When you think of powerful types within the Enneagram, it is tempting to focus on Type 8, the Leader or Type 3, the Achiever. These outwardly focused, action-oriented individuals easily garner the attention and often admiration of others. They are strong, high-achieving personalities that get things done. But did you know that the true powerbroker in the Enneagram is really Type 9, the Peacemaker?
The Superpowers of Type 9
Soothing, healing, and accepting, Enneagram Type 9s have a gift for understanding the position of others and making everyone feel heard. Got conflict? Add a Type 9 to the equation and watch it de-escalate. These special people have a way of finding common ground when there appears to be none. They allow others to feel heard and understood, and their habit of attention allows them to quite literally step into the shoes of someone else. From this vantage point, they can find red lines not to be crossed, bargaining chips, and places of compromise. These are the master negotiators, the meditators, and the peacemakers of the world.
Type 9s have an immovable yet malleable strength. It’s hard to knock them off their center, yet they seem to fit in everywhere. Whereas a Type 3 or a Type 8 might be the unstoppable force, Type 9s are the immovable object. This fixed quality creates a space of calmness, healing, and safety for the rest of us.
If they are so great, why is it hard to see Type 9s as the ultimate superhero of the Enneagram?
All superheroes have a weakness, and conflict is the kryptonite for Type 9s.
“I feel like I vanish in the face of a conflict, even if it isn't my own. Being around conflict is extremely anxiety-provoking for me.” Dieter, Type 9
The little known secret is that Type 9s feel conflict from both sides. Externally, they feel it in their environment and give up their priorities to avoid it, while internally they spend a lot of their energy trying to convince themselves something that is a problem for them really isn’t. They get drained from externally maintaining peace and internally avoiding reality. This leaves them too tired and depleted to pursue their own priorities. Their extreme conflict-avoidance cuts them off from their own power, leaving them slothlike. They can literally sleep walk through their entire lives.
From Sloth to Right Action
Types 9s need to wake up, and the growth path for them is from sloth to right action. Right action shouldn’t be confused with any action. Type 9s who are trapped in their fixation of conflict-avoidance often do one of two things: they fall into lethargy and get very little done or they fall into action and stay busy pursuing things that are not in line with their priorities.
“One weekend when I had a long list of things to get done, I had 25 things on my list and stayed really focused. I got to the end of the weekend and looked at the six things I hadn’t gotten to. They were all things that were just for me, my own priorities, whereas all the things I had completed were for other people. That moment was a real wake up call for me…”
Andrew, Type 9
The most powerful type in the Enneagram is famous for giving away their power. But why do they do that?
Young Type 9s often feel unimportant and invisible, and many report an early childhood incident of being forgotten or feeling overlooked. In this moment, they feel low-ranking, and this shapes their behavior. They imagine their irrelevance must be true and begin to believe that the best way to survive is to not make waves and to stay under the radar and behind the scenes. Adaptability and agreeability become defense mechanisms as it would be too painful to feel important and still not get their needs met. Because they are so agreeable and ask for so little, this passive attitude becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as their more demanding siblings, family members, co-workers and so forth often get preference.
Stepping into their Power
But watch out when Type 9s wake up and claim their power. They are unstoppable. Considered by many to be the best leaders, when Type 9s advocate for their own priorities while truly hearing and responding to the perspectives of others, they become powerful beyond comparison. From this position, Type 9s broker peace and can bring teams, families, countries together in a way that leaves everyone feeling heard and like they count. Famous Enneagram Type 9s include Ronald Regan, “No Drama” Barack Obama, and the Dalai Lama.
Eleanor Roosevelt, an Enneagram Type 1, said it best:
“It is not so much the powerful leaders that determine our destiny as the much more powerful influence of the combined voices of the people themselves.”
Bringing everyone to the table and letting others be heard is the superpower of Type 9s, and this is what makes them the most powerful type in the Enneagram.
How does a Type 9 wake up and step into their power? Telling someone who is conflict avoidant to engage in conflict isn’t realistic. The secret lies in a series of baby steps.
Strengthen the nervous system
For any person who is trying to change their behavior, a strong nervous system is a foundational element. Your nervous system, the combination of your brain, your nerve endings and your spinal cord, influences how you experience the world. Strengthening your nervous system through specific physical exercises and breathwork designed for this purpose is key. For Type 9s, a strong nervous system means conflict will feel less anxiety-provoking.
As part of the Body/Instinctive triad in the Enneagram, Type 9s have a sensitive issue around anger. They subconsciously deny and under-express it, and it often comes as a surprise to Type 9s that they have unprocessed anger. They often don’t recognize this. Tuning into the energy of anger that is in their body is another important step. Recognizing and expressing anger is part of the growth path for Type 9s.
Take the first small step
“I realized I was growing when my wife did something I didn’t like, and it only took me two days to tell her. Normally, it would have been weeks if I had even said anything at all.” Matt, Type 9
If you’ve spent your life avoiding conflict, engaging in conflict will feel uncomfortable, but that’s the way for Type 9s to become powerful. And if you’ve done your nervous system work and have tools to recognize and process your anger, taking the first small step becomes possible. Type 9s usually start with small issues and work up to engaging in conflict around big issues. Many report they love the freedom of finally speaking their mind.
If you’ve got Type 9s in your life, share this with them. It’s a turbulent moment in history, and we need more of our Peacemakers at their most powerful to help the rest of us come together.