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[Traditional Enneagram] Enneagram Type or Abuse Victim? (The Overlap)

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One thing I have long disliked about the Enneagram is its potential to confuse disorders or psychological scarring (such as signs of abuse) with personality type. Enneagram 6 stands out the most to me currently, but I can think of at least one other that has overlap as well.

A QUICK NOTE: While the Enneagram has been presented as a system with potential usefulness as diagnostic material, this is not the topic being discussed. The Enneagram has NOT officially been approved for this purpose, there is overlap with disorders not mentioned by the Enneagram, and even the ones that are mentioned might have overlap with a type they are not associated with. Furthermore, this thread is also about trauma / psychological scarring / signs of abuse, or other similar things. In short, not everything I'm hoping for discussion about is covered by this theory regarding diagnoses and I don't want people getting distracted by it, thus losing sight of the topic I actually intend for this thread to have.

I believe that it's important to differentiate because many people look to Enneagram and other nomothetic theories such as this one to assist them in understanding the reasons behind their behaviors. There are certain risks involved in this and, in my opinion, the Enneagram resources irresponsibly fail to make adequate distinctions between "normal-unhealthy" and "abnormal-unhealthy" despite such strong similarities between the Enneagram and alternative explanations behind these behaviors, such as covert narcissism for instance, which have more substantial evidence than it does. One risk this presents is that there are those who will invest their trust into these systems and, seeing the manifestations of their abuse as a mere personality type, they might stop looking for alternative explanations. As a result, they may accept these manifestations as a part of who they are. Thus, thinking they have found the answers and don't need to look further, they may not arrive to the realization that they need help with trauma, which the Enneagram is an insufficient provider of. Worse yet, abuse may still be present in their lives, and rather than realizing there are covert dynamics taking place, they might become more accepting of this position and remain dependent upon their abuser (namely E6) while mistaking the signs for components of personality. Abuse victims are particularly susceptible to believing this due to the fact that it's not uncommon for them to think their experiences with abuse are normal already, especially when it's all they've ever known since their childhood. The Enneagram can potentially further promote this false belief by validating it through explanations that identify similar overlap as normal problems.

With all of that said, I wanted to create a thread to promote awareness of these vulnerabilities the Enneagram leaves people with. It might consist of shared thoughts about the distinguishing factors, experiences of this actually happening and what was learned in the process, or any other relevant information with the potential to be beneficial or provide insight.

I will use this first post to present the topic and then write my contributions in separate posts following after it.
 

Vendrah

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I think Enneagram 6 in conceptual terms seems to be the "other" or "not fit in other enneagrams" category. Although in the questionnaires (an in the stats) it seems to have a lot of ISJs traits, instead it has a very contradictory descriptions that can be used to fit people who didnt fit in other enneagrams.

Although, through studies the most neurotic enneagram type are type 4 and 6 tied with each other.
 

RadicalDoubt

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I do think you make a pretty good point here, not in reference to just abuse victims but in general in relation to mental health as a whole. In relation to your specific point too, I think other compliant types such as 2 or in some cases 9 and even 4 would have difficulty with this, as a "9" may relate their passiveness or over agreeableness/fear of conflict (if they are that type of 9 of course) to their own personality as a way to displace trauma which may have resulted in them behaving this way. The same with 2 and 4, who both tend to fall into idealization of love ones in poor health and may even attribute depression symptoms to a personality style rather than actual depression or living through a situation that needs to be addressed.

There are some enneagram pieces that do address this (ie. health and unhealthy triats), but since enneagram mostly focuses on the more negative traits and attributes them to the types, this can make it a bit tough. I know I (initially) gravitated to type 6 descriptions when I was younger because I was in a weird/semi-unhealthy situation (not abusive) and attributed symptoms of my anxiety disorder, hyper-agreeableness, and blind loyalty to being a 6, not the fact that I was in a situation that needed to be addressed. I have seen no such examples so far of this sort of thing happening in an abusive situation like you've mentioned, but it doesn't seem like something that is too farfetched in the slightest.
 

LiterateLevi

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I think I actually have a unique perspective into this because of my past. I’ll go into some detail...

So, I’m an 8w7. I’m extremely expressive, eccentric, and hate the idea of being controlled. If I’m honest, I’m also a cult survivor, having been born to parents who were and still are involved. I spent so much of my life being controlled and regulated and threatened with horrible things that would happen to me. If I’m honest, it landed me with a lot of mental illness and now a fear of entering religion. For a while, I also displayed a lot of toxic personality traits and had a lot of trust issues. Thankfully, I’ve since gotten out of the cult and have been through some therapy and taken time to find myself in a healthy way.

I fully believe some of my traits came from trauma. However, it also made me who I am, good or bad. I personally believe that’s how everyone is; We’re a collection of what’s happened to us and a collection of what we fear will happen. I see trauma as just as valid of a reason of being a certain way as long as it’s properly dealt with through therapy and doesn’t go on to cause harm to others or the affected individual.

I’m pretty sure I just rambled. I hope this at least added a little something to this convo.
 

rav3n

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Enneagram theorists have wanted a piece of the Psychology pie for many years. I'm glad they haven't managed to do so and hope it never happens.

Typologies belong on the self-help shelf.
 

c-jade

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I am so glad someone made this thread, as it's something I've been trying to parcel out for a long time now.

To me, it seems the most difficult issues arise in those who have experienced childhood abuse. Where is the line between our personality, which was partially formed by our lived experiences as children, and our learned responses to trauma? When enneagram specifically looks to parent-child relationships to express some of the manifestations of personality, does that mean that any abuse you did experience as a child and your subsequent learned defense mechanisms/survival skills actually is what created and encompasses your personality today? [MENTION=36353]Hexylis[/MENTION], I think you make a great point that this can lead to some very dangerous waters. It's very defeating to think that one can never grow out of their experience of abuse, because it just "became who they are." That being said, I do appreciate [MENTION=40576]LiterateLevi[/MENTION] sharing their experience...it's pretty difficult to argue the correlations in many people's childhood experiences (abusive or not) and their enneagram type.

What has really stumped me, though, is abuse that occurred later in life. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship and then marriage for 6 years, throughout the first half of my 20s. This is such a formative time, and by the time I got around to learning about enneagram, the abuse had made me someone that I am not sure was really "me." Now, almost two years out of that relationship, I'm still trying to figure out my enneagram type and it's feeling nearly impossible. Every time I think I've determined my type, I question it again because I wonder if the things I based that determination on were just created in me through my abusive relationship. Here there is the benefit of being able to look at myself before the abuse occurred and try to determine my type based on that person, but teenage years are not always the most reliable to go off of. Plus, my indecisiveness, lack of trust in myself, etc. make me look very much like a 6, but there is a big chance that this distrust arose from being told I was crazy for six years...

So, yes. I quite agree, and it's a frustrating issue for me, made more frustrating in that it is hardly ever talked about.
 

neko 4

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I don't know much about child abuse, but I do about mental illness. I disagree with the Enneagram stereotypes. I think any type can be mentally ill or have substance abuse issues. Not all people with bipolar are Sevens, not all people with schizophrenia are Fives (or Five wings).
 

Peter Deadpan

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This thing about the Enneagram is that it is not about behavior or fears. At the root level, it's actually "What is the grand lie we tell ourselves about what we 'need' to become whole and secure?" It is the story we tell ourselves about why we do the things we do. It's the difference and distance between the ego self and the content self.

Obviously, fears and behavior are manifestations of this, but they aren't the core of the system itself. This is where people mess up the most when typing themselves or others. They get too caught up in visible behaviors instead of boring into the motivations and story behind the behaviors.

It's important to differentiate between these factors and to be conscious of things like abuse, mental illness, and personality disorders because all of these can influence and change one's personality. Things can become very muddy and it can be all too easy to get hung up on fixating on one or even ten points of behavior or coping mechanism and misconstruing that as one's actual personality structure.

While there are plenty of logically sound observable patterns with regard to ennea-type and neuroses or coping mechanisms, the system and humans are simply not as clean and simple as our brains want them to be.

I highly recommend that those who are truly interested in working out all the moving parts select 3 different books on the subject that appeal to them, written by 3 different scholars of the Enneagram. There are schools of thought here, and it's important to see all of the layers and decide for yourself what fits where and how. There is simply waaaaay too much pop-culture crap info out there about the Enneagram. Because of that, there is generally an overlapping unlearning process that must accompany the learning process, which can make it take quite a long time for things to make sense.
 
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Tilt

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On the flip side, it's also scary when people use typology to explain away their mental illness in lieu of getting professional help. In fact, I just saw a video the other day implying that CP 6s are more prone to self-destructive violence when feeling trapped. While this may be true to some extent, it scares me that it may give some individuals justifications for hurting others and minimizing issues (such as domestic violence) due to one's typing instead of owning up to one's actions. There are some really unhealthy people who truly tie their whole identity into their typing and personality theory because it's used as a tool to justify their beliefs and perceptions. It can be quite disturbing to witness.
 

Vendrah

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On the flip side, it's also scary when people use typology to explain away their mental illness in lieu of getting professional help. In fact, I just saw a video the other day implying that CP 6s are more prone to self-destructive violence when feeling trapped. While this may be true to some extent, it scares me that it may give some individuals justifications for hurting others and minimizing issues (such as domestic violence) due to one's typing instead of owning up to one's actions. There are some really unhealthy people who truly tie their whole identity into their typing and personality theory because it's used as a tool to justify their beliefs and perceptions. It can be quite disturbing to witness.

I agree with that.
However, even typing systems can be used to aid a diagnose for personality disorders.
Big 5 can do that.
 

Tilt

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I agree with that.
However, even typing systems can be used to aid a diagnose for personality disorders.
Big 5 can do that.

True. There's actually a huge component of the MMPI, too. Certain profiles have a strong correlation with certain personality disorders such as risk-taking and ASPD.

The thing I don't like about MBTI, socionics, and enneagream, in particular, is that they're often used as a scapegoat for extreme self-absorption in the name of a personal self-growth journey. It can definitely be useful but the people who become obsessed with it, which included myself at my lowest point, can fall into the trap of "if I can just find my best-fit type, I can understand myself and fix my problems". It's essentially used as a way to explain everything from a singular perspective because it's easy to develop tunnel vision with Jungian theory, functions, and inter-type relations. And who doesn't want all their issues and motivations as well as that of others explained all wrapped up in an easy-to-digest format?

From what I have observed across several personality forums, some isolated/disconnected individuals will explain their issues, inter-personal conflicts, finding ideal mates, etc through this paradigm without truly getting to know people and considering real-life limitations and external factors. Other people just become archetypes and there's a stark break in perception between intellectualizion and reality.


EDIT: it's funny how most people interested in socionics basically think that MBTI is idiotic but socionics has some rather strange, nonscientific components.
 
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