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Type Seven: The Need to Avoid Pain

Enneagram Part Three: Head Center

Type Seven: The Need to Avoid Pain
Friday, March 13, 2020

Holy Idea: Holy Wisdom, Holy Work, Holy Plan

Virtue: Sobriety

Passion: Gluttony [1]

Sevens have been called the “Peter Pans” of the world, yet many Sevens, including our own Director of the Center for Action and Contemplation, are completely dedicated to the hard work of healing and transforming the world. Their own inner hope and optimism reveal what’s possible and they want to share it with the world. On a soul level they share Julian of Norwich’s vision that “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” [2] CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault resonates with many aspects of the Seven typology, seeing in this type a freedom and fullness of being. [3] Chris Heuertz, author of The Sacred Enneagram, shares a description of the often delightful and complex Sevens.

Sevens, the most energetic of all Enneagram types, are a source of imagination and freedom in the world. Due to their charming and winsome energy, Sevens are often mistaken as feeling types. Because they come across as very heart-forward, they are frequently assumed to be in their hearts, but Sevens are actually rooted in the Head Center.

[Richard here: It can be hard to recognize how Sevens operate out of the Head Center; they are always “doing” and “emoting” positive feelings, but if you scratch beneath the surface, you find a deep-seated fear, present in all the head types.]

Their fundamental need is to avoid pain, so Sevens are perpetually looking for distractions and opportunities to stay as far away as possible from their inner aches. [It largely works for them for much of their life. . . but not always! And that is often their undoing. So they must watch for their gluttonous attitude very carefully.]

The Childhood Wound of a Seven was experienced in relationship to the nurturing energy of their caregiver; they felt frustrated because they weren’t nurtured enough, always needing more. And so Sevens take on a self-nurturing posture as a means of coping with their residual pain and frustration.

The Basic Fear of the Seven is of dispossession and deprivation. Scarcity of options and opportunity creates tremendous anxiety for Sevens. They are terrified of being stuck with their own pain, so they stay overly active to stave off the inner ache they desperately and frenetically avoid facing. . . .

The traditional Passion of the Seven is gluttony . . . their determination to overdo everything that brings them gratification—feasting on options and opportunities until they are overwhelmed by their indulgences and sickened by their excessive addiction to pleasure [that sometimes appears as fun, travel, and distraction].

Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson write about how Essence emerges in Sevens:

Sevens realize on the most profound level of their consciousness that life really is a gift. One of the big lessons that the Seven offers is that there is nothing wrong with life, nothing wrong with the material world. It is the gift of the Creator. If we were not to take anything for granted, we would be flooded with joy and gratitude all the time. [4]

References and definitions:
[1] Christopher L. Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth (Zondervan: 2017), 131. Chris defines these terms as follows (see pages 246-248):

Holy Ideas: The unique state of mental well-being, specific to each of the nine types, in which the mind is centered and connected with the True Self.

Virtues: Like the nine fruits of the Spirit [see Galatians 5:22-23] the Virtues are . . . gifts of a centered heart that is present, nonreactive, and at rest in the True Self.

Passions: The inverse of the Virtues are the Passions . . . [which] emerge as the heart indulges the Basic Fear that it will never return to its essence and therefore seeks out coping mechanisms that ultimately compound each type’s state of emotional imbalance.

Chris’ upcoming podcast, Enneagram Mapmakers: Exploring the Interior Landscapes of the Ego (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), begins March 24, 2020 and is available for subscription on most podcast platforms!

[2] Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, chapters 1 and 27 (Long Text), trans. Elizabeth Spearing (Penguin Classics: 1998), 41, 79.

[3] See Cynthia Bourgeault, Love Is the Answer. What Is the Question? (Northeast Wisdom: 2018), 145-154. See also Cynthia Bourgeault, “Which Enneagram Type Is Cynthia?” https://www.contemplative.org/enneagram-cynthia/.

[4] Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types (Bantam Books: 1999), 286.

Adapted from Christopher L. Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth (Zondervan: 2017), 131-132.

Image credit: Female Head (detail), Leonardo da Vinci, second half of 15th century, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: What [Eastern traditions] all agree on is the true nature of Mind is complete stillness, silence, and spaciousness. Boundless stillness, peace, clarity, forever and ever, amen. So I would say that the Head Center gives us the possibility of sensing, recognizing the Eternal Presence that’s right here in the midst of phenomena. —Russ Hudson
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