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Keeping Our Energy Supply Open

One of my Enneagram teachers, Helen Palmer, is fond of saying that Enneagram work is all about recovering the "juice of life." This is the energy that flows from our essence, our core, from our gut.

Jesus frames it this way, "From your innermost being will flow rivers of living water," (John 7:38).

This juice never leaves us. It's always there. It just gets siphoned off by the habitual patterns of our Enneagram Type.

In our efforts to compensate for perceived inadequacies and fears, we inadvertently drain ourselves of the very energy we need to live a life of empowered effectiveness and freedom.

Each Type siphons away needed "juice" in its own way. The strategies we craft to make life work divert our life energy into unproductive patterns of feeling, thinking and behaving.

We do well to remember this important principle: Where attention goes, energy flows. The juice of life follows our focus.

The Enneagram helps us wake-up and see these patterns for what they are. Even better, working with the Enneagram leads us on a path back to our core, true self that releases the juice we need to be more fully alive.

Here's a quick rundown how the patterns of each Type siphons away needed energy:

  • Type One: Focus of attention goes to being good; perfect is even better. Attention locks-in on doing better, trying harder, keeping the rules, and constant critique. This results in rigidity and resentment. This strategy siphons needed energy from relaxing into the joy of living, from experiencing the essence of being loveable and truly good--imago dei. Essence is rooted in being perfectly imperfect.

  • Type Two: Focus of attention goes to creating connection and relationship through meeting others' needs. Helping, giving and serving are the route to gain acceptance. These efforts siphon energy away from the essence of belonging. Belonging allows us to relax, accept our own needs and to belong for who we are, rather than for what we do for others.

  • Type Three: Focus of attention goes to proving worth and validity by performing and achieving. Working harder, being efficient and getting more done (and done successfully) is the ticket for being loved and valued. The list of needed accomplishments never ends. The drive to perform and achieve siphons energy away from the essence of being. After all, we are a human being not a human doing. Lovability and and value are rooted in who we are, not what we accomplish.

  • Type Four: Focus of attention goes to being authentic, special, noteworthy and unique. The hope is that these will earn a sense of belonging, prove adequacy and be understood. This leads to terminal uniqueness--"everyone else knows how to make life work except me." This intense inner focus siphons needed energy away from celebrating the gifts, beauty, completeness and adequacy that is inherent in essence. Essence breaks the power of being inherently flawed.

  • Type Five: Focus of attention goes to being fully informed and prepared. Focus goes protecting self by analyzing and conserving emotional energy. This strategy siphons energy from engaging in life and diving into the richness of relationships. Essence provides ample energy to fully engage with life with full access to the physical and emotional centers of life as well as the mind.

  • Type Six: Focus of attention goes to planning for potential worst-case scenarios, questioning authorities and other safeguards to ensure safety and certainty. This leads to unproductive thinking. Mental energy is expended on worry and anxiety. This strategy siphons energy away from essence that is secure and adequate for the challenges of life. It also siphons the freedom and peace that comes from knowing we rest securely in the palm of God's hand.

  • Type Seven: Focus of attention goes to living in the future and making sure nothing limits imagination and the pursuit of fun, adventure and excitement. The goal is to avoid what is painful, negative and restrictive. This strategy siphons energy away from being present in the now, engaging fully in relationships, resolving real-time problems, sticking with tasks and addressing pain of the past. Essence is rooted in trusting the unfolding of the divine plan which is good. This removes the need to fantasize how things should be.

  • Type Eight: Focus of attention goes to asserting strength, being in control and challenging authorities. The intense energy stems from dualistic thinking that is convinced of being right and justified in confronting others. This strategy siphons energy away from acknowledging personal vulnerabilities, weaknesses and mistakes. This interferes with intimacy and collaboration. Reclaiming the essence of innocence r frees the tender, compassionate core of self to emerge from protective shells.

  • Type Nine: Focus of attention goes to maintaining harmony (inner and outer), avoiding conflict, others' agenda and putting anger to sleep. The strategy of going along to get along siphons energy away from identifying and clarifying a knowing of oneself. A return to essence reclaims personal value, importance, presence and belonging.

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