If you’re a Type 2, the Helper/Giver of the Enneagram,  you don’t need a personality system to know that your attention gravitates towards the needs of others. Relationship-based with high emotional intelligence, you have a gift for connecting with others, and difficult or emotionally distant people are your speciality. You truly care about other people, and this genuine concern helps you win the hearts and minds of friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members. 

But while you can win others over, without high self-mastery, it is easy for you to have weak personal boundaries, overextend yourself in your efforts to help those around you, and constantly put yourself at the back of the line when it comes to getting your own needs met. The word “no" rarely crosses your lips, and your drive to make other people happy can be relentless and cloud your thinking.

All of this subservience can build up leaving you tired, drained, disconnected, and frustrated. But because you are gifted at repression, the rest of us don’t see how overextended you have become. You are more fragile than we realize, but you aren’t fragile like a flower. You are fragile like a bomb. And when you explode, it isn’t pretty.  We see rage, tears, breakdowns, or sometimes stonewalling with the silent treatment. The explosion leaves you exposed and us confused. Everyone feels hurt.

How can you recognize your own limits and defuse your ticking time bomb before it detonates? Self-mastery is the key.

What is self-mastery?

Self-mastery refers to your ability to understand, accept, and transform your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Self-mastery is not about controlling yourself. Self-mastery is the ability to choose your behavior and reactions. The Enneagram gives us a very clear map to self-mastery and below we explore four of its elements for Type 2.

1. Self-awareness: Recognize your relentless drive to make others happy.

You may feel that your purpose in life is to help and support others, and the truth is this is where your gifts lie. Supporting others gives you a lot of pleasure, and you can truly make the world a better place. But this habit of attention creates an imbalance, and when you focus too much on others, you forget self-care and self-love. The first step towards self-mastery is to recognize your own habit of attention and how it brings you out of balance.

Self-mastery tip: Start practicing self-observation and investigate the underlying motivation to be so helpful to others. Why do you think you have this drive? Why do you think you have this drive more than others? How does it feel to not offer help? Can you choose to say “no”?

2. Your Physical Body: Check in with your body for somatic clues indicating building resentment.

Everyone feels tired now and then, but do you feel tired on a regular basis? Is your energy drained? Do you feel exhausted at the end of most days and is it hard to remember a day when you felt refreshed and energized? If you are nodding yes, you might be repressing resentment and frustration. Your body can be a mirror for your emotional state so even if it's hard to recognize your own feelings, try to focus on the sensations in your body. Are your shoulders tight? Does your stomach feel clenched? Is your body drained of energy?

Self-mastery tip: Schedule some self-care time every single day. This can be 30 minutes a day to meditate, exercise, prepare a healthy meal, journal about your day, whatever self-care is for you. When you practice more self-care, your true feelings have a place to arise. Pay attention to your physical body and notice the sensations coming from it.

3. Your Relationships: Take an honest inventory of the people in your life.

You have an unconscious habit of taking on people as “projects” and inadvertently creating unbalanced relationships. Take an inventory of the people you are surrounded by. Do they offer you as much help and support as you offer to them? Do they inspire and support you? Do you respect and look up to them? Or are they people you feel sorry for and want to help? Notice the difference.

Self-mastery tip: Cultivate balanced relationships in your life, forming bonds with people who don’t need you but instead see you as an equal. Nurture relationships with people who can support you as much as you support them. You grow when you are surrounded by equals not projects.

4. Avoidance: Are you able to stay fully present?

Because confrontation is uncomfortable for you, rather than set clear boundaries and advocate for yourself, you sometimes take an indirect approach. This shows up as withdrawal or distraction as your mind tries to figure out how to say no without actually saying no. This might be so subconscious that you don’t even realize you are doing it. Is there a telephone call you keep putting off? An email you don’t send? Is it hard to focus on a particular project or person? These might be clues you want to say “no” but don’t know how to do it.

Self-mastery tip: Notice when you begin to withdraw or when you feel distracted. Is a specific person or topic triggering the behavior?  Is there something unsaid that needs to be said?  Can you find a gentle but firm way to advocate for yourself and your position about a situation?

Self-mastery is a lifelong learning processing of integrating your values with your personality. It’s not just self-awareness. It is self-regulation, self-compassion, and self-love. 

Each Enneagram type has its own unique path to self-mastery and the foundation of Type 2’s integration is self-care. With self-care and self-love established, it becomes easier to say no, to advocate for yourself, to form bonds with equals and to stay deeply present. The tips above will help you deactivate your time bomb so you can show up as the best version of your true self.  And don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Self-mastery is a long and personal journey but having guides and coaches along the way can help accelerate the process.

Lynn Roulo
Lynn Roulo is an Enneagram instructor and Kundalini Yoga teacher who teaches a unique combination of the two systems, combining the physical benefits of Kundalini Yoga with the psychological growth tools of the Enneagram. She has written two books combining the two systems. Headstart for Happiness, her first book is an introduction to the systems. The Nine Keys, her second book, focuses on the two systems in intimate relationships. Learn more about Lynn and her work here at LynnRoulo.com.