, they do not perceive it as a rationalization. Instead, they perceive this as the way they always think.
Rationalization (reframing) Examples
Sevens reframe primarily when they feel or anticipate feeling distressed. They reframe so easily that this can be an asset when they generate new ways of doing things or engage in creative problem solving. In these positive instances, Sevens may take an issue such as an impending reorganization about which people are anxious and say, “Yes, but the reorganization also provides us with the opportunity to re-examine how we do things and to create enormous improvements.” However, when Sevens rationalize their own unacceptable behavior, it becomes a problem both for them and for the organization. Examples of this include excusing their lateness in delivering quality work on time – e.g., by stating that there were three new ideas in the work that would have not been there had it been delivered on time – or by explaining a verbal outburst at a meeting by saying “Yes, but I saved others who felt the same way from having to say anything.” Sevens may also use reframing in a way – in their own minds – to help others through difficult situations. For example, if a person’s dog has died, a Seven might say this: “I’m so sorry to hear about your dog. I’ve been thinking that because you travel so much, you might want to consider getting a cat. They require much less maintenance.” Many Sevens would perceive this as support and realistic, not a reframe.
How rationalization (reframing) serves as a guardian of the Type Seven Ego structure
The type Seven ego structure needs to maintain its idealized self of being the joyful person who is always upbeat, energetic, fun to be around, optimistic, light-hearted, and often the liveliest person in the room. Never a downer, Sevens think that being serious for too long is not a good thing and that being unhappy or anything other than joyful and perpetually optimistic doesn’t compute with their idealized self.
However, Sevens are human like the rest of us and do experience difficulties and a variety of emotions such as anger, sorrow, and anxiety, as well as joy. However, the first three emotions do not align with the person who believe it is their job to fill themselves with positivity and spread joy to the world. What happens when Sevens start to feel anguish, experience something that they perceive as limiting, get told “No,” or feel frustrated or sad? Their passion of gluttony, although always present, works harder to fill the thirst for positive and stimulating experiences. Simultaneously, the Sevens’ mental fixation, planning, while continuous in hyper-gear, goes even more so, conjuring u more pleasurable possibilities and options. Normally, this would be enough to maintain the Seven idealized self, the joyful person, But when this passion-fixation dynamic needs assistance to keep the idealized self, the person of joy, intact, reframing does the trick. Almost everything can be reframed, as needed, to make something a positive experience or at least, a neutral one.
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