The Enneagram is a powerful tool for deepening one’s spirituality and in finding a truly fulfilling personal path. It’s also an incredibly helpful lens for improving unhealthy patterns and finding joy in your relationships.
In my work as a Christian marriage counselor and coach specializing in couples work over the span of two decades, I’ve seen how the Enneagram can help people release their tight grip on their “passions,” and instead connect with their “virtues” — leading to healthier selves and much richer and more empathetic relationships.
In the Christian faith, all of us live outside of the utopian walls of Eden, so the potential to become disjointed from God’s path is universal, the implications far-reaching. To utilize John Steinbeck’s famous book title, we live East of Eden, so to speak, when we depart from what is sacred and healthy and attempt to solve our problems with our particular type’s passion. The Enneagram helps each of us decode these personal passions — and through this process, to uncover our virtues. It allows us to open our hearts to God and to others, as well as to better understand how our negative passions can push those we love away.
When we don’t process our hurts with this balance of healthy emotional and spiritual release, or we don’t incorporate positive thinking and get daily and personalized self-care, we react out of instinct with our passion-based defense mechanisms, feeling that perhaps this time, they will help us.
In Enneagram terms, we react from our emotional passions. This can lead to employing poor coping mechanisms.
Our Enneagram passions can be defense mechanisms
Usually, when you hear the word “passion” it sounds fun and romantic. But in the context of the Enneagram, you’ll find that the passions of each type are anything but fun!
Over-indexing to these passions can cause us to “get stuck” in unhealthy emotional patterns instead of releasing that stress to a higher power. We will defend these passion-based defense mechanisms to our partners and families, truly believing they are our “best” techniques for us to manage stress.
Some frequent examples I’ve seen in my practice include:
“I need to work more right now. I am under a lot of stress” - A stressed Type 3, stuck in their passion of self-deceit who hasn’t seen their family but is trying to find their worth through work.
“I’ve got to work two jobs and drink Red Bull all day long. Besides, I’m fine.” - A Type 7 who must constantly stay busy to avoid emotional pain out of fear of being left alone in pain.
“I’ve got to make sure my boyfriend takes me out on a date instead of going out with his friends. I deserve this after all I’ve done for him.” - A prideful Type 2 who is forgetting all her boyfriend does for her already.
Is it any wonder, given the chaos that ensues when passions are in the lead?
We can forget that by releasing our stress daily and even hourly at times, and by releasing our tight grip on our passions, we are much healthier.
So when you find yourself slipping into your type’s ultimately misguided coping strategy, remember this:
Awareness is the first step, spending time deeply breathing and releasing it to a higher power is the next.
The restorative power of our Enneagram virtues
Also, here’s more good news, there’s even more you can do to work on those passions.
Though each type has a passion, each Enneagram type also has a specific virtue we can try to uphold as we let go of the grip on our vice or passions. This virtue is an antidote to that internal passion we all have, and if you grab hold of your type’s virtue as you let go of the passion, you’re on the best track for spiritual growth.
The restoration function of virtue and the reconfiguration of passion is an extremely important part of the spiritual use of the Enneagram. In other words, when we don’t allow release our own plans to a greater power at the end of the day after our best human efforts, we get quite caught up again and again in our particular passions or mental fixations about our reality.
Here’s a list of the Enneagram passions as well as the antidote for each, their particular virtues.
|8||Lust||Innocence (Childlike faith)|
Take some time daily to watch for yours, so you can become mindful of the awareness of falling into the trance of your type’s passion as well as slowly releasing your grip on it, little by little, and trying to embrace the virtues.
Make a note in your phone or do a challenge with your friend or partner to check in.