Enneagram Series: Soul Child
The Enneagram is a powerful tool for self-discovery, growth, and healing, but there are so many facets of it that most of my clients have never even heard of. The idea of the Soul Child is one that I have been wanting to study more closely, and then I read the book “The Spiritual Dimension of The Enneagram: Nine Faces of The Soul” by Sandra Maitri. It elaborates on the concept in amazing detail which inspired me to dive into it and understand it on a deeper level.
To understand the Soul Child theory, we need to very briefly talk about what the lines in the middle of the Enneagram symbol mean: each of the nine numbers of the Enneagram are connected to two different numbers by the lines across the middle.
The most commonly taught idea is that these two lines represent where each number moves in stress and in growth. Meaning, you begin to take on the characteristics of the higher side of one number when you are healthy, and the lower side of another number when you are stressed. E.g. an 8 takes on the higher characteristics of a 2 when they are growing, and the lower characteristics of a 5 when they are stressed.
The idea behind the theory of the Soul Child is that we *were actually born more like the number that we move towards in growth.* (So, using our previous example, 8's were actually born more like 2's.) But due to the wounds we received in our most vulnerable early childhood years, we developed defense and coping mechanisms that pushed us directly across the stress line and landed us permanently at the number we are now.
The BEAUTIFUL thing about the Soul Child theory is that as each of us grow, we actually become MORE LIKE WHO WE ALWAYS WERE TO BEGIN WITH. To say it another way, our growth is actually a reclaiming of the wounded self inside of us that has always been there!!
This is deep and complicated stuff, which is exactly why it’s important to break it down piece by piece. Soul Child profiles come in pairs - our primary number, and our Soul Child number.
The tough exterior, independence, and need for control that characterizes an Enneagram 8 are the defense mechanisms developed over time to protect a soft, lonely, and needy Enneagram 2. An 8 develops strength and boldness over time because childhood taught them that it is not okay to be soft or needy. The 2ish heart of an 8 is actually so tender, that it believes it NEEDS to strength of an 8 to protect it.
In health and growth, an 8 can let down their guard, let other people in, and relax allowing someone else to love and take care of them.
What do you think, 8s? Are you holding a little 2 inside? (Please don't hate me for pointing out your soft hearts.)
The self-doubt and feelings of “I’m not good enough” that rise up in an Enneagram 9 are likely the defense mechanisms developed by a child who wanted to be recognized and validated for all the things they’re good at, just like a little Enneagram 3. Adult 9’s often had childhoods where they were molded to believe they shouldn’t take up space, state strong opinions, or be too aggressive, so they fell back to become a quieter peacemaker.
In health and growth, a 9 recognizes their inner drive and can be unstoppable when they set out to accomplish something! They can recognize their own value and be confident that they are deserving of love.
Any other 9’s hiding little achievers inside of them? I think this may be why we’re often known for having hidden talents! We’re good at things, we just forget to show those things off.
Known for following the rules, making the “right” decisions, and always playing fair, an adult Enneagram 1 is protecting a little Enneagram 7 who wants to run around on adventures, soaking up all the fun things in life. A 1’s desire to play, explore, and quickly switch from one exciting thing to another was never encouraged in childhood. So, they fell in line and did what they were “supposed to do,” which often involved hard work and taking on responsibility. They suppressed their adventurous side, assuming those feelings were wrong and maybe even immoral.
In health and growth, a 1 can learn to be less critical of others and themselves. They can relax and actually take in the joy and positive feelings that life brings their way, especially the joy that comes from their hard work, which they often don’t let themselves experience!
How many 1s out there really WANT to go do something crazy and spontaneous? Maybe “irresponsible” even? Even if the very thought feels terrifying?
Characterized by their selfless nature and extreme desire to take care of other people, the thought that an Enneagram 2's inner child is actually self-centered and jealous Enneagram 4 can be EXTREMELY uncomfortable. Adult 2s grew up in an environment where self-sacrifice was praised and self-care frowned upon. So, they throw themselves at others, making sure everyone else is cared for first. While they always say they don’t mind cooking the meal, serving the meal, eating last, and washing all the dishes while the rest of the party relaxes, they’re secretly jealous that everyone else gets to put their feet up and wishes just once, they could do the same.
In health and growth, a 2 can develop boundaries and begin listening to and tending to their own needs. Instead of fearing that people will stop loving them if they take a step back from constant serving, they will develop confidence that they are WORTHY of love simply for existing, not because of what they do.
How many 2s out there feel a little jealous and self-centered, but are just too afraid to admit it and address it?
Confidence, efficiency, and achievements are trademarks of an Enneagram 3. While they work diligently to build an image of success, they’re actually shielding an insecure and fearful little Enneagram 6 soul child. Adult 3s likely experienced some kind of instability in their childhood where they felt fearful, but no one stepped in to comfort and ease that fear. These are the kids who were told to “toughen up” and “rub some dirt in it,” so they did. They squashed down anxiety and uncertainty, put on a brave face, and set out to show the world what they were made of, even though they were still trembling inside.
In health and growth, a 3 can learn to recognize their fears and anxieties and actually address them instead of pretending they don’t exist. They can learn how to cope with things that feel unstable and eventually calm their inner selves and relax knowing that they are capable, and that they have a support system to lean on when they need it.
Any 3s feel like they’re battling an insecure, anxious, little scaredy cat that they’re too ashamed to show?
Characterized by uniqueness, non-conformity, and even becoming “outsiders,” an Enneagram 4 typically abides by their own set of rules. Reveling in being different and keeping themselves at a distance from other people, an Adult 4 was originally a rule-enforcing Enneagram 1. As kids, their mission to make sure everyone followed the straight and narrow was punished instead of nurtured. So, they reacted by insisting that they’re not perfect, and sank into their own originality that other people “just don’t understand.”
In health and growth, a 4 can get in touch with that 1 child who is an intelligent person striving for good. They can address the feeling that they are “damaged” or rejected and learn to appreciate their own uniqueness for positive reasons knowing they are a complete person, rather than insisting that they are broken outcasts.
Are there any 4s out there who are connected with that inner 1 who wants rule following and perfection? Does your larger journey for uniqueness actually look, under the surface, like a striving for perfection?
An Enneagram 5 is known for withdrawing. They like to retreat into their own intelligence, they value their quiet time, and often shut their heart and emotions off by approaching everything with their intellect first. But, a little Enneagram 8 is really raging inside of them, seeking justice and desperately wanting to boldly stand up for themselves and others. An adult 5 was taught somewhere along the way that strong reactions and emotions were bad, so they stamped them out. Instead, they deal with those thoughts in the quietness of their own mind and become afraid to voice or show their 8-ness.
In health and growth, a 5 can embrace their desire to be outwardly strong and bold. They can develop ways to recognize their emotions and express them comfortably in front of people instead of hiding away. They can experience and participate in a more vibrant and active life rather than feeling like it’s slipping by while they watch from backstage.
Any 5s out there have little mini rage outbursts when no one is watching? Ever hung up the phone and THEN yelled at the person who was on the line just a second ago?
Characterized by the need to prepare for every situation and every decision, an Enneagram 6 spends a lot of time assessing pros and cons, looking at things from every angle, and only making decisions when they are 100% positive they will get the outcome they want. Deep down, a 6 wants to take a freakin’ nap! An adult 6 is protecting a little Enneagram 9 who wants to relax and stop thinking for a minute. They want to remove themselves from chaos (even if the chaos is in their own minds) and find peace. But, as a kid they were told that was lazy and unacceptable. If they take a breather, they fear their entire life will spin out of control and there will be no one to blame but themselves.
In growth and health a 6 will realize that slowing down and giving themselves grace is a good thing. They can find peace in knowing that they cannot fully prepare for everything with 100% certainty, but they can do their best. And then, they can rest.
How many 6s out there would kill to just stay in bed one day? Or GASP, go into a situation unprepared? Take it from a 9… naps are good.
Known for being the life of the party, the spontaneous friend, the person who goes full speed at everything, an Enneagram 7 is just protecting a little recluse Enneagram 5. An adult 7 was taught sometime during childhood that they should not be a loner. They were pushed to get out there, try new things, and embrace life with positivity, even if they didn’t feel like it. Negative emotions were tamped down and happy-go-lucky attitudes were encouraged.
In health and growth, a 7 can connect with their childlike 5 and take some time for themselves. They can indulge themselves with a book and be proud that they value intellect. Instead of fearing that they will miss out on life if they calm down, they can be confident that the world will still be there with open arms when they’re finished being still.
Any 7s really enjoy curling up with a good book? Or desperately feel a strong desire to sneak out of the party, even though you feel like you should want to stay?
I hope this helps you achieve a deeper understanding of how you can reclaim your Soul Child and use your Enneagram Number to become the best version of yourself.