Enneagram Defense Mechanisms

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Jesse Williams

The enneagram defense mechanism is like a belief system that you choose to put your faith in. And if you can read the following piece with that caution in mind, there is no reason to panic. It’s important to note that these are not exactly the same for everyone in a particular type. Let’s get started.

Enneagram Defense Mechanism

Psychologists define a defense mechanism as an unconscious operation in the human mind where certain functions take place to protect the subject from feelings or thoughts that can cause anxiety or pain. This type of stress could be internal or external.

We all have an enneagram defense mechanism whether we know what they are or not. Here’s a look at the defense mechanisms of individuals from Enneagrams 1 through 9.

Type 1: The Advocate

Type 1s have the tendency to feel one thing and say another thing. And it is as unfortunate as it sounds since it is literal. The type 1’s enneagram defense mechanism is also called reaction formation and usually what they express is the exact opposite of what they feel.

So, when they are frustrated, they tend to become overly polite. When they feel envious, they express admiration instead and so on. Type 1s do this because they feel the need to meet the standards set by others. This is also how they can hide their true feelings and show whatever is acceptable instead.

This kind of reaction formation is actually like second nature to them. As a result, even though they are capable of registering their true feelings, type 1s end up changing their own response to the situation by exhibiting the opposite of it.

And they can do this very quickly, especially if they are in a social situation. In fact, sometimes they are capable of pushing these ideas on others as well insisting that it’s the right way to do something or the right thing to do.

And yes, it can be very annoying as well.

Type 2: The Wingman

The Enneagram 2 defense mechanism is typically to repress their emotions. It’s like an anesthetic to their minds as it sends their true feelings to the unconscious so that they don’t experience as much pain. These individuals are very motivated to avoid rejection which is how they end up repressing unpleasant experiences.

They are likely to repress feelings like sadness or anger if it brings the reality of their relationship with someone to the fore. They can do the same with parts of their own personality that they might not like. So, instead of understanding what is wrong and working on it, they end up living in denial to a certain extent.

Type 2s like to be in the inner circles and they can repress reality if they are not in those circles of a person they like. They will neglect their own needs like taking a day off or sleeping in if it can please the person they are trying to impress.

Type 3: The Pioneer

Identification is the Enneagram 3 defense mechanism. Type 3s are likely to relate to a person or an idea they value. They will try their best to become that person. They work harder on this if others tend to value the person or idea they have come across.

Type 3s like to impress others with their achievements. So, they will figure out what or who in their vicinity is considered successful by the world and try to become that. They study the person or idea closely and take on their talents and skills to the extent that they can to impress others.

It’s like trying to be good at something because your parents value it. It’s not the greatest roadmap and that’s why it is called a defense mechanism.

Type 4: Flying Solo’s Enneagram Defense Mechanism

Introjection or make-believe is the Enneagram 4 defense mechanism. Type 4s internalize a lot of stuff that isn’t them and this is called introjection. So, if someone points out an unflattering detail about a type 4, they will internalize it to the point that they believe they came up with it themselves. This helps them stay in control.

A lot of people do this in general but type 4s have the ability to ignore their own traits or needs when others don’t like them. This also helps them avoid the pain of having qualities that are unflattering. They do this to themselves to avoid pain but never stop reliving it.

Type 5: The Scholar

Isolation is the 5’s enneagram defense mechanism. This isn’t just about withdrawing physically from certain situations but obliterating how they feel about certain things to avoid getting anxious or overwhelmed.

By implementing this defense mechanism, they protect their own feelings from getting hurt. They also use this mechanism to avoid going to others to seem physical or emotional support. And that completes the isolation circle.

What type 5s seek is not objectivity to discover the truth but to remove feelings so as to not feel pain. And this does tend to get out of hand and leaves them isolated.

Type 6: The Dependable

Projection is the 6’s enneagram defense mechanism and it’s the polar opposite of the defense mechanism of type 4s which is introjection. This is a process where you take a thought or feeling you have and project it on another person as if it is their thought or feeling.

This way, they don’t have to deal with feelings of threat or blame that might come their way due to their own thoughts. But it’s not simple deception because more often than not, they themselves believe that others really are the source of the thought and don’t realize that it’s their own projection.

Type 6s don’t like to deal with uncomfortable truths which is why they shift the source to another person. For instance, a type 6 who wants to break up with their partner might believe that it’s the partner who wants to break up with them.

Type 7: The Aficionado

The big 7’s enneagram defense mechanism manifests in the form of rationalization. These individuals can come up with reasons why they should do or avoid something when they really want it. And as a result, they don’t find the need to investigate why they are feeling what they’re feeling.

This is something a lot of us do in general when plans fail. We give ourselves reasons that justify why it was never the “original plan” whatever that means. It helps us avoid feeling like we’ve failed. But type 7s go the extra mile and it can turn from rationalization to idealization as well.

That means they can “see” why whatever didn’t work out was for the best. They have this almost compulsive need to look at silver linings whether they exist or not.

Type 8: The Rival

Type 8s like to fall back on good ol’ denial. Enneagram 8 defense mechanism is one we are all familiar with either because we’ve done it ourselves or know someone who does it.

Denial isn’t hard to find in the world since it’s not unusual for people to ignore their bitter experiences to avoid feeling pain and hurt. Typically, no one enjoys getting hurt and we all have ways to deal with it when it arrives.

But type 8s go the distance in the sense that they don’t acknowledge their own vulnerabilities (not just weaknesses) so that they can feel strong. These individuals like to feel like superhumans and you can’t do that if you have vulnerabilities. Simply put, they don’t like experiencing human moments of, well, the human experience.

Yeah, it’s sad. But once again, that is why it’s called a defense mechanism. It’s possible that they have lived in circumstances where superhuman strength was demanded of them. So, eventually, they have taken it up to be their entire personality.

Type 9: Keeper of the Peace

Dissociation is the choice of Enneagram 9’s defense mechanism. This is a process where individuals tend to block or numb their painful experiences to protect their own selves. You might think that we all do this but it’s actually not. Dissociation is a slightly extreme form and it can be slightly dangerous.

When a person dissociates themselves from a fact, they are trying not to take in any elements of that incident’s reality. When they do it to themselves, they might end up not knowing who they are.

Type 9s are known to numb their feelings so that they don’t feel the pain internally and externally. They can do it like you dim lights at night. And they can continue to be high-functioning while staying numb. It might sound like a handy little trick and with expert guidance, it may be. But it’s not recommended.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways to determine what your enneagram defense mechanisms are. You could go by your Enneagram type to figure it out but remember two things. One, you should figure out what you do first and then match it to the analysis so that you don’t put yourself in a box.

Two, you might not even be in the same Enneagram type your whole life. So, remember to take that into account before you decide that, “oh yeah! That is so me”.

Be sure to get your own Enneagram Results

Check out out best free enneagram tests to find out which one you should take!

Hint: For most people, the best test is from Truity.

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Written By Jesse Williams

Jesse has taken a deep dive into how personality effects our daily lives. After taking all the tests under the sun, she enjoys comparing her results with total strangers. It's fun for her.

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