Levels of Awareness

The Enneagram provides very detailed information on the behavior of each type at various levels of self-awareness. The levels of awareness are general guidelines for how much the habit of attention has been relaxed. We may experience multiple levels of awareness during each day depending on the amount of stress we experience, our ability to be self-reflective, and many other factors. The goal is to keep the habit of attention relaxed as much as possible and to operate from the higher levels of awareness. This is where we can access compassion.

In interpersonal relationships, most problems occur in the middle or lower levels of awareness. On this page, these levels are described as the type with “tightening defenses” and the type when “fixated.” How do you recognize when you are slipping into lower levels of awareness? The first signs of stress show each type tightening their basic defense systems. Fixated refers to fixated on the type’s habit of attention. This is described in more detail in each of the type sections.

One factor in maintaining the higher levels of awareness is a somatic one, a strong nervous system. To move from the lower to the higher levels of self-awareness, exercises to strengthen the nervous system and breathwork can be extremely effective.


Type 1 Perfectionists

Perfectionist (1) When Self-Aware

Perfectionist (1)s become wise, discerning, accepting, and compassionate. They exude joyful tranquility and acceptance. Realistic, humane, and inspiring, they exercise good judgment knowing when to take action and when to let things be as they are. They have a strong desire to be rational, reasonable, mature, and moderate. Extremes are avoided although a strong sense of right and wrong remains. They become accepting, though maybe not agreeing, of other perspectives and views. Perfectionist (1)s at this level of awareness are intensely principled with a focused aspiration to be fair and objective. Their primary values are truth and justice. They have a deep sense of personal responsibility and a sense of answering to a higher authority. Personal integrity, diligence, and determination are observable.

Perfectionist (1) With Tightening Defenses

Demanding and disapproving of both their self and others, the Perfectionist (1) becomes more judgmental, harsh, and rigid. Their thinking becomes narrow as they believe they alone know the right way things should be done. Reality feels imperfect and disappointing. The drive to improve can be directed at causes, people or their own environment. Fear starts to present itself as the Perfectionist (1) becomes deeply afraid of making a mistake or acting improperly. They become orderly and well-organized in the extreme and can seem emotionally contained, rigid, serious, detached, and at times robotic. Workaholism may be a factor as the Perfectionist (1) feels a heightened sense of responsibility for everything in their environment. They have an opinion and a critique about everything. Impatience and dissatisfaction set in at this level along with scolding, reprimanding, correcting, blaming, and chastising. Anger may start to present itself.

Perfectionist (1) When Fixated

The Perfectionist (1) becomes self-righteous, rigid, closed-minded, and dogmatic. Black and white thinking dominates with little or no room for compassion. A strong sense of moral superiority and righteousness begins to prevail along with harsh judgments and rigid self-justifications. There is little to no flexibility in their thinking. The Perfectionist (1) becomes obsessive about perfection and completely intolerant of any perceived wrongdoings of others. Uncompromising, adamant, severe, and fixed in their positions, the Perfectionist (1) may start to isolate and alienate themselves from others. They start to have a reality distortion, projecting wrongdoing into benign situations. The Perfectionist (1) becomes cruel and punishing towards others. They won’t tolerate any behavior that doesn’t conform to their standards and can be unapologetically harsh in their judgments. Depression and nervous breakdowns are possibilities.




Type 2 Helper/Giver/Lover

Helper (2) When Self-Aware

Helper (2)s are humble, altruistic, direct, and pure. They share their gifts with the world and can offer unconditional love. These Helper (2)s are kind, compassionate, caring and interested, and concerned in the lives of others. They offer empathy, sincerity, generosity, and they strive to respond to others in a balanced way. They have a high capacity for forgiveness. They are supportive, encouraging, grateful, and giving. Helping others is a priority, but it is balanced with genuine self-care. They can see the spark of beauty and potential in each person.

Helper (2) With Tightening Defenses

Helper (2)s are warm, friendly, and emotionally demonstrative in a somewhat indiscriminate way. They become more people-pleasing and less authentic in their behavior, deviating from what they really think to be more likable. They have a give-and-take relationship with flattery, applause and approval. Self-containment can be difficult. Relationships with others are their top priority. They begin to become more intrusive, invasive and interfering with their behavior, confusing love with helping. Their self-sacrificing becomes imbalanced, and their self-care suffers. They have a complicated relationship with dependency and giving, subconsciously giving to get and creating dependencies to ensure a place in the receiver’s life. They may start to experience a reality distortion around their own sense of self-importance feeling they are indispensable to others and overestimating the positive impact of their efforts. When entranced, they may experience an almost obsessive drive to find needs to fill as a way of feeling useful and valued. They can become controlling and bossy with an attitude of superiority.

Helper (2) When Fixated

This Helper (2) may be subconsciously manipulative using guilt and blame to get attention. Their behavior can turn sharp and aggressive, reminding others they are “owed” for all the things the Helper (2) has done. They may have a reality distortion around how contentious their behavior is and may subconsciously start to undermine those they meant to help. They may seek outside outlets (food, medication, shopping and so forth) to fill unmet emotional needs. They may demonstrate a gross lack of respect for the personal boundaries of others. Behavior at this level is highly manipulative. Helper (2)s don’t recognize their manipulative and controlling behavior. Bitter resentments, anger and rage come to the surface. Health problems, including depression, may develop as a result of a low self- esteem and emotional imbalance.




Type 3 Achiever/Motivator

Achiever (3) When Self-Aware

Self-accepting, authentic and real, the Achiever (3)’s image, inner world and reality align. They are humble, honest, and able to speak from the heart. Compassionate and kind, their influence benefits others. Self-assured, effective, energetic, and efficient, the Achiever (3) goes after their goals while remaining connected to their heart and the emotional world. They are flexible, charming, polite, and accepting of others. They radiate genuine self-esteem and self-acceptance. This Achiever (3) is highly goal-oriented and seeks to embody success in their chosen field. High-achieving, talented, inspiring, and collaborative, the Achiever (3) motivates others to reach their potential.

Achiever (3) With Tightening Defenses

Focus is on achievement and establishing themselves as the best. The Achiever (3) feels some anxiety about not measuring up. Fear of failure fuels more hard work. They become highly competitive with a strong desire to be “the best.” They constantly compare their performance and status to others. They display workaholic tendencies. Image-conscious and insecure about the opinion of others, they shapeshift to try to make the most positive impression in various environments. The drive to look good outstrips the need to be authentic. They are practical and efficient but can also be calculated and transactional. They have difficulty with intimacy and credibility as they fear exposing their full self. The Achiever (3) seeks a supply of external validation as a means to feel good about themselves. They may brag, self-promote, and over-promise as a way to impress others. They may envy the success of others.

Achiever (3) When Fixated

The Achiever (3) can become ruthlessly exploitative as a means of dodging failure and humiliation. They exhibit a lack of empathy, and they feel envy and begrudge the success of others. Maintaining a sense of superiority takes priority and influences their behavior. The desire to maintain a positive image replaces reality. Deception, lies and devious behavior is prominent in the picture. Mistakes, shortcomings and failure are hidden. This Achiever (3) is like the classic Dorian Gray character. They become delusional in their envy of others. Ruthless and malicious in their attempt to destroy the happiness of others, Achiever (3)s at this level become obsessive about whatever reminds them of their own failures and shortcomings.




Type 4 Individualist

Individualist (4) When Self-Aware

Deeply creative, original, and expressive, Individualist (4)s are able to share their authenticity with the outside world in a profound way. Healing, inspiring, and regenerating, they harness their intense emotional energy in a positive way. They are highly self-aware, self-reflective, and balanced. They are sensitive to others, compassionate to themselves, and able to experience self-love. They start to recognize some of their talents and accomplishments. Individualistic, self-revealing but not self-wallowing, they come forward honestly and clearly. They become easier to relate to because their emotions, while intense, are more managed. They may be funny and ironic with a beautiful balance of emotional strength and vulnerability.

Individualist (4) With Tightening Defenses

They are poetic and sensitive in their approach to life, feeling deeply touched by small things and with a heightened sense of reality. Emotional intensity, passionate feelings, and ever-shifting moods characterize their experience. In an attempt to stay connected to their feelings, they begin to internalize everything. Their imagination and fantasy world become very rich and vivid, making reality dull by comparison. They are moody, introverted, hypersensitive and self-absorbed with a tendency to take everything personally. They withdraw to process their feelings. They may start to exhibit antisocial behavior. They feel alien to others and experience themselves as outsiders. They may live in a rich fantasy world and become disengaged and disdainful of practical reality. Self-pity, envy, depression, and melancholy are often present. Maintaining a regular routine becomes challenging.

Individualist (4) When Fixated

They experience themselves as a failure and feel shame. They become drained of energy and angry at themselves and others. They have difficulty functioning in normal society and feel increasingly alienated. Full depression may set in. Everything becomes a source of self-torture and a reminder of their sense of failure. Their sense of reality is lost and replaced with despair and hopelessness. The future seems dark. They drive away anyone who tries to help. Feelings of despair and hopelessness intensify. They feel trapped and may become self-destructive, with mental, emotional or physical breakdowns in the picture. Suicide attempts are possible.




Type 5 Investigator

Investigator (5) When Self-Aware

Investigator (5)s experience sparks of genius that can lead to original inventions, creative solutions and innovative thinking. They are open-minded about the world while penetrating deeply into subjects of interest, striving not just for rational knowledge but also knowledge of the heart. They develop wisdom. Investigator (5)s are keenly observant, discerning, and insightful with a heightened awareness of the world. Nothing misses their attention, and they can use their observation and concentration skills in a productive, beneficial way. They may be reserved but not isolationist, and they can share insights and stay engaged with others. At this level, they can synthesize experience with knowledge. They understand there is value in the emotional world. They become skilled masters of their field of interest as excitement about knowledge increases their pursuit. They develop original thinking, innovative approaches, and rare inventions. They are highly independent, quirky, and distinctive, and their off-the-beaten-path genuineness often gives them a certain charm.

Investigator (5) With Tightening Defenses

The Investigator (5)’s decision-making slows as the mind tries to solve all elements before acting. Their concerns about scarcity, including resources and energy, intensify. Their planning process can be lengthy to consider and ensure adequate resources from all angles. Their focus remains intense, and in areas of interest, they may develop a specialization. They may challenge the norm with their outside-the-box thinking. As Investigator (5)s focus on complicated ideas, imagined worlds, and abstract scenarios, they become less connected with reality. They are more hypothetical in their thinking and less grounded. They can become highly strung and intense. They often experience unrealistic concerns about the environment and may feel threatened by seemingly small disturbances. Isolation from the outside world intensifies as a way of guarding against disturbances in their inner world. Investigator (5)s may become provocative and outrageous with extreme views and beliefs. They can be secretive, private, cynical, and argumentative. They may have difficulty behaving appropriately in social environments.

Investigator (5) When Fixated

Isolated, eccentric, and withdrawn, they start to develop misanthropic tendencies. They become increasingly disconnected from reality and the practical world. Fear and anxiety start to dominate their experience, and feelings of instability and aggression may arise. They distance themselves from all social attachments and become hermit-like. Investigator (5)s become obsessed yet disturbed by their own ideas as the reality distortion grows. They have a tenuous connection to reality, and practical matters become difficult to navigate. They may fall prey to phobias and their own fears and paranoia. They begin to have psychotic breaks with reality as their imaginary world takes over. Barely functioning, they become deranged and self-destructive.




Type 6 Loyalist

Loyalist (6) When Self-Aware

Loyalist (6)s trust their inner guidance and have faith and confidence in others. They successfully balance interdependence and independence. They exhibit strong leadership skills and are fair and courageous. They are balanced and assess risk thoroughly and accurately. Their genuineness and caring touches others. Loving, affectionate, endearing, and appealing, they have trust, duty, and reliability as core traits. Honest bonding and long-term relationships are essential. The Loyalist (6) is deeply supportive and dedicated to issues and people with which they are aligned. They are hard-working, self-sacrificing, cooperative, and idealistic in their pursuit of creating a safer and more secure world.

Loyalist (6) With Tightening Defenses

The mental focus is very much on safety, security, and stability. Vigilant and anticipatory of problems, they look outside themselves to alliances and systems to keep them safe. In the face of mounting anxiety, they become indecisive, suspicious, cautious, evasive, and contradictory. They experience a lot of internal confusion, becoming highly reactive. Alternatively, they may become passive-aggressive as a way to avoid direct confrontation. Their actions become unpredictable, even to themselves. Blame enters the picture as a way of compensating for their own insecurities. The line between “us” and “them” may be drawn more clearly and more harshly. Their mind constantly scans for threats while their relationship with authority may take on a push-pull nature.

Loyalist (6) When Fixated

Anxious, erratic behavior is peppered with angry outbursts or deeply evasive strategies. Fearing they have jeopardized their security, they may become harshly self-critical with acute feelings of inferiority. Their thinking becomes extremely clouded as nothing feels safe and secure. They seek outside parties or systems to help them clarify their thinking and make decisions. They feel attacked by everyone and begin lashing out violently. Their extreme behavior begins to bring what they fear in terms of abandonment and a loss of security. They become deeply suspicious, even of their own inner circle. They become hysterical, self-destructive, and hyper-anxious.




Type 7 Enthusiast

Enthusiast (7) When Self-Aware

Enthusiast (7)s experience and express deep gratitude for life and what life offers them. They feel profound appreciation, awe, and delight in simple things and share this positive energy easily with others. These Enthusiast (7)s are naturally uplifting in a deep and sustainable way. Their gratitude is rooted in the full spectrum of experience. They can be deeply healing. They are enthusiastic, high energy, and both stimulated and stimulating. They find everything invigorating. They are cheerful, lively, and vivacious. At the same time, they don’t feel driven to avoid negative feelings or situations. Accomplished in many fields and areas, they are multi-talented as they use their boundary-free mind to cross-fertilize their areas of interest. Practical and productive, they can maintain focus and determination long enough to achieve their goals.

Enthusiast (7) With Tightening Defenses

Anxiety, masked as restlessness, intensifies the drive to have more choices and options. The person is adventurous and worldly but has difficulty staying focused and committing to anything long-term. There is a high drive for new things. They become indiscriminate, engaging in activities in an unfocused way to compensate for the fact they are unable to remain still. They become manic, hyperactive, uninhibited, and unfiltered. Their ideas are overflowing, but their follow-through is weak. The behavior takes on a self-interested edge, and they can be greedy, demanding, self-centered, and filled with gluttony for new experiences, food, alcohol, parties, or other forms of distraction. Nothing feels like enough as they are unable to get relief from their anxiety.

Enthusiast (7) When Fixated

Their behavior starts to exhibit a desperate quality as they become impulsive, infantile, and excessive. Healthy limits disappear, and extreme behavior including addictions may enter the picture as a form of escapism. The Enthusiast (7) becomes unpredictable and out of control, their moods become erratic and volatile, and there can be an element of mania to the person. This Enthusiast (7) is unable to slow down long enough to process any negative emotions. Despair kicks in as this person is exhausted, disillusioned, and broken. Their energy is depleted, their health destroyed, and they may fall into a deep depression, feeling despair about their life. Self-destructive behavior, including impulsive suicide attempts, can occur as a reaction to avoid being trapped in pain.




Type 8 Leader/Boss/Challenger

Leader (8) When Self-Aware

Leader (8)s become generous, magnanimous, restrained, wise, and courageous. They connect with a power higher than themselves, allowing them to be discerning and fair in their actions. They can access vulnerability and share it when appropriate. They can leave a significant mark on the world. Assertive, strong, bold, and self-confident, they fiercely advocate for themselves and any group they are aligned with or have elected to protect. Tough, resourceful, energized, and focused, they aggressively go after what they want with gusto. Decisive and commanding, the Leader (8) shows strong leadership skills and takes the initiative to make things happen. Honorable and protective, other people seek to be under the care and concern of self-aware Leader (8)s.

Leader (8) With Tightening Defenses

Independence and self-reliance become dominating themes and the drive to control their environment intensifies. There are concerns about adequate resources (financial, material and so forth). Earthy, practical, and resourceful, the Leader (8) may be pioneering and risk-taking, looking for opportunities to amass personal fortunes. Workaholism may be present as emotional needs are pushed to the side, minimized, or ignored. The Leader (8) wants control over their environment and the people in it. Questions of trust and loyalty become central as relationships narrow to friends or foes. Egocentric behavior may be present including bragging, cutting others down, and setting themselves at the top of the hierarchy in an arrogant manner. They become argumentative, combative, confrontational, and intimidating as a way to manage feelings of insecurity and vulnerability.

Leader (8) When Fixated

The Leader (8) becomes ruthless, tunnel-visioned, and dictatorial. They become extremely controlling and hard-hearted. They feel whoever has the most control is the winner, and they may have delusional ideas about their own power, feeling invincible and omnipotent. Megalomaniacal, they overreach, overextend, and power grab, using their environment indiscriminately. Feeling their power may be at risk, they may brutally annihilate everything that doesn’t conform to their desires. Surrender is off the table as it feels like self- destruction. They may become filled with revenge and rage, exhibiting irrational and violent behavior.




Type 9 Peacemaker

Peacemaker (9) When Self-Aware

Peacemaker (9)s become autonomous, present to themselves, directed, clear and fulfilled. They become balanced in their relationships with others and are able to set clear boundaries. They are accepting, stable, calm, deeply receptive and caring. They are relaxed and expansive with an openness and curiosity that feels innocent and simple. They are able to hold multiple conflicting perspectives in their minds without judgment or criticism. Their presence can be healing and harmonizing. They are easy and enjoyable to be around.

Peacemaker (9) With Tightening Defenses

Conflict avoidance colors their behavior as they become accommodating and passive, agreeing to things they don’t really want to do. They may become indirect and vague, finding it difficult to take a clear stance, although externally, they seem easygoing and relaxed. Action replaces right action, and the Peacemaker (9) fills their days with time- consuming but ultimately unimportant tasks. Stubbornness and avoidance are present as problems are deflected, and important priorities are put off. Their energy drops, and lethargy and sloth enter the picture. Their thinking becomes hazy, and self-medication in its various forms may begin. Indifference and inertia characterize the Peacemaker (9) as they become frozen in their resignation. They try to convince themselves and others that nothing is wrong. A fatalistic stance is taken as change seems unattainable as an option.

Peacemaker (9) When Fixated

Their energy is drained, and they have great difficulty pursuing, or even knowing, their goals. They may fall into depression. Their ability to function in a healthy way is compromised as they disassociate from themselves and become obstinate in their dealings with others. They begin to check out of their life and from reality. They continue in a numb, almost zombie-like manner. Neglect of themselves and others may become apparent. They become almost catatonic and severely dissociated from themselves and reality. They have lost their sense of themselves and have lost their way out of their confusion.



This page was excerpted from my book The Nine Keys.

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