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Defense Mechanisms as Guardians of our Type-based Ego Structure

Did you know that the primary defense mechanism for each Enneagram type functions serves as a crucial guardian of the type-based ego structure? Essentially, the primary defense mechanism for each type ensures that each type’s passion and fixation continue operating in a mutually self-reinforcing way, helping maintain each type’s ego ideal. The primary defense mechanism also minimizes any outside interference that might cause a disruption in the ego structure.

More specifically, the type-based fixation and passion form a continuous loop that helps generate and sustain the type-based ego structure. But what happens inside us when this loop contradicts the type-based ego ideal or idealized sense of self? When this contradiction or dissonance occurs, anxiety sets in, partly because the ego does not like or know how to integrate this contradiction. Enter the type-based defense mechanism. The primary defense mechanism for each Enneagram type then colludes with the type-based passion to lessen the dissonance created.

Just as examples, in Ones, the intricate defense mechanism of “reaction formation” allows their passion of anger and their fixation of resentment to continue functioning smoothly and simultaneously, yet still enabling Ones to continue perceiving themselves as a good and exemplary person. Or in Threes, the defense mechanism of “identification” allows their passion of deceit and fixation of vanity to constantly cycle and recycle so that Threes can continue to perceive themselves as highly competent and effective.

The forthcoming blog series, for which this blog is the introduction, describes exactly how the primary defense mechanism for each Enneagram type functions as a guardian of the type-based ego structure. As context, here are more details about the meaning of 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.

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.

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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