According to the Enneagram, each of us has a direction of disintegration or stress. We can recognize when we’re regressing in our development when we start to “disintegrate”. Disintegration usually happens when we’re acting out under stress, or we’ve pushed our natural type behaviors to the limit. In a period of disintegration we use coping mechanisms that may be destructive or manipulative. That said, being in a period of disintegration isn’t always bad – sometimes the tactics employed are necessary for our survival. You can see the areas of disintegration in the graphic below:
When you’re stressed you tend to behave more like an unhealthy version of another enneagram type. Ones disintegrate to four, twos disintegrate to eight, threes disintegrate to nine, fours disintegrate to two, and so on. This article will explore some of the ways that each enneagram type behaves or “acts out” under stress or during periods of intense uncertainty. We’ll also give you tips so that you don’t stay stuck in that place!
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Here’s What You’re Like On a Bad Day, Based on Your Enneagram Type
Normally pragmatic and morally conscious, you pride yourself on knowing right from wrong and being proactive and hard-working. However, when you’re stressed, you start to feel overwhelmed and stifled by people who you sense are being lazy or taking advantage of you. You tend to become more emotional and fixated on an “escape” from your troubles. In anger you might fantasize about waving goodbye to your family as you drive away to a new and better life. Your fantasies might take on romantic tones as you envision a different partner who will finally understand how hard you’ve worked and appreciate you for who you really are. Of course, you rarely, if ever, act on these feelings. Being responsible, doing what’s right, and being dependable are all vitally important you and as such you’d rarely actually abandon the people who need you. But even this realization can make you feel disenchanted and stifled. You may start to resent others, especially people who count on you. Envy becomes a problem and you start becoming jealous of others who seem to “have it all”. The more stress builds the more emotional you might become and less solid and stable.
One Way for Ones to Avoid Stress:
You are someone who tends to push yourself beyond your limits. You feel like you must do everything perfectly and be beyond reproach in every aspect of your life. Exhaustion, either emotional or physical, will push you into a state of disintegration. It may feel irresponsible or even impossible, but try to find some ways to give yourself regular breaks from the ever-mounting to-do lists you inevitably create. Leave time in your schedule for relaxation and leisure. You’ll be able to think more clearly and be a better version of yourself this way.
As a Two you are known for being kind and generous. You genuinely care about other people and want to make their lives easier and better. However, when you’re extremely stressed you tend to become uncharacteristically brash and direct. This can shock people who are used to you being gentle and considerate with criticism. It’s as if you’re revealing a more confrontational, “tough” side of yourself and it can be frightening for those who have only seen you in a healthy state. You tend to push yourself harder, feeling that you must work and get things done to keep all your responsibilities afloat. This feeling of pressure and the need to accomplish goals can lead to burnout and a sense of rage towards people who you feel have taken you for granted or “used” you. In retaliation you might make threats to others or point out just how much you do in hopes that they’ll realize how vital you are to them. You hate this side of yourself, and you often feel a strong sense of shame after acting out. Keep in mind that this phase is often a way of coping with burnout.
One Way for Twos to Avoid Stress:
You tend to give of yourself so freely because you feel like if you aren’t generous or kind-hearted enough then you will be unworthy of love or acceptance. It’s important for you to develop the ability to set boundaries. Learn how to be aware of yourself and to put up invisible barriers when others are struggling or complaining. This doesn’t mean that you stop caring about them or that you don’t listen, but you don’t allow it to become your trauma/part of who YOU are. It’s not your job to “fix” everything for everyone else, in fact many times it’s better for others to learn to fix things themselves. Learn when it’s important to help others and when you need to take care of your own health, well-being, and interests.
As a three you are driven towards success and achievement. You pride yourself on being goal-oriented and competent and you strive to appear capable in everything that you do. Alongside this you can also become overly fixated on how you appear and overly attached to accomplishment. This can cause you to become stressed or out of touch with the people and things that really matter to you. When this creates stress or uncertainty you tend to switch gears and become more complacent than usual. You slow down and become more accommodating and diplomatic. People who know you might find it strange that you’ve switched from being your normal charismatic self to being oddly vacant or disillusioned. Instead of efficiently working towards your goals you might fill your days with random odd-jobs or busywork as a way to numb yourself to all the stress and insecurity that you’re feeling.
One Way for Threes to Avoid Stress:
Notice when you are starting to “tune out” so that you can achieve a goal or keep up appearances. When you feel yourself becoming vacant and inauthentic then you’ll know you’re heading towards disintegration. This can be your reminder to re-assess your life and make room for some much needed rest and a break to compose yourself and recharge. Take some deep breaths throughout the day and remind yourself who you are, what you want, and how you are feeling. Get in touch with your authentic feelings, needs, and desires to ensure that you are on the path that is actually best for you.
Individualistic and enigmatic, as a four you crave a life of meaning and creativity. You long for self-expression and identity and you hope to discover something that sets you apart from others and makes you unique. Your type tends to struggle with bouts of melancholy and loneliness because you may feel that your best achievements have been mere fantasy. You can get lost in a world of your own and feel disconnected from reality and the people you love. As a way of coping with this, during stress you may try to break out of your shell and connect with other people. This might mean that you emotionally express yourself or create an emotional crisis with someone so that they will confirm their affection for you or offer reassurance and consolation. Or this might mean that you simply give to others and serve in an effort to earn their love or receive confirmation of their loyalty. You tend to worry about other people’s sincerity towards you. Do they really care? Is it just an act? Are you alone in the world? Has anything you’ve done actually mattered? These are the kinds of questions that plague you. You feel torn between wanting to share your emotions and wanting to hide them for fear of being misunderstood.
One Way for Fours to Avoid Stress:
If possible, set up your environment for well-being and progress. You tend to get stressed when you realize that you’ve been secluded or stuck in a fantasy-world for too long. As a four you tend to need inspiration in order to initiate something, but inspiration will be more likely to happen if you have a life set up to support your creativity and emotional well-being. Make it a habit to text or email one friend or family member each morning with something you appreciate about them. Set a journal by your bed with a pen so that you can write out creative thoughts as you have them or record something you are thankful for each day. Set up a desk with art supplies or your favorite books to trigger inspiration and creativity. Fill your refrigerator with healthy snacks so that you don’t ignore your physical needs in the heat of burning thoughts and emotions. The healthier and more inspired you are, the less likely you are to experience stress.
As a Five you are very private and reserved. You like a lot of time to yourself to pore over information and investigate how the world works. You don’t mind questioning long-standing traditions or investigating things that other people would find unusual. But sometimes all the detachment from people and the immersion in your inner world can create a feeling of being disconnected from yourself and the world around you. You can start to have anxiety about strange or terrifying things. As you experience stress you try to retreat more and more into your own thoughts where you feel no one can harm you. When this coping mechanism fails to help you then you might suddenly switch gears and throw yourself into activity. You want to do whatever you can to distract yourself from your growing fears – whether that’s bouncing from one experience or idea to the next or taking on an overload of sensory stimulation and indulgent behaviors.
One Way for Fives to Avoid Stress:
Get in touch with what you need, how you feel, and risk facing your emotions head on. As a Five you tend to ignore your pain and hurts by focusing on gathering knowledge. Facing your grief and anxiety can allow you to become more grounded in who you are and feel less fragmented and disconnected. Reach out to someone you trust, a friend, family member, or counselor, and make your needs known. This will feel awkward at first because you tend to feel that you shouldn’t expect support from anyone. You might even feel suspicious of people who seem too eager to help you. But the more isolated you become the more you risk encountering stress and anxiety.
As a Six you are skeptical, hard-working, and anxious. You crave a feeling of security in the world, and you try to create “social backup” in case things go wrong. But no matter how much outer security you try to create, it often feels like inner security is evanescent and unattainable. You have a hard time trusting yourself because you are so full of questions and so aware of your own weaknesses. Simultaneously, you struggle to trust others. When stress becomes too much for you, you become more like an unhealthy Three. Success and achievement start to drive you and “keeping up appearances” becomes more of a focus in your life. You want to win people over, avoid rejection, and make a positive impression on the world at large. You may even become boastful and self-promoting as a way of dealing with your growing insecurity and wavering self-esteem.
One Way for Sixes to Avoid Stress:
An over-abundance of anxiety tends to drive you into disintegration and stress. Try to deal with this by consciously quieting your mind throughout the day. Meditating, praying, or minimizing some of your responsibilities can help you to calm down. Talking to a therapist can also be a good thing. Notice how much time you’re throwing away by worrying and realize how much this hinders you from enjoying life, being productive, and being the kind of person you want to be. Make a conscious effort to choose gratitude and to choose to look at what’s positive around you. When something good happens, stop yourself from finding another anxiety or worry or “to-do” that needs to be done. Let yourself breathe, relax, and appreciate the moment.
Fun-loving, optimistic, and adventurous, Sevens like you are often the life of the party. You have a ceaseless desire for new experiences and enjoy getting swept up in possibilities that you can pursue with the people you love. Unfortunately, sometimes your taste for the new leads you to feeling like the “grass is always greener” somewhere else. You fear being trapped or bored, so you fill up your time with as many projects and experiences as possible. Under stress you become aware that you need to focus in order to accomplish things. You change your pace and try to “buckle down” and get some of your goals accomplished. You force yourself to stay on track, but this drives you to frustration. You feel torn between wanting to distract yourself and wanting to rigidly create order so you can feel some semblance of control in your life. During these times you can become focused on “teaching” others and showing them the right way to do things. You become more critical, impersonal, and impatient with yourself and the people around you. Anger might bubble up and you can become especially sarcastic and nitpicky.
One Way for Sevens to Deal With/Avoid Stress:
When you find yourself looking for a distraction or improvement to what you already have, pause for a moment. Take a second to tune into what you’re feeling inside and see if you’re trying to distract yourself from some kind of anxiety or worry. Instead of assuming you are “bored”, look deeper. Is there something you’re afraid of that you’re trying to avoid? Begin to identify your feelings, your impatience, and don’t shortchange yourself by half-finishing everything you start. Find joy in ordinary, peaceful moments and take time to slow down. It will take some practice and probably feel aggravating at first, but doing this regularly can help you to stay on track with your objectives better and avoid these stress responses.
Independent, strong-willed, and determined, you strive to take care of yourself and not be trapped or controlled by anyone else. You’ve often felt that it was up to you alone to protect yourself and that others can’t be counted on completely. You are skeptical of authority, eager to be free, and extremely protective of the people you love or people you feel are bullied. When you feel stressed, it’s often because you’ve pushed yourself to the limits of your type. Your assertive, sometimes confrontational way of handling things leads you to a challenge that seems insurmountable. As a way of coping with stress you try to get alone, withdraw into your mind, gather your strength, and get as much information as possible. You might become uncharacteristically brooding, reserved, and obsessed with reading or analyzing data. You might feel more high-strung and less in tune with your body and your natural instincts. You feel oddly detached and quiet, which is surprising to those who are used to seeing you as assertive and outspoken.
One Way for Eights to Deal With/Avoid Stress:
You’re not the kind of person who wants to air your problems to the world or dwell on your miseries. You like to be active and constructive and always doing and accomplishing. But getting in touch with your feelings can be very beneficial for you. Examine your feelings. Talk to someone you trust about them. Many times you become overwhelmed by stress because you haven’t let anyone in and you take on too much instead of dealing with your hurt or pain. Talking to someone else will not only unburden you but create deeper intimacy in your existing relationships.
Calm, optimistic, and spiritually driven, you seek to find connection with the big picture and with other people. You see yourself as even-tempered and insightful. However, what others may not realize is that you struggle with knowing yourself and your potential. You struggle to have a sense of your own identity and you can have difficulty standing up for what you truly believe in because you hate upsetting the peace or causing disharmony. This can lead to stress because you might constantly repress your own desires and choices and feel detached from what’s really important to you. When this eventually leads to overwhelm and anxiety you become obsessed with accomplishing things and creating social security. You feel like you need to tie up all your loose ends and create contingency plans for worst-case scenarios. You also tend to become more reactive and passive-aggressive to other people. Normally an optimist, people are surprised to find that you have a hidden pessimistic, sarcastic side. Suddenly you are venting about all the problems in the world and laying out ways that other people have failed you that you’ve ignored in the past. You might have sudden and unsettling displays of anger that confound the people who are used to seeing you as peaceful and even-keeled.
One Way for Nines to Avoid/Deal with Stress:
Learn to say no to other people and their needs sometimes. One of the biggest reasons you wind up stressed out and overwhelmed is because you’ve forgotten yourself in an effort to help others or maintain an environment that is harmonious. Don’t acquiesce to others needs only to regret it later. Be brave when stating your opinions. It might feel uncomfortable at first but it will help you to get in touch with who you really are and avoid stressful experiences in the future.
What Are Your Thoughts?
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