A Reconsideration of the Head

We wrap up our Sunday School discussion of the Enneagram this week with repressed thinking (Enneagram Ones, Twos, and Sixes.) I mean, we thought about it, but the topic was repressed thinking. Each week, we have explored the three intelligence centers, the three ways of knowing: the Body, the Heart, and the Head. For each of us, one is dominant and one is repressed. The intersection of those two things determines your Enneagram type, your number. This week, we explored what it means to have a repressed Head center.

Just as being doing-, or body-, repressed, does not mean one is lazy, being thinking-repressed does not mean you don’t think. Rather, your dominant center takes the lead and your repressed center is almost forgotten, tucked away in childhood for safekeeping. That means it is protected, but immature. In particular, this means it is not usually helpful as a way of knowing. When we use it, we often don’t understand what it has to offer. It also means that it is pure access to the soul. Just as we don’t know how to use it well because it is undeveloped, the ego has not had to learn to control it. The best it can do is distract us from our repressed center. Consequently, thinking-repressed people will find thinking slow and frustrating, preferring the immediacy of doing and feeling. Thinking is disrupted and distorted.

The minds of the thinking-repressed are going all the time, so it is easy for them to believe that they are thinking. But remember that, in this model, thinking is for the purpose of gathering and analyzing information and making plans based on that information. It is supposed to give us objectivity. Instead, it gets distorted by doing and feeling. For example, Ones are dominated by doing, so their thinking is constantly interrupted by the voice in their head that tells them they need to do something. Twos are dominated by feeling, so their thinking is constantly interrupted by the need to feel that others appreciate them. And Sixes are that curious balance point in the thinking triad that is both thinking-dominant and thinking-repressed. They take in information through thinking, but process it through feeling and doing. They have both the relationality of the feeling center and the responsibility of the doing center, so they cede their thinking to others, to groups and belief systems that provide clarity.

Those who are thinking-repressed are also present-oriented. You can see how this facilitates the repression of thinking, always being pressed into service of that which is right in front of you. You don’t have to think about the present; it just happens to you. I have heard this called both “the world of constant cares” and “the tyranny of the now.” If you think you might be in this group, try to observe how often your thinking is interrupted by what is right in front of you.

Present-orientation can create problems in planning. Because Ones have feelings about doing, they become emotionally invested in plans and get angry when things go awry. Because Twos do things about their feelings, they abandon plans if they don’t provide the expected feelings of being appreciated. And Sixes are always planning for the worst, which never happens. Because they process information they take in through thinking with doing and feeling, they lack objectivity, so they are constantly spun up in feeling and doing and doing and feeling. This causes them to connect a lot of disconnected dots and arrive at strong feelings about what needs to be done about something that might happen someday, but probably won’t. They draw this future event forward into the present, so that “there might be a tiger there someday” becomes “there’s a tiger there.” It makes anxiety palpable and turns it into fear.

This type is also known as the dependent stance, which means that they are other-referenced. Again, you can see how this dovetails with being thinking-repressed and present-oriented. If you are looking to others to tell you who you are and what to do and what to think, you are always swayed by the people around you, pushed around by what they expect from you right now. Or at least what you thnk they expect. Ones are actually driven by the voice in their head, an overactive superego that purports to tell them what others expect, but the standards laid out by the voice are always much higher than those of actual people. Twos pride themselves on knowing what people need, even before they know they need it, but it’s based on distorted thinking. They help people who don’t want help because they desperately need to be needed. And Sixes give themselves over to the rules and structures of others because they don’t trust their own thinking. They need others to validate and reassure them.

As I taught this on Sunday, I felt a lot of tension. I try to be equally negative on all Enneagram types. Many people say the way you know your number is the one that makes you cringe the most. It’s supposed to feel bad because it’s the personality that you need to shed in order to find who you are in God. However, I think this is particularly acute for those in the dependent stance. Because you are other-referenced, this echoes the compulsion you already have, whether that be the internal critic of the One, the need to be needed of the Two, or the submission to group-think of the Six. I’m sorry for that. I assure that no one likes being exposed in this way. Except Sevens. They like everything.

I also want to assure you that there is a way out of this. You’ll be happy to know that the prescription is vacation. Seriously. You need to get away. You need to go to a place where your thinking has some room, away from the world of constant cares, where no one expects anything of you. And try, as much as you can, to create that space in your everyday life. Unplug. Retreat. Read a book, a non-fiction book, like philosophy or theology or astrophysics or the history of color. Remember, the goal is not to fight against the dominant center, but to bring up what is repressed. Practice thinking productively and you will rediscover your soul.


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