Spotting the Enneagram Passions

By Uranio Paes

Self-observation is one of the most important competencies to be developed in inner work. “Self-observing” implies being able to witness what is going on inside yourself with acceptance, non-judgment, and relaxation, rather than staying asleep to your inner experience or analyzing and criticizing yourself. The usual contents to be observed are the more conscious ones (and therefore the easiest to watch) connected to the three realms of inner experience: sensations, emotions, and thoughts. As these manifestations of ego are not only more conscious but also more frequent, they offer us the handiest and direct opportunities for practicing inner-observation in a mindful way.

Listen to this week’s podcast episode on the passions of the Enneagram. 

However, serious and committed seekers cannot limit self-observation to the most obvious content. It is important to reach out to unconscious realms and make an effort to make unconscious material more conscious through self-observation. And, an excellent way to start doing this is by observing the many subtleties of the ways our types’ passions manifest. But, how is it possible to do this? So far, not much has been written about or taught in the Enneagram field about the indirect ways that the nine passions show up and get expressed.

The nine Enneagram passions refer to the hard-to-avoid emotional patterns of each of the nine types. While we all experience all the nine emotions that represent the nine Enneagram passions, for each of us, only one of them becomes a passion per se, becoming stronger and more omnipresent. In fact, the word passion reflects the fact that this emotion becomes more intense and more uncontrollable. While it can be hard to be in control of different emotions at different moments, passions are even harder to manage and master. When we operate under the sway of passion, we have no free will in terms of our ability to consciously direct our emotional experience of life.

There are several reasons why most introductory Enneagram students misunderstand the passions:•    Lack of clarity around what the passion is. This happens when students rely on common sense or literal meanings to interpret the words that describe the passions.
•    Passions are almost always present and they are not emotions that we engage with only occasionally. Passions should actually be understood as constant heart states that many times do not get acted out in observable behaviors. Therefore, they are present whenever the person is not in touch with Essence and is not operating from the Higher Emotional Center and the spiritual heart – and over 99% of people aren’t.
•    Last, but not least, it is essential to understand that the passions get disguised in multiple ways, and even more so when we are doing inner work and practicing self-observation. Actually, only a few people who are more advanced in the self-development path are able to have a direct (and often frightening) experience of the passion as it is. Passions usually get expressed indirectly and it is vital for a serious seeker to be able to spot the ways that the type’s passion plays out.

There are at least six different mechanisms used by the passions in creating their disguise. Some of them are:
1.    Subtype behavior
2.    A particular focus of attention
3.    Specific languaging and voice pattern
4.    Other visible behavioral manifestations
5.    Other less visible behavioral manifestations
6.    “Positive” (benign-seeming) substitutes that we hardly see as expressions of the passions.

Before you go on, however, here’s a disclaimer: it may be frustrating to find out how your enneatype’s passion is active within you all the time, through indirect mechanisms. It also may be particularly disappointing to find out that some of your behaviors you previously praised as being good actually come from your emotional “vice” and carry some not-so-good energy with them. As Mr. Gurdjieff said, “we cannot grow up unless we get in touch with the misery we have been living in.” So, hopefully, you feel ready to carry on learning about your enneatype’s passion with strength and wisdom. Breathe deeply, keep listening, and keep reading!