X is for Xeno-

XI was working so hard to make Xylophone relate to the Enneagram in some way, but I couldn’t t do it so I grabbed the dictionary and found Xeno-.

Xeno-: Strange; foreign; different

I.e.: xenophobia: a fear of strangers.



As humans, we have big issues with xeno-things.

Some of us, because of our personalities, are intrigued with new and different. However, our human brains, regardless of our personality, are programmed to surround ourselves with the familiar and look askance at the unfamiliar. It’s biologically protective.

If we didn’t have those tendencies, we wouldn’t gravitate toward reliable food sources or safe places to shelter ourselves.  We’d probably fall off a lot of cliffs in pursuit of whatever’s over the edge and be eaten while trying to make friends with tigers and poisonous reptiles.

Clearly, the innate fear of xeno-things can be helpful, but it can also limit us in probably just as many ways as it protects us.

One of the things the Enneagram does is make the unknown known. It makes other people, who see the world very differently than we do, understandable.

This is one of the most important uses of the Enneagram system. It gives us maps to ourselves so we can get to know our own territory easier, faster and more efficiently, but it also gives us maps to other people’s even more foreign territory.


For whatever reason, my life is full of Sixes. Some are blood relations and one I picked myself. If you know Sixes and Sevens, you might imagine we can drive each other crazy. The Seven pushes the envelope, leaving the Six to come unglued with fear about what might happen. The Six’s attempts to keep things safe, make the Seven want to run screaming off the edge of that cliff I mentioned before.

However, we also do each other a great service because a natural balance can occur if we allow each other to influence us in positive ways. The Six keeps the Seven from chasing every butterfly that flits by, which helps the Seven settle down to focus on the most meaningful stuff. Meanwhile, the Seven encourages the Six to try new things which are highly likely going to work out just fine and will probably even be fun.

However, there’s something even more important than the fact that the Sixes in my life help me weed out my bad ideas and I help them trust themselves and experience courage.  As my understanding of what it’s like for them deepens, so does my patience and compassion for them when they’re stuck in anxiety and not able to trust themselves.

Having listened to lots of people on the panels in Narrative Tradition classes, I have come to understand, intimately, what life feels like for each type, what they most struggle with and how deep that struggle runs. I have had tears in my eyes at one time or another as I imagine how hard it must be…

…for a Five to come out of her shell and engage with the social world

…for a Nine to realize how sad he is that he hasn’t been living his own life and he’s running out of time

…for a Three to admit that nothing that she’s done up to this point, no matter how well she’s fooled the world, has meant a damn thing to her and how empty that makes her feel

…for a Two who is bone-tired from doing for other people and wants more than anything for someone to swoop in and take care of her for once.

I could go on and on.

I think I will.

It has touched me to imagine how painful it must be…

…for an Eight to be so lonely as a strong woman in a world that seems like it can’t handle her intensity

…for a One who wants more than anything to stop feeling so angry all the time, but she can’t help how strongly she feels about the injustices in the world

…for a Four who feels so deeply about things that he becomes overcome with emotion and can’t find anyone who relates to him on that level

…for my daughter, a Six, who has shown signs of self-doubt since she was 16 months old

…and for myself and my fellow Sevens who ache deeply at the seemingly unnecessary amounts of pain that people have to endure in this lifetime.

Much power comes from a deep understanding of the people in our lives. I’m very grateful to the Enneagram for helping make the xeno- in other people less xeno-.

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