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Enneagram Theory: Projection and Enneagram Styles


A Guest Blog by Jerome Wagner, Ph.D.

While human beings have been projecting for 10,000 years, or as long as we’ve been around, it wasn’t until Freud that we got called on it.

Projection is when we imagine and then believe that what is actually true about us resides in someone else. Projected items include thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, motivations, behaviors, attributes, and more. One might think we project only negative items, but that’s not the case. We also project positive qualities as well.

In the normal course of growing up, we fashion a self-image of who we are or who we think we should be (I AM). Any attributes that don’t fit our self-image get split off into the realm of I AM NOT. Normally repression does the trick and we just forget about these I AM NOT characteristics. However, if we are still uncomfortable having them nearby in our unconscious, we can throw them farther away from ourselves by projecting them out into the nearest waste cans that would be other people. We let them carry around our garbage rather than processing it in ourselves (reclaim), finding what’s useful in it (reframe), and reintroducing it (recycle) — thereby becoming psychologically green and whole.

Here are some examples of the idealizations (I AM) and projections (I AM NOT) of each Enneagram style:

Ones think of themselves as being right, serious, and conscientious; but not wrong frivolous and lax.

Twos think of themselves as being loving, warm, and relational; but not withholding, cold, loners.

Threes think of themselves as being successful, organized, and self-assured; but not failure-prone, inefficient, losers.

Fours think of themselves as being original, creative, and passionate; but not ordinary, unimaginative, and detached.

Fives think of themselves as being wise, curious, and contained; but not foolish, unaware, and effusive.

Sixes think of themselves as being loyal, prepared, and vigilant; but not traitorous, ill-equipped, and negligent.

Sevens think of themselves as being joyful, optimistic, and multi-talented; but not joyless, pessimistic, and modest.

Eights think of themselves as being strong, self-sufficient, and confident; but not weak, needy, and diffident.

Nines think of themselves as being peaceful, patient, mediators; but not frantic, pushy, troublemakers.

Getting in touch with our projections and polarities reconnects us with inner resources we may not have thought we had and also makes other people easier to deal with because we have met the enemy and they is us. In addition we may meet the real other person, not just our fantasy of who they are.

Jerry Wagner, Ph.D. is a leading Enneagram teacher and author who travels worldwide when he is not in Chicago, teaching at Loyola University or engaged in his clinical practice as a psychologist. He is the co-creator of a set of polarity cards to help people identify their owned and disowned parts and he designed and researched the WEPSS, an Enneagram typing test, now available online. His new book, Nine Lenses on the World: the Enneagram Perspective, is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. JWagner5@aol.com.

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