Thursday, September 8, 2011

Boredom and Enneagram Personality Testing

Last week, a friend mentioned she is a "type six." Uh, what does that mean? She explained it's a type of personality testing called "enneagram." (any-a-gram) Her husband is a psychologist. I started looking into it online and have been fascinated. I picked up a couple books from the library about it, too.

I'm a hard-core "type seven - the enthusiast" with a side of "type eight - the leader." (oops, from that one I draw a lot of the anger and aggression type issues.) But I'm very much a Seven:

We have named this personality type The Enthusiast because Sevens are enthusiastic about almost everything that catches their attention. They approach life with curiosity, optimism, and a sense of adventure, like “kids in a candy store” who look at the world in wide-eyed, rapt anticipation of all the good things they are about to experience. They are bold and vivacious, pursuing what they want in life with a cheerful determination. They have a quality best described by the Yiddish word “chutzpah”—a kind of brash “nerviness.”

Although Sevens are in the Thinking Center, this is not immediately apparent because they tend to be extremely practical and engaged in a multitude of projects at any given time. Their thinking is anticipatory: they foresee events and generate ideas “on the fly,” favoring activities that stimulate their minds—which in turn generate more things to do and think about. Sevens are not necessarily intellectual or studious by any standard definition, although they are often intelligent and can be widely read and highly verbal. Their minds move rapidly from one idea to the next, making Sevens gifted at brainstorming and synthesizing information. Sevens are exhilarated by the rush of ideas and by the pleasure of being spontaneous, preferring broad overviews and the excitement of the initial stages of the creative process to probing a single topic in depth.

Devon, a successful business woman, shares with us some of the inner workings of her Seven mindset.
“I am definitely a list person. It’s not really for memory since I have a great memory. It’s more for down-loading information so that my mind won’t spin on it. For example, I was at a concert where the tickets were hard to get and very expensive. I couldn’t sit through it. My mind was torturing me with the things I needed to do. Finally, I had to get up and leave. This was very upsetting to the person I went with and I missed a good show.”
Sevens are frequently endowed with quick, agile minds, and can be exceptionally fast learners. This is true both of their ability to absorb information (language, facts, and procedures) and their ability to learn new manual skills—they tend to have excellent mind-body coordination, and manual dexterity (typewriting, piano playing, tennis). All of this can combine to make a Seven into the quintessential "Renaissance person."

Ironically, Sevens' wide-ranging curiosity and ability to learn quickly can also create problems for them. Because they are able to pick up many different skills with relative ease, it becomes more difficult for them to decide what to do with themselves. As a result, they also do not always value their abilities as they would if they had to struggle to gain them. When Sevens are more balanced however, their versatility, curiosity, and ability to learn can lead them to extraordinary achievement.

The root of their problem is common to all of the types of the Thinking Center: they are out of touch with the inner guidance and support of their Essential nature. As with Fives and Sixes, this creates a deep anxiety in Sevens. They do not feel that they know what to do or how to make choices that will be beneficial to themselves and others. Sevens cope with this anxiety in two ways. First, they try to keep their minds busy all of the time. As long as Sevens can keep their minds occupied, especially with projects and positive ideas for the future, they can, to some extent, keep anxiety and negative feelings out of conscious awareness. Likewise, since their thinking is stimulated by activity, Sevens are compelled to stay on the go, moving from one experience to the next, searching for more stimulation. This is not to say that Sevens are "spinning their wheels." They generally enjoy being practical and getting things done.

Frances, a successful business consultant, sounds more energetic than is humanly possible—and yet, she is a typical Seven:
“I am highly, highly productive. At the office, I am joyful and my mind is running at its best. I might create several marketing campaigns for a client, work on the outline for an upcoming seminar, talk out a difficult problem with a client on the telephone, close two deals, make a project list, dictate a few letters and look up to see that it’s 9:30 a.m. and my assistant is coming in to start our work for the day.”
Second, Sevens cope with the loss of Essential guidance by using the “trial and error” method: they try everything to make sure they know what is best. On a very deep level, Sevens do not feel that they can find what they really want in life. They therefore tend to try everything—and ultimately may even resort to anything as a substitute for what they are really looking for. (“If I can’t have what will really satisfy me, I’ll enjoy myself anyway. I’ll have all kinds of experiences—that way I will not feel bad about not getting what I really want.”)

We can see this in action even in the most trivial areas of their daily lives. Unable to decide whether he wants vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry ice cream, a Seven will want all three flavors—just to be sure that he does not miss out on the “right” choice. Having two weeks for a vacation and a desire to visit Europe brings a similar quandary. Which countries and cities to visit? Which sites to see? The Seven’s way of dealing with this will be to cram as many different countries, cities, and attractions into his vacation as possible. While they are scrambling after exciting experiences, the real object of their heart’s desire (their personal Rosebud, as it were) may be so deeply buried in their unconscious that they are never really aware of precisely what it is.

Furthermore, as Sevens speed up their pursuit of whatever seems to offer freedom and satisfaction, they tend to make worse choices, and they are less able to be satisfied because everything is experienced indirectly, through the dense filter of their fast-paced mental activity. The result is that Sevens end up anxious, frustrated, and enraged, with fewer resources available to them physically, emotionally, or financially. They may end up ruining their health, their relationships, and their finances in their search for happiness.

Gertrude is busy establishing her career and family now, but she looks back at how this tendency contributed to her getting a rough start in life.
“There wasn’t anything to do at home or in the tiny Southern town I grew up in. I was dying to get out of it and go someplace more exciting. When I was 16, I started dating, and before long I got pregnant, but the father didn’t want to marry me—which was okay since I didn’t want to marry him, either. It wasn’t too long before I found somebody else, and we got married, and I got to move to a larger city. But it didn’t really work out the way I wanted because after I had the baby, we broke up and I had to move back home. I stayed there for a year or two to get my feet on the ground. When things were looking bleak, I married someone else. I’m 19 now and I guess I’ve done a lot already.”
On the positive side, however, Sevens are extremely optimistic people—exuberant and upbeat. They are endowed with abundant vitality and a desire to fully participate in their lives each day. They are naturally cheerful and good humored, not taking themselves too seriously, or anything else for that matter. As we have seen, the Basic Desire of Sevens is to be satisfied, happy, and fulfilled, and when they are balanced within themselves, their joy and enthusiasm for life naturally affect everyone around them. They remind us of the pure pleasure of existence—the greatest gift of all.

This is just a little cut and paste from online, the books I have are less superficial of an explanation. But that's all largely true. Something about the first explanation of "my type" that I read online caught my eye: BOREDOM. Several places mentioned that for this type, boredom is seen as the ultimate punishment. Last week, before I read the Enneagram stuff, I blogged:
It's a lazy three-day weekend here. The kids are with their dad, and I really don't have any plans! This is both a good thing and a bad thing. I have yet to really fill up my free time on holiday weekends since the divorce, so it can be a melancholy thing for me. Or I can get busy and be glad for the extra time away from the office! I'm trying to push it in that direction, of course.
I can't process boredom. For me, boredom leads to depression, so I have to keep myself very busy, or I start down a dark path. But, one of these books spoke to my heart when it said (paraphrasing) you get to doing too many things and not focusing on any of them, then you don't derive pleasure from them, so you get more and more frustrated because you're doing all these fun things but not having your life must suck.

Uh, that's me in a nutshell. One book advised that what I really need to do is "BE PRESENT." In every moment, so I can focus on it, enjoy it, and learn to be satisfied.

The point of this whole blog is that I am kid-free and friendless tonight, and I have been in a mini-turmoil all day. I've got a 90-minute massage scheduled for 5:00pm (because I am just that good at self-care, haha). Afterward, I have a few options:

  • Go to art museum, see exhibit I've been wanting to see and it closes 9/11;
  • Go to WLS support group, of which I have not attended in a couple months;
  • Go to volunteer program open house to assist, of which I have already been politely turned down as they are fully staffed for the evening;
  • Phone a friend;
  • Go home and do my damn laundry.
Any of these options would be fine, but I am all spun out not being able to settle on any of them. Going home will leave me feeling unsatisfied and lonely, but I've got tons of stuff I could be doing there.  I also acknowledge that if I go home, I will not do any of those items.

So, I've printed out my art museum ticket (free, because I'm a member), I've emailed about the volunteer thing, I've confirmed on my calendar that WLS support group is tonight. And I've gotten more and more unhappy all day, not knowing what to do and not being happy with any of my options.

This is my new area of focus - being present. I am big on "I will be happy when..."
  • We move out of the little condo into a house
  • I lose weight
  • I get a boyfriend
  • I get a new job
  • etc, etc
I am trying to correct this behavior because I can get very down about not having a boyfriend - but I have had profiles on a couple online dating sites and the men I have talked to are such L-O-S-E-R-S and I know I will not go down that path...I genuinely would prefer being alone over having a boyfriend just to have one. So I know there's this internal restlessness I have to satisfy in myself somehow, or I'll just end up with a boyfriend and want to replace him (I feel this is a strong likelihood, anyway, haha, as something inside me that was jaded with my divorce is just not changing yet...).

Anyway. These are some of the thinks I think. 


  1. I think you should go to WLS. Girl, you've lost 90 lbs, aren't you going to be the super start there tonight? Can you imagine how much encouragement and positive "ness" you will get from the other members?

  2. Go to a support group meeting! IT will do GREAT things.

    I just looked into that test.. Apparently, I'm a type 2. And, after reading up on that. I can TOTALLY see it.