Michael NaylorGoing on Automatic Pilot

At the Average levels of development (Levels 4 to 6), when an emotional trigger is touched by another or by a stressful circumstance, the individual frequently blames and judges the external source for the suffering they are experiencing (As in…”It’s your fault I feel so badly. If it weren’t for you I’d be having a great day!”). Here, feeling good and being ‘happy’ depends on life matching one’s expectations, wants and desires from the outside. Things need to go our way to feel okay about our lives. At the healthy levels, feeling good is an ‘inside job’ and not dependent on external factors as the source of well-being.  We take responsibility for our experience and are empowered to make the changes we need.

Let’s take a closer more specific look at average Levels of Development as these levels are critical to understanding addiction, recovery and growth and indicate the warning signs that can undo an individual’s recovery efforts at any juncture in their journey.

Level 4: the Level of Imbalance and Social Role

At Level 4 the individual strongly identifies with his personality and a particular ‘social role’ (Riso-Hudson defined the social roles of each type, see The Wisdom of the Enneagram for additional information) that he tries to ‘be’ and get others to confirm and identify with. (Two: I am the Special Friend. Four: I am the Unique One. Five: I am the Expert. Eight: I am the Protector. Seven: I am the Energizer. Three: I am the Best.) It’s as if his actions are now an advertisement that says: “This is who I am.”  For instance, the Type One takes on the role of the mentor/teacher and attempts to promote an image of ‘teacher’ to those around him. His message to the world is “I am the teacher, the one who can improve the way you and I do things.  I know how things should be done and what should be corrected.” He see’s what’s wrong with you and will help you, in fact, he often feels obligated to help you. At level 4 his effort to be ‘the teacher’ is not harsh or abrasive. If you met this man (or woman) you’d find him to be likeable, intelligent, and easy to be around.

At Level 4 the mental and emotional habit of each Type makes its entry, both of which serve to disconnect him from a direct experience with himself and reality. For instance, the mental habit (or fixation) of the ‘judging mind’ and the emotional habit (or passion) of ‘resentment’ arises for the Type One as he begins to abandon his genuine experience of himself. The One begins to feel resentful because he feels compelled to take responsibility for assuring the quality of all the work around him, for correcting the errors of others, and feels he is working harder than anyone else to improve circumstances. At Level 4 he is becoming ‘the burdened one’ who carries the responsibilities of others on his shoulders.

Level 5: The Level of Manipulation and Interpersonal Control

At Level 5 all the constricting tendencies of Level 4, the emotional and mental habit, and social role, etc., intensify. The One goes from promoting his self-image to the world (Level 4), to trying to manipulate and coerce others to see him as “The Teacher” (Level 5). His emotional habit of resenting others intensifies and he responds by being more critical about the errors of others, while feeling more obligated and insistent in improving others through his interventions. He is losing contact with what is good about other people and himself, and is suffering more due to his disconnection. As the result of his increased suffering he reacts by applying his judgments and standards more harshly on others and himself. At Level 5 he is unaware of what is truly driving his behavior, and unable to see how he is affecting and offending others, while believing he has insight into the problems at hand. Unable to sense his real feelings, he gets lost in his personal reactivity and subjective feelings (as all types do at this level), while believing his impressions, feelings, and reactions to life represent objective reality. He is suffering with the “illusion of certainty’ regarding his take on reality, on who he is, and is offended when those around him do not agree (Each of us knows this dance in our own lives.). In his own type-specific manner, he is becoming more self-centered and unavailable for true connection with others. This is called going on automatic pilot. With a little awareness we will begin to see how much of our day is actually spent at this level where we are functioning yet ‘checked out’ for all intent and purposes.  Becoming aware and conscious of Level 5 behaviors (and Level 6) is absolutely fundamental for sustaining a life of drug free living.

Level 6: The Level of Overcompensation and Early/Middle Stage Addiction                                                      When an individual becomes addicted to a substance, they descend to Level 6 (and below) where they are more constricted emotionally, mentally and physically by their type-specific defensive habits, causing their innate gifts and capacities to constrict, disappear and morph into their polar opposite. They feel numb, depressed, lonely, ashamed, angry, and afraid, and use substances to alter or numb these feelings. In response to deep suffering and addiction, the Two’s capacity for loving-kindness becomes shrouded in fear and manipulation; the One’s capacity for fairness is distorted by strident, one-sided judgment; the Seven’s enthusiastic joy gets lost in impulsive hedonism; the Fours creative sensitivity is smothered by self-indulgence and entitlement.

At Level 6, the individual has further constricted his capacity to sense his true feelings, to inhabit the aliveness of his body, and has fully lost contact with quiet mind. He is suffering terribly and filled with fear, shame, anger, despair, hopelessness, and heart-break, and is more unable to accurately comprehend reality. Here, addiction begins to take hold as he finds substances that temporarily quell his suffering. He has moved from ‘promoting’ a self-image at Level 4, to ‘manipulating others’ into seeing and approving his self-image at Level 5, to becoming ‘aggressiveabout forcing his personality agenda onto others at Level 6, all of which correlates with an ever-deepening unconscious sense of despair within him. The Type Four gets aggressive about whether people are seeing and reflecting his uniqueness; the Eight gets aggressive about convincing people that he’s in charge while certain others are betraying him; the Seven gets aggressive about asserting his desire for pleasure, the One gets aggressive about his principles and ideals and turns to reprimanding and punishing others when they don’t follow his dictates, his principles, or his judgments.

Each type at this level tries to inflict on others what he fears most. That is, “Do unto others what you’d least like having done to you.” Whatever the type fears and hates most they impose and punish others with. Riso-Hudson have named this aggressive behavior as the “Leaden Rule.” The Eight, who fears being harmed and controlled, begins to threaten harm and is abusive to others. The Three, who fears having no value, treats others as if they have no value. The Type Six, who fears having no support or guidance, makes others feel like they have no support or guidance. The Nine, who fears he is nobody special, treats others as if they were not special.

At L5 and L6 individuals are acting in ways that defy and oppose their self image (their idealized view of themselves which when healthy, represents the truth of who they are), yet imagining they are in accord with it. The Four, who sees himself as deeply sensitive, is rejecting and humiliating those who don’t have ‘good aesthetic taste.’ In fact, he is despising them, but can’t ‘see’ himself acting badly. His actions are done in the service of his self image: “I am deeply sensitive and creative.” Each type has their version of this. Of supreme importance to recovering and thriving in addiction recovery is the critical ability to see when one’s actions do not match one’s idealized self-image, that is, when one has descended to Levels 5, 6 and 7. And to realize daily, that each of, at some point in our day, drops to Level 5 and 6. For those in addiction recovery, this dip to Level 6 is a major wake-up call because the more one inhabits this level, the more the unseen tendrils of our addiction reach through to us, sweep in unseen, and begin chanting  the fatal lines that devour many: “You can have one drink (or drug). It’s safe. You know how to control your addiction now. Go ahead, you deserve a break.” At Level 6 we can easily decide that “We want what we want and screw the world!” Of course, driving this ego-centeredness is despair, sadness, hopelessness, and shame, which if not held with kindness and clarity, so easily morphs into self-indulgent, it’s-all-about-me, behaviors that deliver the hammer-blow of addiction.


Michael Naylor, M.Ed, CCPC, LADC, CCS, is a faculty member of the Enneagram Institute, a Certified Professional Coach, an Authorized Riso-Hudson Enneagram Teacher, and IEA accredited teacher, and a Licensed Addictions Therapist. He teaches in the U.S.A and coaches internationally.