Revenge of the Heart

We continue our look at the Enneagram’s repressed centers of intelligence this week by returning to the Heart. Just as some are overdeveloped in the kind of relational and emotional intelligence of the Heart, some are underdeveloped. (These are enneagram Threes, Sevens, and Eights.) This repression of feelings has as much to do with sustaining personality as our dominant center. Each Enneagram type is the pattern we have developed to get through life, which will ultimately cease to serve us well. The Enneagram is not just a description of those patterns, but a road map for getting away from those patterns, away from personality, and back to who we are in God. This task may be most difficult for those with a repressed Heart center, the Assertives, because our world rewards their personality so much.

A repressed Heart center means that a person learned early on that feelings were not going to get them what they want. They tucked feelings away, which means that they are both uncorrupted by the ego and underdeveloped by the soul. Pure, but immature. It does not mean that these people don’t have feelings. It means that feelings are seen as problematic because they are unproductive and inefficient. They also can’t be controlled. Consequently, feeling-repressed people excuse, ignore, or exploit feelings. Sevens ignore the bottom-range of feelings, preferring to stay in the happy place. Anything negative is converted into a positive. Eights also stay in their top-range of feelings, but anger is always sitting at the top. They convert all feelings into anger and passion. Threes are both feeling-dominant and feeling-repressed. They take in information through feeling, but try to convert it into thinking and doing. So they sense other people’s feelings, but immediately try to strategize around those feelings to get what they want. Avoiding feelings in these ways makes Assertives miss what feelings are for: connecting, relating, and belonging.

The repressed center determines a person’s stance, the social style used to get what we want, which for those with a repressed heart is Assertive.¬†That is, they move toward the world in seeking what they want. Riso and Hudson describe them as “ego-expansive,” which means that their personality expands to fill the space around them. They tend to be the star of the show, the life of the party, and the leaders of any group effort. And we want them to be. We count on them to fill that role because they are very good at it and many of us are not.

The repressed center also determines a person’s orientation to time. Though we all think about the future, Assertives are actually present, mentally, in the future most of the time. They can reframe events as they are happening, particularly negative experiences, to tell themselves a story of hope and optimism. They can set aside negative feelings to be dealt with in the future – a future that never really comes. Being future-oriented supports feeling-repression becaus there are no feelings in the future other than anticipation, excitement, and hope.

Being feeling-repressed and future-oriented helps Assertives get things done. They truly believe they can reshape the world according to their image of it. Because they try to do that all the time, they frequently succeed, which reinforces that tendency. But there is a downside.

Stabile describes the Assertives as playing a game of Mario Kart. Stuff is blowing up all around them, but they just keep moving forward. They don’t see the damage they leave in their wake. They are oriented toward their own ideas and actions and dismiss others, especially if they suspect others’ ideas and actions are motivated by messy feelings. Consequently, they have a tendency to do whatever they want.

This, of course, makes them ideally suited for the time that we live in. The world moves fast and they are the ones who can (almost) keep up. But the other side of that coin is that the world we live in provides many opportunities to ignore feelings rather than develop them.

Most of us spend the first half of life putting on personality and the second half taking it off because, as Suzanne Stabile says, “the personality becomes too demanding to accommodate.” But for Assertives, this can be delayed, meaning that it takes longer for them to realize how much it doesn’t work for them because of all the ways that it does. This means they can go the wrong way for a long time.

The task then for Assertives is to bring up their Heart center, to learn what feelings have to offer. Feelings, while messy, provide the opportunity to connect to others, to form deep relationships. They add meaning to all that activity and provide a context in which negative feelings can be felt and dealt with. Instead of being fodder for all the Assertives strategies, plans, and activity, we get to have full relationships. We can know each other as beloved and belonging. We need the Assertives in our lives, but what we really need is for them to show up fully, feelings and all.


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