Our Enneagram type can provide us some clues about how we learn to love ourselves and others better.

Definition of Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is the energy directed toward oneself that works to soften the contraction of our egos. It requires being with and remaining present to oneself, being with ourselves in spite of who we think we are and what we feel and have done. 

There is always room for more self-compassion. In other words, we can have a little self-compassion to a lot more self-compassion in any situation. Self-compassion can span from just noticing without judgment to a fuller field with an embodied presence, kindness, and tenderness for ourselves. 

We each find applying self-compassion works in some instances more easily than in others. I believe that self-compassion is more easily accessed when our blind spots, triggers, defense mechanisms and self-deprecating early childhood messages are not involved. 

We might also look at it this way, through the Centers of Intelligence. The body type’s 8, 9, and 1 may encounter a greater struggle with self-compassion if their sense of agency, power or control are threatened more than the other Enneagram types. The heart type’s 2, 3 and 4 may encounter a greater struggle with self-compassion if their sense of connection, distress, shame or relatedness is threatened. The head type’s 5, 6 and 7 may encounter a greater struggle with self-compassion if their sense of safety, security or certainty is threatened. 

Enneagram Practices

Oftentimes, there is a desire to take some sort of action when self-compassion arises. Our Enneagram practices of watching/noticing/observing, then pausing to appreciate that we have done the best we can is always a helpful start. 

Extending the same loving kindness to one’s self that you would extend to another when we feel imperfect, unlovable, like a failure, too dramatic or needy, separate from or afraid, unable to focus, too aggressive or angry and perhaps too lazy as well as so many other self-deprecating thoughts and emotions and actions we have and take toward ourselves. Self-compassion also helps to quiet each of our unique inner critics.

The Dalai Lama once said that “compassion is a necessity, not a luxury and that it is a question of human survival. Compassion is a process of connecting by identifying with another person. 

This identification with others through compassion can lead to increased motivation to do something in an effort to relieve the suffering of others.” Therefore, self-compassion is a process of connecting with self by identifying with ourselves.

This is where the Enneagram is so helpful. Our ability to identify with ourselves is assisted by understanding the characteristics of our type, sometimes referred to as personality. 

Personality traits, however, are not really who we are they are just the way we have learned to move through life. Each of the 9 enneatypes has developed a strategy to blind us from our unique aspect of divine essence. Each type has both a cognitive and an emotional method as well as unique defense mechanisms that keep us from self-compassion.

Power and Control

Type 8

Aspect of Divine Essence – Power

Avoiding weakness

Defense Mechanism of Denial

False Belief that “I am All Powerful”

Type 9

Aspect of Divine Essence – Peace

Avoiding conflict

Defense Mechanism of Narcotization

False Belief that “I Am Settled”

Type 1

Aspect of Divine Essence – Goodness

Avoiding mistakes

Defense Mechanism of Reaction Formation

False Belief that “I Am Right”

Esteem and Affirmation

Type 2

Aspect of Divine Essence – Love

Avoiding needs

Defense Mechanism of Repression

False Belief of “I Am Helpful”

Type 3

Aspect of Divine Essence – Efficacy

Avoiding failure

Defense Mechanism of Identification

False Belief of “I Am Successful”

Type 4

Aspect of Divine Essence – Originality

Avoiding Ordinariness

Defense Mechanism of Introjection

False Belief that “I Am Special”

Safety and Security

Type 5

Aspect of Divine Essence – Wisdom

Avoiding Emptiness

Defense Mechanism of Isolation

False Belief of I Am Perceptive”

Type 6

Aspect of Divine Essence – Loyalty

Avoiding doubt

Defense Mechanism of Projection

False Belief of “I Am Compliant”

Type 7 

Aspect of Divine Essence – Joy

Avoiding Pain

Defense Mechanism of Rationalization

False Belief of “I Am Okay”