How each Enneagram number can block their own therapeutic process
In therapy, we often talk about “first order change” and “second order change.” First order change is about shifting your outward behavior. For instance, if you know you have a tendency to yell when you’re mad, a first order change would be learning to keep your voice down during conflict. It may not be comfortable, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s a pretty simple shift.
Second order change goes a lot deeper and addresses the root of the problem. In this scenario, it addresses why you feel the need to yell. What are you trying to accomplish when you yell? How can you achieve what you want or need without yelling?
It’s that second order change that leads to the realization that you hurt other people when you yell at them. So, you choose to develop healthier communication habits that eventually become more natural than your gut instinct to raise your voice.
When you get to second order change, you actually shift your internal narrative and perspective. You build new habits not just because you have to, but because you realize that it’s a healthier way to live.
Good therapy aims for second order change.
When second order change is the goal, a lot of deep work is required. This is where the Enneagram comes in. Your Enneagram number can reveal a lot of natural habits, behaviors, and instincts. Sometimes, these attributes can even appear healthy.
When your Enneagram number disguises unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns as healthy ones, you risk blocking your own therapeutic process!
Here’s a quick run down of common underlying narratives, therapeutic blocks, and actual breakthroughs each number tends to experience in therapy. Let me know in the comments if any of these sound familiar to you!
Before we dive in - if you find this information valuable for your own therapy or coaching practice, you should check out my full course called “Enneagram for Therapists!” My next class starts in just a few days.
Motivation to go to therapy: To improve themselves. These people often believe there is something inherently wrong with them that needs to be fixed.
Enneagram block: “Improvement Paradox” - The more they fix what’s “wrong” the more they see new things to fix.
Real breakthrough: When they realize who they are is good enough.
Motivation to go to therapy: To fix relationships they worry will fall apart.
Enneagram block: “Fixing” relationships at their own expense. By focusing on others, these people can repress their true selves in an effort to be more loveable for others.
Real breakthrough: When they realize they are loveable just as they are, no matter what others say or think.
Motivation to go to therapy: To improve themselves so that they feel more valuable and so people will like them more.
Enneagram block: Confusing image-improvement for real, deep-level, self-improvement. These people can focus so much on creating a healed image that they never get to the actual problems beneath the surface.
Real breakthrough: When they realize they can accept themselves AND be accepted by others for who they truly are underneath their masks.
Motivation to go to therapy: To find what is missing inside of them and finally fill a void they believe is there.
Enneagram block: Extremely self-aware, these people often become addicted to the journey of “finding themselves.” They continue to search for what’s missing without end.
Real breakthrough: When they realize they are already whole and complete.
Motivation to go to therapy: To learn how to “control” their emotions better.
Enneagram block: Focusing on how to avoid or push down emotions often helps these people achieve their goal of never actually facing their feelings.
Real breakthrough: When they realize they have the capacity to experience emotions deeply and handle them well.
Motivation to go to therapy: To find a trusted guide who will tell them how to feel, think, and act.
Enneagram block: Relying so heavily on their therapist as the “expert,” these people often end up following assignments rather than developing the raw skills they need to lead their own growth journey.
Real breakthrough: When they realize they are courageous on their own and have everything inside of them they need to come up with their own answers.
Motivation to go to therapy: To run from uncomfortable emotions and test therapy out as their next new experience.
Enneagram block: When therapy loses its luster or gets uncomfortable, these people are often the first to stop coming, flake out on appointments, and move to the next thing that will distract them from real personal growth.
Real breakthrough: When they realize it’s worth it to stick with therapy and growth work for the long-haul and stop running from their uncomfortable emotions.
Motivation to go to therapy: To try to make sense of the world and figure out how to stay in control of their own life and circumstances.
Enneagram block: Focusing on how to stay in control of external factors often keeps these people from developing skills to regulate themselves when their circumstances inevitably move outside their control.
Real breakthrough: When they realize they are fully capable of finding internal-stability during external chaos.
Motivation to go to therapy: To learn how to better minimize themselves so they’re not bothering people around them.
Enneagram block: Seeking out tools to pacify other people causes them to lose sight of their own wants and needs and forget their value.
Real breakthrough: When they realize they are just as valuable and worthy of taking up space as every single person they are trying to appease.
The intersection of the Enneagram and therapy is absolutely incredible, in my opinion. The more we understand about ourselves and our own patterns, the clearer solutions become. If you’re a therapist and would like to learn more about using the Enneagram to help your clients grow, I have an entire course for that.
The next round starts on July 27, 2021 and there are still spots open. If payment is what’s stopping you from registering, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will work out a payment plan.