It’s very human to try and escape the pain we all feel. We all avoid pain for one reason or another whether it’s emotional pain or physical pain. But how does each person differ in how they try to escape their pain?
In this article, we’re going to cover how each Enneagram type tries to avoid their emotional pain and my hope is that you’ll be surprised by what you’ll find out about yourself.
I want to frame this by first saying that each Enneagram type has what is called a “Passion” which refers to the emotional fixation of each type. In turn, each type has a virtue, which is the state that each Enneagram type can reach when we learn to let go of this fixation and move towards our more natural essence.
Be sure to leave a comment below with your Enneagram type and whether or not this resonates with you!
We’ll start by using the traditional method of teaching and begin with Enneagram 8.
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Enneagram 8 – Body Type
The passion of lust refers to intensity and immediacy more than it means anything specific about sex, though, sure. You could almost say that the passion for 8s is passion itself. 8s bring intensity and power to everything they do and the effort of avoiding pain is no exception.
One of the ways that 8s try to escape their pain is by staying in motion. 8s are doers, propelled by the anger that comes with being a body type. 8s are typically trying to avoid their relationship to vulnerability altogether, which is often done by never slowing down. This can be workaholism, focusing on a cause, or keeping yourself physically in motion.
Do you know how you can suddenly feel the pain when the adrenaline after a workout wears off? That’s sort of the thought process of an 8 if there’s a thought process at all. I don’t mean to suggest that there is no thought process insultingly as if to suggest 8s don’t use their brain but to highlight how much the body is in charge, especially at a younger age. Taking a moment to think things through takes some development.
8s want a physical and/or psychological presence that is large and in charge. You do this because when you stop to think about it, you feel a smallness and innocence on the inside. 8s have a great sensitivity because of the immense passion and emotion they feel, but when you perceive the world as being filled with the strong or the weak, which 8s do, then why chose to be seen as weak? I have great empathy for this feeling from 8s who ultimately want to feel safe like anyone else and this expression of intensity and power is their way of feeling safe in the world to them.
One way of projecting strength for you as an 8 is to also project or test your durability. While you, as an 8, may feel the pain at the moment, you certainly wouldn’t want anyone to know. And this may cause you to push past your limits in a detrimental way. Pain is a signal and if we ignore that signal then danger often lies ahead. You would like to think that your body can handle anything but if you push too hard then becoming dependent or helpless may become a self-fulfilling prophecy when you break something.
So, to tap into innocence for an 8 is to take a moment to think about your situation. Can your body or mind or heart truly handle the pain or are you trying to be tough about it? With innocence comes trust that those who love you or have expertise are expressing concern about you in a genuine and authentic way (and are not just trying to control you).
Physical pain or fear can be met with loud and fast breathing, punching and kicking something, or attempting to control the people around you as if you’re instructing them to feel your pain instead of you.
Intensity is the name of the game.
As I said, vulnerability and innocence can be a massive challenge for 8s but it’s also something you already experience all the time but don’t trust in.
Of course, you don’t want anyone to know that you feel small, innocent, and sensitive. But an 8’s strength is not strength, it’s sensitivity because it’s what you authentically feel all the time, which is why you focus on projecting strength at all.
My son is an 8 and while he’s only 6 years old, he’ll express to me that he doesn’t need help and is constantly testing his limits. When he gets hurt he lets out a yell that the whole state can hear. He feels a lot of big feelings and has a great passion for everything he does. I admire this sensitivity in him while not hindering his desire to be a big little dude. And he reminds me to be strong to keep him feeling safe and secure.
One of my favorite examples of an 8 is the main character of Molly Bloom in the movie Molly’s Game.
Learn more about Enneagram 8s: The Enneagram 8 – The Challenger
Enneagram 9 – Body Type
Virtue: Right Action
The Enneagram 9 is also a body type with the passion of Sloth. Sloth isn’t about being lazy in a physical sense, 9s can be quite active, but it’s about going to sleep to your own needs. 9s tend to focus on the outside world, sometimes to the point of not having any sense of how they’re feeling or any attunement to inner dialog. 9s avoid their pain by not having any access to their inner self due to such an intense focus on the outer world.
While 8s are always tapped into their body’s instinctual happenings, 9s tend to go to sleep to those instincts. Again, this doesn’t mean a 9 is lazy but you’re not honoring what you truly want, what may move you forward, or what may actually resolve an internal pain. Perhaps you see the resolution of your pain as selfish or there’s a fear of what might happen if you ignore others for a while and attend to yourself.
While 9s may see themselves as harmonizing and personable to their social communities and perhaps that community reflects that positive feeling about you, as a 9 that may be the case because you’re agreeable and don’t really bring yourself to interactions. Does anyone really know who you are? Do you know who you are? How much of yourself are you bringing to interactions?
I highlight this not to be harsh but to point out how important it is that when we look in the mirror we see ourselves, so we can see that we exist. When we connect with human beings and bring out our true selves in interactions then others can help us, support us, provide feedback, or help us heal our pain. And while you may be surrounded by smiles that you helped make happen, you’re never really truly there. It’s the self-fulfilling paradox of wanting to belong but never fully belonging because the internal part of you didn’t show up.
So, 9s hide from their pain through internal isolation and repressing their humanity from others. You may be giving yourself more to do that isn’t what you really want or need, attending to inner or outer wounds because you don’t see yourself as important, or would prefer that the outside world be the focus instead.
The virtue of Right-Action is making the conscious choice to check in with your internal state to see what you really need, what needs to be done, and what will lead to some sort of progress or even self-promotion. Pain can be coming from not going for the job you want, not proactively working on your relationship with authentic honesty about how you feel, or truly assessing if this community is where you’d even like to belong instead of chasing belonging in general.
So, how can you start to show up to life? To be human and live?
Ted Lasso is an excellent example of an Enneagram 9 who shows up for everyone else except for himself and shies away from talking about his inner space.
Learn more about Enneagram Nines: Seven Struggles of the Enneagram Nine Type
Enneagram 1 – Body Type
Most Ones probably won’t relate to feeling anger or will admit that what they feel most of the time is anger. That’s because most people don’t perceive anger as a positive and Enneagram 1s put most of their effort into feeling like, projecting failure to be, or behaving like a good person. And while many websites or YouTube videos will focus on the perfectionism piece of being a 1, the perfection is often in service of wrath or anger. The anger of a 1 is a feeling that perfection exists and “it’s my job to fix it.” I came into this world and it’s a damn mess!
This takes so much effort, tension, and righteousness.
An Enneagram 1 rules over its own body. While an 8 is primarily instinct, and a 9 denies their instinct altogether, a 1 is fighting with their own instincts. This is because there’s a desire within you to play and let go and not have to fix everything. There’s a wise self within you that knows that perfection is impossible and often unnecessary. But the compulsion carries you forward into correcting others, being highly disciplined, and frankly, judgmental.
Now, being a good person is relative to so many factors…culture, religion, family, etc. It could even mean demonstrating the “right way” to be in a particular industry. I believe my father-in-law is a 1, who drove trucks for 30 years and knows all of the safety procedures and rules with story after story about how he would demonstrate the best practices of being a truck driver or how he has been the measuring stick for doing what he did.
The Undertaker a.k.a. Mark Calaway is likely an Enneagram 1, demonstrating to the industry and to other wrestlers how to be a great wrestler over his 30-year career. You can hear a lot of his concerns about being good, and perfect, and the self-criticism that comes with that in the WWE documentary series called The Last Ride.
Ones escape their pain through a focus on demonstrating goodness or perfection to others, correcting themselves, or projecting judgment onto another person. This is particularly true for the sexual or one-to-one subtype. By focusing on the 1’s own goodness and the next task ahead in the path of perfection they keep themselves busy and therefore away from their pain.
Surprise, I’m also an Enneagram 1 (Sexual subtype) and I know that when I get overwhelmed, tired, feeling physical pain, or feeling inadequate then it’s like every little mistake I see outside of myself balloons 10x. Suddenly everyone is not parking correctly, my clients are demanding too much, my neighbors are too loud, my wife isn’t pulling her weight in practical matters, or the whole world has gone to shit and there’s no shortage of ammo to point my finger towards.
The challenge of being a 1 on the growth path of any kind is that we’re sensitive to criticism. And this sensitivity can get in the way of seeing how our own judgmental nature or feeling like we’re already perfect can keep us truly growing, which often involves a lot of letting go, trust, relaxation, play, and not trying too hard to fix everything. Growth for a 1 is beginning to see for ourselves how much we get in our own way by feeling all of this tension all the time and how much we’re playing God by knowing better than others and having all of the answers.
Making mistakes can be a major source of your internal pain as a 1. We’ve spent all of our lives avoiding mistakes, but that also means we have a greater sense of what mistakes are and we’ve made plenty ourselves. These stories and lessons can be highly beneficial to others who may not even see their mistakes as much as an Enneagram 1 might.
The movie The Guilty is a perfect expression of a Sexual 1, which I felt in my bones throughout the whole movie. Black Swan perfectly expressed self-preservation 1. Invictus for Social 1.
The Mayor in Chocolat may also be an Enneagram 1 and Luisa from Encanto is also possibly a 1.
Learn More About Enneagram Ones: 21 Signs That You’re an Enneagram One Type
Enneagram 2 – Heart Type
We now venture into the heart types…a land of relating and sadness. While heart types are generally focused on people and emotional connection, they’re primarily focused on sadness as their core emotion and being understood or fully “seen” in a heart-centric sense.
2s are ambivalent about their sadness, 3s avoid it, and 4s lean into it.
A 2’s way of trying to be seen is by helping others. 2s have a great attunement to people’s needs but specifically what may relieve their sadness. They can be quite intelligent and have excellent relating skills.
Now, in many places online you’ll see this helping referred to as a delightful cute thing, and when you’re younger that makes sense to think about it that way as you’re still developing your ego. But as you get older or are working on your development perhaps you’ll begin noticing that this isn’t an altruistic helping but a giving-to-get pattern.
2s won’t necessarily just help people, they may interject themselves into people’s lives, and their dramas, and perhaps be a bit bossy about what others should be doing with their lives.
All the heart types can take things personally because to a heart type everything is personal since they focus on people. It can be difficult to take a step back and look at information objectively or write an email without a personal jab or two in response to criticism.
Similar to 9s, they’ll be in motion to help people but while 9s are managing their environment without bringing themselves into the relationship, 2s are not shy about making themselves known and bringing their sense of self-importance to the fore. This is where the passion of Pride comes in. Because, again, it’s not just about helping people but it’s about ME helping someone. I am the person that can fix this or help you.
My favorite example is Jess from the show New Girl who compulsively tries to help her roommates with their relationship challenges all throughout the series. Nearly every episode expresses this fixation within Jess for some hilarious hijinks, as the kids say.
While 2s share that underlying sadness of a heart type, they work on helping others to relieve their sadness instead of focusing on their own. Because to put the focus on themselves would be embarrassing and reveal the pride underlying their motivation to help others. This makes asking for help and even expressing gratitude for help difficult. To ask for help would deny the internal sense of self-importance and to take in gratitude would also lower a sense of self-importance.
To not avoid pain is to step into humility and know that everything will be okay. That people can care about you without having done anything for them. And expressing gratitude will encourage them to keep supporting you more than interjecting yourself into their lives.
A great unhealthy 2 movie example is Lots-o from Toy Story 3.
Learn More About Enneagram Twos: 7 Struggles of the Enneagram Two Type
Enneagram 3 – Heart Type
The heart center of the Enneagram can also be referred to as the image center, and the most imaged focused is right in the center, the Enneagram 3. 3s can be referred to as the achiever but you might as well call them the looker because what they succeed in is creating the image of success. Now, this may include actual success financially or being high-status, but they do primarily focus on making sure they’re seen as successful first and foremost.
Of the 3 heart types, 3s move away from sadness the most obviously as they pursue achievement to be seen and loved. This achievement focus can be in constant service of avoiding that persistence of deeper sadness they themselves think isn’t very attractive.
3s can be such high achievers because they are attuned to the heart desires of others and often make money or receive accolades and success in their chosen field or community due to this attunement. It’s not just what works in an effective sense but attuning to what others find attractive or interesting. This can be in the realm of physical attraction or enlivening excitement in the heart space and engaging interest.
So avoiding pain for a 3 is an ever-present process of working hard on creating an attractive product, self, or service. Being attractive can also include being quite competent and skilled if that fits the style of success or could be in being persuasive and charming to reel in clients, fans, a high-value mate, or directly gaining resources like the self-preservation 3 would do.
There’s always something new to do, learn, or work on that keeps the workaholic 3 busy and out of sync with this internal or even external pain.
When 3s grow you begin to go towards what you truly want with the virtue of veracity, which means attuning to their own heart’s desires instead of focusing on what others want. This involves self-attunement that will include getting to know your pain and sadness.
Accessing pain or sitting with the pain is uncomfortable but most of the time healing from pain means slowing down. Slowing down to realize that the pain is there and knowing how to attend to it but also letting your body and emotional experience wrap around the pain itself for the healing process to take place. It also takes faith in knowing that you’re able to be loved without having to do anything or prove anything to get it.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is an excellent Enneagram 3 example of a character persistently pursuing success and having it backfire in their daily life.
Learn More About Enneagram Threes: The Enneagram Type 3 – The Achiever
Enneagram 4 – Heart Type
4s avoid their pain by…feeling pain.
Yes, this seems strange and paradoxical but hear me out.
4s lean into sadness and the image quality of their type is about being unique. This often means being expressive, artistic, and willing to go into the depths of their human experience to pull out emotional material that others don’t dare to dive into.
4s attune to sadness more than any other type. It’s their strategy for getting their needs met by complaining (for social and Sexual Fours), suffering, feeling heaviness, and living in the shadow of their past. The idea for others to feel bad for them or see them as unique and special, therefore deserving of decadence and getting needs met.
Keep in mind that Self-Preservation Fours might look a little different from the typical Four. These countertype Fours often look more like Ones as they seek to endure pain without complaint or wincing. They are less likely to complain about their suffering, but like all Fours, they still hope that suffering will meet their needs or gain them some form of redemption.
Old wounds tend to come up regularly or are never “processed enough” but this may be a red herring…
If a 4 is in threat of experiencing genuine pain they will pull on the string of any number of other past feelings they have stored and will feel and express that pain instead. This makes the pain of the 4 is often a selective suffering.
I don’t say selective suffering to diminish the feelings or invalidate the experience of you as a 4 but often fully processing a feeling will lead to relief and letting the feeling go but doing that wouldn’t support the strategy of suffering to be fully seen.
Suffering is also a way of promoting their passion, which is Envy. Envy in some ways is what it sounds like…wanting what someone else has. This could mean talent, success, someone else’s partner, a job, having created something unique, a look, etc. But it also means a constant desire to be somewhere I’m not or someone I’m not.
Ian Morgan Cron, a 4, describes being a 4 as never feeling at home. And while most descriptions of 4s focus on being unique, this uniqueness is driven by the envy of comparing oneself to others as better or less than but never equal to others. This never feeling home or settled feeling this never wanting to be where or who you are.
To feel the genuine pain that we all experience and process as humans would get a 4 closer to equanimity, the acceptance that we all share a common human experience and that the mundanity of that isn’t boring or unspecial. Constantly trying to be unique or misunderstood via the attachment to envy or stuck pain will keep you from being understood and from feeling the pain that will get you what you really need and want underneath it all.
I think it would be too easy to just pick a sad movie or character to represent an Enneagram 4. So, I’m recommending The Devil Wears Prada and Meryl Streep’s character whom I believe is a Sexual 4. It’s also no surprise that Tim Burton’s films bring the Enneagram 4 uniqueness and charm, especially Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Learn More About Enneagram Fours: 7 Struggles of the Enneagram Four Personality Type
Enneagram 5 – Head Type
The Enneagram 5 is typically book-smart, can be quiet and distant, specialized, professorial, creative, and imaginative.
The passion for 5s is avarice, which can translate to greed but the easiest way to understand avarice is attachment. And typically 5s will attach to knowledge as the scaffolding for them to navigate life. Emotions are a part of the big open mystery of existence which can be a scary and overwhelming thought. This is often because head types are also known as fear-based types. Mental processes can facilitate anxiety with the swirling and head-based activity of thought after thought after thought.
5s will avoid pain by researching and understanding what pain is, the signals in the brain or the body, and will intellectualize the experience of being in pain instead of experiencing it directly or mentally fantasizing about what it could be like.
5s will learn about what others have felt, the language surrounding the pain, and conceptualize ideas and philosophies surrounding the pain that they may be experiencing.
While heart types and the emotions that come with them tend to have a relationship to the past, head types have a relationship to the future, which automatically comes with uncertainty.
For 5s, knowledge is the armor for navigating the uncertainty of what’s to come.
Now, 5s can feel and experience their emotions in private, but much like 9s, if you’re not bringing yourself, or in this case your emotions, to an interaction then support and reflection from others in real-time won’t come. In a way, the 5 perpetuates their own fear of having to experience the unknown of emotional depth on their own by keeping their distance from people and emotional moments. This largely also manages perceived limits in energy that they have.
5s can lean on research via books or in some extreme cases live out entire false lives to infiltrate and observe human experiences without attaching themselves emotionally to anyone. This is avarice, the hoarding of themselves, their emotions, their humanity, and their knowledge to isolate themselves from the abundance of reality and the human experience. A walk of a thin tight rope through life with the rope being the knowledge they can gather at a distance.
When 5s move toward non-attachment they can begin to open up to the abundance and mystery of reality. With that comes a depth of feeling that allows for greater processing, knowledge, and true wisdom that comes through authentic experience. Knowledge becomes an exchange between themselves and what life has to offer including everything that can’t be read, Google’d, or observed from afar.
The Queen’s Gambit is an excellent series covering the life of an Enneagram 5 and her specialized interest in chess. You can see throughout the series how her main interaction with reality is through her specialty and has trouble living life outside of that specialty.
Learn More About Enneagram Fives: 7 Struggles of the Enneagram 5 Personality Type
Enneagram 6 – Head Type
Enneagram 6 is also a head type but with the passion of Fear fueling the focus of attention creating a busy, well-considered, and cautious person. You could probably also use the word anxiety to define a 6 since there is an ever-present relationship with the future, authority, and trust. You as a 6 are attempting to account for every possible problem that could come in that projected future. An important thing for plenty of other personality types to consider but the 6 can have trouble letting go of where their imagination takes them.
This leaves Enneagram 6 with hypervigilance and hyperawareness of the people and situations around them.
You would think that a 6 wouldn’t deal with pain much because 6s often think of themselves as well-prepared for all possibilities like The Batman with his “answer for everything” tool belt. But 6s can run into problems with emotional and physical pain in their pursuit of avoiding it.
A 6, like any other type, tends to create their own paradox of bringing the thing into their life that they’re trying to avoid by hyper-focusing on it. And what 6s focus on is problems or potential problems in the future.
Think of it this way: if you’re always fixated on problems that don’t yet exist, your focus on them is what can create them. It can be a bit of a causal loop. We humans tend to manifest realities this way. Yes, I know you’ll disagree and that’s okay. You don’t know me and probably don’t trust me, another challenge of an Enneagram 6. This lack of trust can bring all sorts of difficulties with perhaps not finding a therapist they can trust, not resolving family issues due to mistrust, not trusting doctors or medical experts, or exhibiting mistrust in relationships. If something bad happens to a 6 you can be damn sure it’ll never ever happen again.
When most of us are dealing with emotional pains or challenges, it’s typically from something we’ve kept within us from the past. If you’re never looking at the past then you’ll never see it and that’s when the 6 can constantly create unconscious problems for itself as the emergence of your own unresolved past.
So, how do 6s avoid pain? By living in their imagination and focusing on the future, something that doesn’t exist, and working very hard to make themselves small, scary, or submitting their inner authority to a group or leader they do trust…depending on the subtype.
And while I talk about the lack of trust of others, the real challenge is trust within themselves and of themselves. 6s can struggle with trust in their inner authority, which is what leads to such hyper-management of the outside.
BUT even though it sounds like I’m picking on 6s, I’m mostly wanting to give attention to the virtue of a 6, which is Courage, because 6s are indeed courageous.
This is because, despite that fear, you go forward into the future anyway. You’re facing problems head-on and venturing into the unknown even if you feel safe with the awareness of possibilities. This means that the ability to face pain already exists within you and you already know what’s best for you. If you’re reading this then you know instinctually that you have survived every bit of pain you’ve ever experienced or thought you were going to experience. So facing your pain and resolving it is going to be no different than any other challenge you’ve faced and conquered.
Spirited Away is a beautiful expression of moving from Fear to Courage for a 6, The Batman demonstrates a sexual 6 taking on major fears, and The Man From Toronto is also an excellent film showing this move from Fear to Courage for a Sexual 6 (Kevin Hart).
Learn More About Enneagram Sixes: 7 Struggles of the Enneagram Six Type
Enneagram 7 – Head Type
You know the deal, the Enneagram 7 is the life of the party, the big smiley one, the excited person when everyone else is super serious and the friend always looking for a new adventure or exciting thing to do. Enneagram 7 will always make sure there’s a good time to be had because there is. They’re particularly attuned to the positive opportunities for play, excitement, and mental pleasure.
7s escape pain through this mental pleasure, always having options, always having control, and guaranteeing some sort of excitement. I would dare to say that to a 7, nearly everything is painful, which is why they narrow in on exciting or happy positive experiences.
What do I mean? Well, 7s tend to focus on the positive and the lighter side of life, which leaves out a big chunk of a very natural human experience to experience hardship and pain. Out of the things left that are positive, the 7 would also prefer to spend time doing or thinking about things that are not boring or mundane…which narrows things down even more. And when a 7 decides what they want to experience from this thin slice of life they want to do all of it at the same time because missing out on something is also painful. This is what gluttony can look like for a 7, finding an exciting or positive experience and wanting to take it all in.
You as a 7 are also a head type, which means that there is a relationship to fear. A 7s relationship to fear is primarily fixed on a fear of pain, which as I mentioned can be quite a broadly defined thing. But unlike a 6, 7s would describe their anxiety about the future as an excitement (to put a positive spin on it).
7s tend to put a positive spin on everything they experience. Look at the bright side, things could’ve been worse, there’s another option around the corner, or life’s too short to dwell on the negative stuff. If you spend some time with a 7 you may begin to notice that this fixation for control of positivity can get a little intense. They’re trying to avoid pain, after all. They can be dismissive or irritable about others not wanting to go along with their idea, they can be judgmental about something they deem as gross, painful, or not fun, and may cancel plans a lot due to the epic fear of missing out.
The virtue of Sobriety gets 7s out of the cycle of avoiding painful, and therefore bringing it into attention, and can experience greater joy in the little moments of every day life without having to make everything a spectacle or big reaction. And paradoxically a 7 will start to see that there is joy in facing pain. That you’ll get a big chemical reward from doing difficult things, being patient, and hitting major milestones in life. In an effort to avoid pain, you may be letting the epic joy of everyday living pass you by.
Thor from Thor: Ragnorok and Thor: Love and Thunder shows a 7 struggling with dealing with trauma, John Krasinski’s character in Away We Go is a great example of a Sexual 7, and the later careers of both Jim Carrey and Robin Williams show a more focused and emotional side of these larger than life comedians.
Learn More About Enneagram Sevens: 7 Struggles of the Enneagram Seven Type
I know that some of what I had to share about each Enneagram type may not be exactly what you want to hear, which is okay. There are actually times earlier in our life where we need to hear more of the positives of our experience. But if you’re experiencing lasting pain, trauma, or getting sick of making the same mistakes over and over again then it’s going to be a major benefit for you to start seeing how you keep getting in your own way.
I’ve done plenty of work myself to notice how I sabotage my own happiness and progress. It’s an ever-evolving process of noticing and making adjustments every single day but I feel miles ahead of who I used to be…someone who was reactive and not in control of my life.
Now I have the life I’ve always wanted, with the person I’m meant to spend it with, writing for my dear friend on this website, and hopefully having a lasting positive impact on whoever takes this in and makes some changes.
Much love and good luck out there!