Posted with permission from Ocean Moonshine
People of enneatype Seven are essentially concerned that their options remain open, their lives unconstrained, and their ability to find happiness unfettered by what they see as the largely petty concerns which seem to consume most people. Sevens are determined not to allow their lives to succumb to boredom or inertia, or to the lethargy of a dull, pedestrian existence. Sevens want more than that. They always want more.
Sevens are future oriented, restless people who are generally convinced that something better is just around the corner. They are quick thinkers who have a great deal of energy and who make lots of plans. They tend to be multi-talented, creative, open minded and resilient people who do their best to appreciate their lives. Youthful, insouciant and facile, Sevens are enthusiasts who enjoy the pleasures of the senses and who don’t believe in any form of self denial.
Given such an ebullient description, it might be difficult to appreciate the fact that Sevens are essentially fear types who are in flight from pain, always striving to remain one step ahead of their inner demons. But such is the case. There is a sort of existential claustrophobia at the heart of enneatype Seven. They sense that the walls are always just about to close in. They therefore develop strategies for escape. These strategies are primarily mental, and Sevens, like Fives and Sixes, are fixated in the mental center. Sevens are full of plans for the future, exciting ideas, original thoughts and unusual attitudes. They like to fantasize and conceptualize, but as soon as they attempt to work through the fine details of their ideas or plans, they tend to feel constrained. To escape this feeling of constraint, Sevens push forward into action. They look outside themselves for their means of escape.
For this reason, Sevens are the most energetic and active of the enneatypes. They tend towards extroversion, generally know lots of people, and are especially fond of collecting those they find unusual, entertaining or stimulating. Sevens also tend to be impulsive. They are willing to pick up and move at a moment’s notice, to change jobs on a whim and to experiment with alternative lifestyles. Sevens frequently know who the cool people are, what the best restaurant is, which new musical group is the “next great band,” which bestseller is really worth reading. Immersion in what the world has to offer frequently serves to refine the palate, and Sevens don’t like to settle for second rate distractions.
As Sevens are essentially afraid of being overpowered by negative states of mind, they seek their distraction in the external world and generally excel at multi-tasking and adventure seeking. They can frequently be counted on to bring energy and excitement to situations which have begun to grow stale. Sevens have the gift of sensing the potential in a situation, of seeing the ideal in the actual. One of the reasons that Sevens do this is that it serves to juice up their experience. Idealization, paradoxically, makes experience feel more real to Sevens. Here again, the mental nature of the type Seven fixation manifests itself. About this feature of enneatype Seven, Naranjo says: “It is possible to say that the optimistic attitude of type VII and the joyful mood that is habitual to them would not be possible without the operation of idealization in regard to the world in general and the more significant people in it. In relationship with others as in connection with oneself, optimism entails the suspension of criticality and blaming…”
In some key respects, the idealization process can prove beneficial, inspirational even, as others might very well be motivated to attempt to bring the actual situation closer to the ideal that the Seven is able to envisage. The Seven’s enthusiasm can prove contagious. On the downside, the idealization process can serve to distract the Seven from the reality of the situation and to undermine true intimacy in personal relationships. Insofar as the Seven is relating to an idealization of the partner, the real person remains unseen and the Seven essentially disengaged.
Just as Sevens tend to adopt an idealized version of those who are important to them, they typically also have a high opinion of themselves and their talents. Sevens tend to focus on their strengths and virtues and to downplay their flaws and vices. Their exuberance and self-confidence can carry them some real distance. Having convinced themselves that they are really more accomplished than they are, they can generally convince others as well. All of this is compounded by the fact that, in general, Sevens actually are people of high ability – smart and personable. They can usually do better than most, without even trying. But, a natural aptitude and quick grasp of the basics, combined with an engaging presentation, is not the same thing as true expertise, and goes some way towards indicating why Ichazo used the term “charlatan” as the name for the fixation of enneatype Seven.
As Sevens have a compulsive need to avoid pain, and as they tend to search for escape externally, Sevens are prone to addictions of all sorts. The essential nature of addiction involves the drive to find solace and a sense of well being in a source external to the self, something very close to the core of the type Seven fixation. Human beings in general, and Sevens more than most, can form addictions to many different things – shopping, gambling, drugs, or even to a particular sexual partner or to sexual adventures in general. (Sexual adventurousness comes naturally to most Sevens, who are generally immune to society’s messages that sexuality is shameful.) The problem with this, of course, is that addictions tend, in the long run, to bring more pain than pleasure. They are counterproductive. Sevens tend to be rational and generally come to realize this. Paradoxically, the same compulsive need which gave rise to the addiction in the first place, can serve the Seven in good stead when it comes time to break it, and Sevens tend to have strong powers of will. But, until the underlying compulsion to avoid pain is addressed, there is always the danger with Sevens, that one addiction will simply be replaced by another.
Sevens are noted for their youthfulness, and many Sevens seem younger than their age. Part of this can be accounted for by their open mindedness, energy and future orientation. On the down side, Sevens can simply be immature. Childlikeness can give way to childishness, and open mindedness and tolerance to self-indulgence and lack of discrimination. Less balanced Sevens can be petulant when they don’t get their way, irresponsible and willful. The mundane details of life, such as paying the bills, such Sevens believe, should be dealt with by lesser mortals who don’t find responsibility so cumbersome. Unhealthy Sevens even make a virtue of their irresponsibility, convincing themselves that it is a sign of their innate superiority. Even somewhat more balanced Sevens are often a bit self-centered, which manifests in an unfounded feeling of entitlement. They tend to feel as though they somehow deserve more than others, as though life owes something to them.
As Sevens don’t want to confront their own darker emotions, they often find it difficult to acknowledge the pain that others experience. Once again, they can find it difficult to see others in their totality. This often leads to charges of insensitivity being leveled against the Seven. Acknowledging the pain in others forces the Seven to confront the pain within, and triggers the deepest defenses of the type Seven fixation. The Seven’s degree of health is directly proportional to their capacity to stay with their own pain and to acknowledge and accept the pain in others. The more that Sevens flee from negative emotions, the more likely they are to erupt into consciousness in the form of an anxiety disorder or a severe manic or depressive episode.
Sevens, of course, as “upbeat” as they generally are, do experience sadness and melancholy, just like anyone else, and one of the frequent sources of sadness for Sevens is the frustration they experience as they come to realize how many opportunities for true self-development they have squandered by moving on to the next cool thing. Sevens, in general, are the most talented of the enneatypes, but unless they focus on their talents, foster them, commit to them, nurture them, they will remain undeveloped, their promise essentially unfulfilled. If the Seven can use these feelings of sadness and frustration as spurs to self-development, if, in other words, they can truly sense that their underlying strategy to avoid pain leads, in the long run, to more pain, perhaps they can break the spell of their compulsion. If not, the Seven will once again seek distraction, move into action and onto the next “adventure.”
In the traditional enneagram, the vice or passion of enneatype Seven is gluttony and the corresponding virtue that of sobriety. In this context, gluttony does not refer to the desire to fill the belly, but to a more fundamental desire. It refers to a pervasively desirous state, to what Ichazo calls, a state of always “wanting more.” Sevens want more pleasure, excitement, distraction and adventure, anything which will fill them up, anything which will keep the nameless object of their fears at bay. It is this ceaseless desire for pleasure and avoidance of pain which keeps Sevens from true self-fulfillment; it is a most deceptive and seductive source of actual pain. Sevens would do well to bear in mind the advice of the ancient philosophers towards those who choose hedonism as a style of life. Such a life path is insufficient for happiness in the long run, they suggest, as pleasure feeds only the lower aspects of our nature and ultimately leads to self-conflict and frustration. Aristotle, in particular, suggests that true happiness is realized by commitment, not to pleasure, but to excellence, to the development of our skills, capacities and talents. True and abiding happiness, he argues, is always the fortunate byproduct of something much more fundamental.
Sevens who are unable to face their demons never achieve their potential, or the true joy they are, more than most, capable of experiencing in its depths. Sevens who are able to confront pain, to stay with it, develop maturity and groundedness. Sober Sevens are the “wise children” of the Enneagram, capable of showing others how to delight in the beauty and brightness of the sensible world without running in fear from its shadow. Actualized Sevens become substantial, without losing the essential fluidity of the soul.
Sevens with the Six wing are generally more openly anxious and ungrounded than those with an Eight wing. They tend to be mercurial and charming and generally more sweet tempered and engaging than their Eight winged counterparts. Overall, there tends to be a more obviously manic quality to Sevens with the Six wing. Sevens with an Eight wing are more success oriented, pragmatic and driven. They can be overbearing in the pursuit of their desires and are generally more aggressive and competitive than those with a Six wing.
Sevens, when healthy, are considered “Renaissance Men.” Consider in this regard, such Sevens as Leonardo da Vinci, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and William Shakespeare. Emilie du Chatelet, who defied the gender stereotypes of her time to become an impressive scientist and mathematician was also a Seven. More recently, Richard Feynman, physicist, card player and funny man was a Seven. A Feynman quotation: “There is a computer disease that anybody who works with computers knows about. It’s a very serious disease and it interferes completely with the work. The trouble with computers is that you ‘play’ with them!”
Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison manifest the inventive side of the type Seven personality and many inventors have, in fact, been Sevens.
Famous artists include Paul Gauguin, Salvador Dali and Francis Bacon. The art of Sevens tends to be vibrant and expansive – glittering surfaces with intimated depths.
Famous musicians include Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop, Bono, Bette Midler, Chuck Berry, and Elton John.
Sevens are naturally drawn to humor and many comedians have been Sevens – Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Howard Stern, Elaine Boozler, Joan Rivers and Mike Myers to name a few. Also, talk show hosts Larry King and Conan O’Brien.
The poets William Wordsworth and e.e.cummings were Sevens, the latter clearly delighting in word play.
Type Seven authors include Colin Wilson, Thomas Wolfe, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry Miller and Kurt Vonnegut.
The counter-culture movement of the 1960′s was permeated by type Seven energy and many of the figures who achieved prominence in that period were Sevens. Ram Dass, Timothy Leary and Laurence van der Post readily come to mind in this regard. Charles Tart, transpersonal psychologist and early student of the Enneagram was also a Seven.
Likewise the New Age/Self Help movement has been inspired by quite a few Sevens: Consider Marianne Williamson, Byron Katie, Mark Victor Hansen, Wayne Dyer and Stephen Covey.
Directors Steven Spielberg, Federico Fellini and Mel Brooks were Sevens.
Also, the recently deceased Hunter Thompson, “Gonzo Journalist”: “Nobody seems to know what my crimes are. The charges are vague…I am actually on trial for Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll.”
Politician and Gay activist Harvey Milk: he combined the flamboyance, charm and a certain shameless quality, sometimes seen in type Seven, with the leadership qualities of his Eight wing.
Famous actors include Goldie Hawn, Warren Beatty, Cameron Diaz, Jack Nicholson, Joan Collins, Elizabeth Taylor and George Clooney.
Fictional examples include Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Maude from Harold and Maude, Nate from Six Feet Under and, of course, the indomitable Peter Pan.
Sevens often have a perfectionistic streak. If a casual observer had insufficient knowledge, some confusion might arise between type Seven and type One. In addition, Sevens and Ones are both prone to feelings of frustration. Nevertheless, the two types are very different. Ones tend to be self-constrained and self-denying whereas Sevens tend, in contrast, to be expansive and even hedonistic. Sevens tend to have problems with immaturity; Ones are very much the adult. Ones tend towards rigidity; Sevens towards expansiveness. Ones towards moralism, Sevens towards libertinism.
Both Sevens and Twos are expansive, extroverted and generous. Both types often enjoy entertaining and the pleasures of the senses. Finally, both types can be “needy.” Sevens are more oriented towards their activities however, whereas Twos are most focused on their relationships. Twos have far more “follow through” than do Sevens, whose multi-tasking often leaves them with “something else to do” when the time comes for attending to duties and responsibilities. Sevens are fixated in the intellectual center whereas Twos, no matter how intelligent, are primarily fixated in the emotional center.
Sevens and Threes are each outgoing and talented and both types can be self-centered. But Sevens are scattered whereas Threes excel at focus. Threes are oriented towards success, whereas Sevens are focused on enjoyment. Threes care about the impressions of others whereas Sevens, who are often quite popular as well, will sacrifice the good opinion of others if it interferes with their desires and their own conception of what is valuable.
While it is quite uncommon for Fours to mistype as Seven, it is not especially unusual for Sevens to initially mistype as Four. In addition, from an external point of view, more extroverted Fours, primarily those with the Three wing, can, in some settings, look like Sevens and artistic Sevens might resemble Fours. This is because both types can be creative, unconventional, attention seeking and even flamboyant in their presentation. Nevertheless, Fours are far less extroverted than Sevens who truly seek out people as a principle means of distraction. Fours are comfortable with their negative mental states, even sometimes choosing to inhabit them, whereas Sevens are in flight from pain. As a general rule, Sevens tend to overestimate the extent of their suffering and sadness because they find such mental states to be so threatening to their sense of self; they can therefore think of themselves as being more melancholic than they actually are. The melancholy of type Seven is primarily driven by anxiety however, whereas that of type Four has its roots in a feeling of worthlessness.
Although Fives do not tend to mistype as Seven, some Sevens do initially mistype as Five. Sevens and Fives are both thinking types who generally enjoy a wide range of intellectual and cultural activities. Both types can be idiosyncratic and counter-cultural, and Fives can become scattered and lose focus like Sevens. Nevertheless, Fives tend to be far more focused on their individual intellectual activities than are Sevens. In addition, Sevens are extroverts whereas Fives are true introverts, often pursuing a line of thought until they take it to the very end, unlike Sevens who tend to move on when the intellectual work becomes too immersed in detail. Sevens frequently underestimate the extent of their extroversion, giving them the sense that they are more Five-like than they actually are. Because they sometimes enjoy their time alone, they reason, they could not truly be extroverts. The overall pattern of the Seven’s life, however, ought to reveal the pattern of seeking distraction by way of engaging others. The Five’s life should reveal a pronounced pattern of withdrawing under stress.
Sevens and Six can mistype, especially if the wing is strong. Both types can be high energy and intellectual and both tend to have a quick nervous energy. Sevens, however, have a far more optimistic outlook on life than do Sixes who are generally aware of just what might go wrong. Sevens tend, overall, to be more averse to responsibility than Sixes. Sevens tend to look on the bright side whereas Sixes find it difficult to make light of their difficulties.
Sevens and Eight can mistype, once again, especially if the wing is strong, although it is more common for Sevens to mistype as Eight than vice versa. Both types can be dominating and both enjoy adventure. But Eights lack the nervous energy of type Seven and, unlike Sevens, tend to focus quite readily on their chosen fields of activity, something with which Sevens have to struggle.
Sevens and Nines are both optimistic, and both types generally have a positive regard for others. Sevens are prone to self-centeredness however, whereas Nines often give too much deference to the thoughts and feelings of others. Sevens tend to throw themselves into activity under stress, whereas Nines are prone to withdrawal. Sevens are more “hyper,” Nines more grounded.