Each of us has unique childhood struggles that create patterns of behavior as we grow up. For some of us, we felt that we were better off if we stayed in the background. Speaking up would cause more harm than good. For others, we felt like we had to be hyper-responsible because our parents were vulnerable or distracted. Some of us had beautiful childhoods, but there was an underlying message that we had to earn our love through acts of selflessness.
What was the childhood wound that you experienced? What underlying message did you receive (either inadvertently or purposefully) in childhood that has influenced you as a person? That’s what we’ll be looking at in today’s article.
Disclaimer: Every childhood is different and every child interprets their experiences differently. Each of us has a filter through which we understand the world around us. These childhood experiences and wounds are much more nuanced than they will appear in this article because every experience is completely unique.
Table of contents
- The Childhood Wounds of Every Enneagram Type
- The Enneagram One Child – Self-Judgment
- The Enneagram Two Child – Self-Sacrifice
- The Enneagram Three Child – Rejection of Core Self
- The Enneagram Four Child – Rejection of Identity
- The Enneagram Five Child – Rejection of Intimacy
- The Enneagram Six Child – Rejection of Trust
- The Enneagram Seven Child – Absence of Nurturing
- The Enneagram Eight Child – Rejection of Childhood
- The Enneagram Nine Child – The Rejection of Their Voice
Estimated reading time: 15 minutes
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The Childhood Wounds of Every Enneagram Type
The Enneagram One Child – Self-Judgment
As children, Ones felt disconnected from the protective figure in their life. This could have been the mother or the father, depending on the nature of their home. Sometimes this means that the parent they thought should be strong and protective was abusive. It could also mean that that parent was distracted, arbitrary, overly strict, or overly lenient. Sometimes, in especially religious households, the child felt that the God, or father, of their religion was a fearful being they had to work hard to “please.”
To cope with this feeling of disconnection, Ones made themselves their own judges and critics. They developed their own code of ethics and list of rules – and this code was strict and to be followed to the letter. They developed a relentless feeling of never being acceptable; a feeling that they must always try to be better. In fact, their own feelings and desires were nearly always put on the backburner in favor of toeing the line, being responsible, and improving themselves. They tried to repress their emotions, especially anger. However, this emotion typically showed up in judgmental, critical behavior. It may have appeared as the One clenching his teeth while he washed the dishes, or rigidly memorizing the ten commandments as thoughts of hellfire and doom raced through his mind.
The One” self-policed” as a child, feeling that if they punished themselves no one else would punish them or see them as a failure. They wanted to outdo the expectations of the protective figure who had in some way failed them.
Find out more about the Enneagram One here.
The Enneagram Two Child – Self-Sacrifice
As children, Twos felt ambivalent towards the protective figure in their homes. In some way, they felt that there was a lack of either nurturance, guidance, or structure coming from the protective figure. To deal with this, Twos created an identity that they felt would be complementary to the protective figure. They developed the underlying feeling that the only way they could earn love was through selflessness, goodness, and repression of their own needs. The Two learned not to ask for help, not to assert their own needs, and to give to others more than they gave to themselves. In their quest for worth, they often learned to stifle and repress their own desires. Their self-love became conditional upon their earning a sense of worth through taking care of others.
Twos want to feel needed by people. They want to feel liked and as if they belong. This gives them a sense of security. In a child, this could show up as The Two doing the household chores of younger siblings or taking on the responsibilities of the parents as a way to make their lives easier and also earn their family’s love and affection. Through being dutiful and nurturing, they feel they can finally earn the love that most children take for granted.
Twos become healthier and happier when they learn that they are loved for who they are, not just what they do. But it can be a long and arduous lesson for them to internalize because they are so fixated on earning love through self-sacrifice.
Learn more about the Enneagram Two here.
The Enneagram Three Child – Rejection of Core Self
As children, Threes felt deeply connected to the nurturing figure in their life. This could have been the mother or father, depending on the home. They learned to intuit the nurturing parent’s needs before they were expressly stated, and strived to meet those needs. They sensed that they were loved or valued for what they achieved rather than who they were. When they received a look of approval, they basked in it, and worked hard to gain that look of approval again. Unlike the Two, who tried to gain approval through being needed or nurturing, Threes gained approval by achieving goals, success, and benchmarks. They gathered tokens of achievement in hopes of being loved. These could have been actual medals or trophies or straight A’s.
Threes developed the habit of working on their ego self rather than their true self. They struggled with an underlying feeling that their true self was undeserving or worthless. In secret, they often believed that if people knew who they really were they would reject or abandon them. So they tried to look good, smile brightly, and win prizes or achievements that would distract them and others from the true self inside.
The Enneagram Four Child – Rejection of Identity
As children, Fours felt disconnected from both the parental figures in their lives. This could have been for extreme or mild reasons. Some Fours were abused by both their parents, while others just felt like their parents didn’t see them for who they really were. In many cases, Fours felt like their parent’s advice and comfort was very generic; as if it were meant for a child who was totally different than they were.
Because Fours felt so out of place in their own families, they tried early on to accept what made them different – to notice it and evaluate it. This was a coping mechanism that helped them deal with feelings of rejection and isolation. However, through developing this coping mechanism they often set themselves on a trajectory of feeling unusual, different, and out of touch with ordinary people. More than most things, Fours want to find their identity because they believe this will take away the feelings of melancholy and loneliness that have plagued them their whole lives.
Many Fours daydream about the possibility of meeting someone who will finally see them for who they really are. Because they felt so disconnected from their families growing up, they hope to find that connection in a friend or romantic partner. Unfortunately, many people fail to meet this idealized “other” that the Four hopes to find. However, with time and maturity, Fours learn to accept what ties them to other people rather than focusing on what makes them different. Through doing this, they are able to form longer-lasting bonds and friendships.
Find out more about Fours here.
The Enneagram Five Child – Rejection of Intimacy
In childhood, Fives felt ambivalent towards both their parental figures. They were never quite sure what their place was and where they belonged. Essentially, they felt like “odd ducks,” forever on the outside looking in rather than nurtured and accepted as one of the group. Sometimes there were obvious reasons for this: Parents may have been alcoholic, abusive, or played favorites. In other situations, it could have been that they just didn’t feel understood, or they picked up on clues that made them feel a particular way even if their parents didn’t intend for it to be so. But whatever the case, Fives felt like little they could do was wanted or needed by their family.
To cope with this feeling of “otherness,” Fives retreated from the outside world and from their families. They often hid away in their rooms, looking for a subject they could master or an area of expertise that would allow them to find their place in their families or in society. This area of expertise needed to be something unique to themselves. If all their siblings were learning to play the piano, for example, then they would learn to play the accordion.
There is sort of an unspoken message from Fives that says, “Don’t ask too much of me, and I won’t ask too much of you.” They resent intrusions and demands on their time. Close physical affection can feel overwhelming and bothersome to them. They feel that they need as much time as possible to themselves to devote to mastering their subjects of interest. They learn to distance themselves from their emotions and identify themselves as their thoughts. They may believe their thoughts to be good, while the outside world is bad. At average to unhealthy levels, they believe if they can avoid expectations from others they will be happier.
Find out more about Fives here.
The Enneagram Six Child – Rejection of Trust
In childhood, Sixes felt connected to the protective figure in their home. However, this connection wasn’t always positive. They internalized their relationship with this figure and learned to depend on them for a sense of security or guidance rather than trusting their own inner voice. If the authority figure was unjust or malevolent in some way, then the Six would internalize their anger and direct it at themselves, becoming self-destructive. If the protective figure violated their trust, they would become distrustful and rebellious of all authorities. If the protective figure failed in any way, the Six child would internalize this failure and respond In kind. Usually, this results in the Six feeling ambivalent towards authority.
Sixes crave the security of authority and the assurance of a support network, but they also distrust and doubt authorities and others (including themselves).
The Six abandons their own inner voice in an attempt to gain support from protective figures. They hope that with enough support they can finally feel secure and become independent. They feel separated from their own internal guidance, and can either become agreeable or aggressive in an effort to find their “people.” They feel plagued by a need to find the “right” course of action. But they don’t trust themselves – they usually have an “inner committee” of imagined authority figures, friends, and various mentors that they have to please before they move forward. They have imaginary dialogues with this inner committee trying to figure out how these other people would feel about it before they make a decision. Their doubt, anxiety, and tendency towards overthinking becomes a burden that they can only get rid of through growth and maturity.
Read this next: The Enneagram Six Child In-Depth
The Enneagram Seven Child – Absence of Nurturing
In childhood, Sevens felt disconnected from the nurturing figure in their home. This could have been the mother, father, or grandparent – whoever was doing the bulk of the nurturing and caretaking. For whatever reason, whether it was abuse or misunderstandings, the Seven felt that they couldn’t count on getting the nurturance they needed on a consistent, dependable level.
In order to deal with this, Sevens learned to focus on “transitional objects” or toys and activities that would feed the emptiness inside. They developed the unconscious message that they needed to nurture themselves because nobody else would do it adequately. So they would seek out distractions, activities, possibilities, and objects that would excite their senses and keep them busy. Gaining whatever they thought would make them happy became symbolic of having the nurturing that they always felt was just out of reach.
Find out more about the Enneagram Seven here.
The Enneagram Eight Child – Rejection of Childhood
In childhood, Eights felt ambivalent towards the nurturing figure in their home (often the mother, but not always). They learned that they could find their place in the family system by taking on the complementary role to the nurturing role – often a patriarchal, “strong” role. They decide to grow up quickly because they felt that by showing vulnerability or “softness” they would be hurt, rejected, or betrayed. They became little protectors and showed an exterior of toughness and invulnerability. They became the one that others turned to for strength and guidance. They felt that if they lost this role in the family that they might be rejected.
Eights deal with issues of survival and strength. They believe that they must be strong, decisive individuals who can handle anything without flinching. They become tough and aggressive and often hide their hurts, vulnerabilities, and feelings because that would be “weak.” They are often assertive and adventurous children, which results in them getting punished frequently. In order to defend their psyche from these frequent punishments, they decide to take on a “to hell with them” mindset, and an attitude of indifference and steely resolve. If they had an abusive childhood in some way, they will live in constant anticipation of rejection and betrayal. If they had a relatively nurturing childhood, they will probably take on a strong protective role. The more they felt rejected, the more they will harden their hearts and become aggressive in response.
Find out more about the Enneagram Eight here.
The Enneagram Nine Child – The Rejection of Their Voice
In childhood, Nines feel connected to both parents. This can be either good or bad. In a harmonious, supportive family setting, Nines can feel nurtured and supported and in turn nurture and support others and themselves. In a family where there was frequent conflict or turmoil, they learned to “tune out” the problems and try to numb themselves to the conflict inside.
Because Nines are almost empathically connected to both parental figures as children, they must keep those parental figures happy (or at least convince themselves they are happy). Yet because no one can completely alter the moods of everyone outside themselves, Nines cope by numbing out negative input and potentially living in denial.
You can imagine this as the child putting on headphones and playing with toys while the parents fight in another room. He imagines better times, tries to numb out his worries and fears, and distracts himself from his own feelings.
Because Nines are so connected to the people they love, they have a hard time differentiating their own feelings from those of others. Connection to their parents gives them a sense of identity rather than them forming their own unique identity. It’s as if they’ve been crowded out of their own bodies and minds. They learn to numb themselves to pain, to deny their own feelings, and to stay in the background.
As they develop and mature, Nines can learn to let go of the idea that their participation in the world is unimportant. They can connect with themselves and give voice to their feelings, even their anger, without feeling like it will cause their world to collapse.
Find out more about the Enneagram Nine here.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Do you agree with this article? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!
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Sources for this Article:
Personality Types – Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery by Don Richard Riso with Russ Hudson
The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson