We've worked our way through Types 1-6 in our exploration of defense mechanisms from the Enneagram perspective. We now land on Type 7, the last of the fear-based, head types.
Defense mechanisms are the automatic responses we employ to avoid and/or compensate for the discomforting experience of having our idealized view of ourselves threatened.
Whenever our sense of order and security is disrupted our nervous system is activated. Anxiety kicks in. We feel out of sorts and discombobulated.
Our defense mechanisms serve to return us to a place of perceived order, control, safety and equilibrium. We feel better, at least on the short end.
Each Enneagram Type has its signature go-to defense mechanism that coincides with its personality structure. Both Type and defense mechanisms form around core needs, fears and motives.
The primary defense mechanism for Enneagram Seven is Rationalization.
The ideal life for the Seven is wrapped up in having fun, pursuing positive possibilities and grabbing all the gusto they imagine life has to offer. Sevens are committed to avoiding pain, discomfort, suffering--anything that threatens to limit their imagined possibilities.
When Sevens encounter their worse nemesis, suffering, they quickly hit the rationalization switch.
Peter O'Hanrahan states, "Rationalization is a way to stay in the head, explaining away or justifying things in order to distance from painful feelings and refuse to take responsibility for their behavior."
Sevens re-frame negatives into positives. They are quick to think of new possibilities and options. This allows them to escape the discomfort and limitations of the present moment. It perpetuates their illusion that they have unlimited possibilities.
Using rationalization as a means to avoid suffering allows the Seven maintain their commitment to staying positive and believing that life should be all good.
Maintaining a positive attitude and remaining hopeful are superpowers of the Seven. Overplayed, however, leads to rationalization--avoiding real and present problems and suffering.
Rationalization proves costly. It interferes with relationship development and prevents necessary problem solving. In the end, rationalization keeps Sevens stuck, the very thing they are intent on avoiding.
Sevens aren't the only Types to use rationalization, of course. We all rationalize in certain situations. But, Sevens provide us useful insight on how rationalization impacts each of us.
How does rationalization operate in your life?