Tom CondonIn the Enneagram’s organization, Twos, Threes and Fours form an ’emotional trio’ as do Fives, Sixes and Sevens and then Eights, Nines and Ones. The personality styles in each of these groups share childhood themes, emotional habits and general worldviews.


Fives, Sixes and Sevens – Confusion of Action

Fives, Sixes and Sevens form another emotional trio. Unlike Twos, Threes and Fours, people in this group aren’t confused about who they are or how they feel. Instead, they unconsciously anticipate life’s dangers and habitually react from an emotional ground of fear. Fives, Sixes and Sevens generally have the most trouble claiming their personal power and taking congruent, decisive action in the world.

In Enneagram literature, people in this trio are called ‘mental types’ because they go through life leading with their heads. Most are thinkers who overuse their minds as if to compensate for suppressing their body instincts. Fives, Sixes and Sevens often struggle with dilemmas of doing and experience a kind of knot in the will.

Imagine seeing the world as a hazardous place populated by forces that can act on you unfavorably, against which you have no sure defense. It’s as though you’re not at the top of the food chain and have to keep watch for larger predators who can overwhelm, injure or trap you. Within this worldview, your power to choose, to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ is not completely your own. Your personal preferences are less important than those of others – they have rights and you don’t. Whatever people ask of you, you feel you must say ‘yes,’ even if your true answer is ‘no.

Because they displace their power, Fives, Sixes and Sevens all unconsciously question their competence to handle present and future challenges. To compensate they tend to live in the future, mentally preparing for what will happen by thinking in visual and auditory ‘loops.’ They see images of the future in their mind’s eye, then talk to themselves, then see more images, then talk to themselves – all in order to quell their anxiety and prepare for what’s coming next. It’s like narrating home movies in your mind’s eye or seeing previews of coming attractions.

Fives, Sixes and Sevens can have complicated decision making strategies because they are often trying to do two things at once – choose and not choose. To an outside observer, people in this trio seem to replace doing with thinking. On the inside, thinking feels to them like a kind of doing, what might be called pseudo action. The fear these styles feel is sometimes described in Enneagram books as cowardice but another term for it is self-opposition. While Twos, Threes and Fours tend to be self-rejecting, Fives, Sixes and Sevens tend to be self-opposing, in that they turn their power against themselves.


To varying degrees, Fives, Sixes and Sevens grew up feeling unprotected, overpowered or inappropriately needed and may have sensed early on that life was dangerous. The child’s true wishes could have been opposed by others who needed to overprotect, control or abandon the child. People with these styles experienced their early world as non-negotiable. Young Fives can feel swarmed or pressured by social expectations. Sixes might have felt unprotected or dominated, while Sevens often felt confined or over-obligated.

Carried forward in time, adults with these backgrounds habitually suppress their wills and deny their true preferences as a way to anticipate outer opposition. Fives, Sixes and Sevens all tend to project their power onto outside people or forces. Where they once were opposed by others in the past they now oppose themselves.

Adult Fives can feel as if others have the power to ask anything of them and the Five can’t say ‘no.’ They avoid asserting themselves directly and then later draw too-strong boundaries after they feel invaded. Sixes may refuse to directly say ‘no,’ instead deferring their choices to romanticized authority figures upon whom the Six feels dependent. Sevens agree to things that they don’t want to do or feel trapped by the pain of others. After creating a jail of expectation and obligation, Sevens feel as though they have no options. To compensate, they then break out of jail and escape into new plans and possibilities, over-flexing their capacity to choose.

The primary wound for Fives, Sixes and Sevens is to their sense of power and volition. While Twos, Threes and Fours are preoccupied with identity, Fives, Sixes and Sevens are preoccupied with competence. Their running unconscious question isn’t ‘Who am I?’  but rather ‘Am I capable? Can I really do this?’ The ruling paradox for each of these styles is: ‘to have my power I must first give it away to others.’

As they grow and change the general challenge for Fives, Sixes and Sevens is to reclaim and master their own power and take responsibility for their actions. As they mature, people with these styles get in touch with their instincts and ‘motive force’ and begin to exercise their wills instead of projecting them. They start to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ from a feeling of free choice and learn how to assert themselves appropriately.


Excerpted from The Dynamic Enneagram by Tom Condon

Copyright 2009, 2013 by Thomas Condon

Available as an ebook serial at Tom’s website


Tom Condon has worked with the Enneagram since 1980 and with Ericksonian hypnosis and NLP since 1977. These three models are combined in his trainings to offer a useful collection of tools for changing and growing, to apply the Enneagram dynamically, as a springboard to positive change. Tom has taught over 800 workshops in the US, Europe and Asia and is the author of 50 CDs, DVDs and books on the Enneagram, NLP and Ericksonian methods. He is founder and director of The Changeworks in Bend, Oregon.

Tom can be contacted at: