Healthy Two

Martin came into addiction recovery twenty-four years ago, and it shows. Sitting at an AA meeting, his angular face and body embody stillness, grace, strength and gentleness. One hears the moment he speaks, a depth of compassion and kindness towards the men in the room struggling to be sober. He has been to the bottom, resurrected through insurmountable suffering and abuse, and has become a mountain of love. His kind heart is magnetic, and pulls men to him that otherwise would never approach him. His demeanor is clear: it is safe to have a broken heart in his presence. You have nothing to hide. You will be held by love. There is room for you here, exactly as you are. He speaks clearly, articulately, and with an eye towards completely encouraging men with his faith that if they work the steps of recovery they will find their way. But moreover, when he has taken on another man as their sponsor, he goes to any length to find out what will settle his aching, confused heart. His dedication to deliver kindness and caring shows no bounds and his genius for finding the support a man needs, unbeatable.

His sponsee’s know this and feel this. Enveloped in Martin’s kindness and compassion, and his capacity to sense the sorrow of the wounded boy, the newly sober man feels the love of a good mother or nurturing father perhaps for the first time. And being seen through his eyes of compassion, where forgiveness is available, where gentleness touches you, the sponsee is directly reminded on a visceral level that God, or the Universe, or Martin loves you and values you—that he is held by the gracious and powerful force of love. This is the holy healing power of the Two, defined at the Helper, the caring, interpersonal type, known for possessing and expressing the qualities of unconditional love and kindness, for touching people with the sweetness of the heart.

When they are healthy—like Martin—they are teachers and exemplars of loving kindness, generosity, encouragement and forgiveness. Open hearted, they sense and feel the potential goodness and love in those they touch. Passionate about connecting and being connected to people, they are drawn to you, to helping you, to hearing about you, to resonating and feeling your heart, to melting into the sweetness of you. And yet this is not a weak, hallmark-card shallow, loving kindness. It is strong, potent, penetrating, and will change you at depth. To sit with real love and to be attuned to with real love will demolish the structure of your self-protection; will melt through the blockages to your own heart, will land like a nuclear explosion on your suppressed suffering and our despair. And ultimately it will give you what you’ve always wanted—genuine connection with another human being and your heart. This is the mission and gift of the Two.

The Two In Addiction—Life at Level 6 and Level 7

The addicted Two, living at Level 6 and 7, has lost contact with his potent capacities and his loving heart. He is desperate for contact and reconnection with his heart, and inadvertently tries to find it in the loving gaze of others. Blindly he wanders, cut off from what he loves most, his own heart, where he attempts to construct “imitations” of the real thing. He seeks wounded partners to save, to care take, to become indispensable to, as a replacement for genuine love. He is hungry for attention and affirmation, and willing to sacrifice all of his needs for any crumbs of recognition or kindness. Wearing himself out in his efforts, his real needs erased from awareness, he is driven by possessiveness and the fear that at any moment he will be abandoned. Selling himself out for anything that looks like love, he gravitates to partners who cannot really see him or appreciate him, but who sometimes use him for their own need fulfillment. Having lost contact with his heart, he is unable to sense what he needs, or truly sense the rejection others are giving him. He holds on for dear life, his drug of choice numbing his sorrow and desperation.

As his capacity to connect with others disappears he more and more employs dishonesty and deceit to hold friends and lovers captive. His very actions of attempting to make them dependent on him, to need him, to not reject him—push them away. Angered or utterly shamed at the bad reception and lack of acknowledgement from others for his loving attempts, he compensates by developing the illusion that he is genuinely loving and simply unappreciated. He further exacerbates this painful situation by becoming manipulative, deceptive, and selfish in his attempts to anchor love, the very opposite of his inherent gifts. Or worse yet, he collapses in a whirlpool of self-hatred and depression, feeling he is unworthy of love. He drowns his suffering in his substance use.

At Level 6 his attempts to love and create loving relationships have failed. In the midst of his failures he has drunk and drugged to quell his broken heart, to quell the sorrow and anxiety he feels at failing at his mission: resurrecting love in his life, loving others enough so that he feels loved and wanted and connected. As his heart has contracted his efforts have become more desperate. As one Two said at the unhealthy levels: “I don’t have relationships, I have hostages; and when I let go of someone I’ll always leave claw marks. Truth is, I’ll do just about anything to not be abandoned.” He has moved from being someone filled with love, kindness and generously and offering it when needed, to one who is on the lookout for love, needy for love, trying to experience love through his efforts to resurrect other wounded souls. He reaches precisely in the wrong direction to enable him to return to himself and his true heart. Your job as a sponsor, therapist, friend, is to assist him in beginning to see that the desperate efforts he is making to heal his heart disconnects him further from his real wish. In turn this sets him up for continued substance use as a salve for the sorrow he feels.

The First Twelve Weeks of Residential Treatment

When the Two arrives in treatment at a residential facility he is, for the most part, feeling a huge disconnect from life. His primary source of identity—those that he loves—are gone. He will be caught in the machinery of his thinking mind, wondering about his loved ones, wondering if he’d done this or that whether he could have changed the outcomes he now faces. Heart-broken, he is only temporarily slowed down from his usual pacing, on the go to connect and communicate with his loved ones whether they are with him or not. He thinks about them, and thinks about them, and it is difficult to bring his attention into the room—and on to himself and what he is feeling and needing.

As he attends AA/NA meetings, he is on the lookout for lost souls, wounded souls that he can assist, help, and win over to have a place with (Now, everyone has this need, but for the Two is it dominant!). If he can find someone to love back to life he will feel better, he will have a purpose, and he will not have to sit in the suffering of disconnection from loved ones who have abandoned him. As he sits in recovery groups he will talk about his girlfriend or his wife, how he worries about her, what she struggles with, how he would like to help her. It will often appear as though he’s come to treatment to help her and other loved ones, rather than deal with his addiction issues. His habitual focus will be outside himself. He is here to learn a fundamental lesson which is alien territory for him: how to recognize that he needs help and then how to ask for it and utilize it. In the first days at the treatment center he will be open to suggestions but shortly, quick as a wink, as he feels better, his maneuvering mind will begin re-scripting his priorities. Maybe he could try again? Maybe his wife wasn’t serious about leaving him. If he can only get her back, then things will be fine. Maybe he doesn’t really have an addiction problem but just needs to know how to love his partner better. And besides, who has time to consider ones hurt feelings, anger, needs or wants—that’s selfish and unloving, thinks the Two.


The Inner Critic Message of the One: plain and simple, you are not wanted so here’s your marching orders: you are only worthy of love if those around you acknowledge your loving actions and want you in their life. Otherwise, you are nothing, worthy of being discarded. You must earn the love of others, or you are not worth loving. No exceptions allowed. Now get to work. And…you must prove yourself all over again each new day. Are you anxious yet? No complaining!


The focus of his treatment becomes them—his relationships—and not him. His only problem, he may think, is that he drank too much because he was so upset with how badly things were going in his relationship. He doesn’t need treatment for addiction; he doesn’t need to know, sense, feel and understand his emotions and internal struggles that drive his blind need for relationship—he needs to get back home as fast as possible. Otherwise, he suspects, the feeling of abandonment and unworthiness exploding in his heart will utterly overwhelm and undo him. And never mind that due to his addiction, he’s lost the capacity to be real in his relationship, to speak from his true heart, to ask for help when he needed it, to admit his own suffering and need.  To focus on his needs is unthinkable and painful. As Martin said:

“When I was in early recovery I was so used to shutting off my needs that the idea of actually nurturing myself was utterly alien. Nurture myself, what was that? I could take care of you, but there was no “me” to nurture. And to stop and attempt this meant I had to feel the excruciating feelings of guilt and shame for being ‘selfish’, or the horrid sense that I was unworthy of nurturing in the first place. So I shut it off. I learned this as a kid: having needs meant being ridiculed, beaten, and rejected. My heart turned to stone for many years, until I got into recovery. Much easier to focus on you, and help you, than to walk into this wall of shame and pain. Much easier to sacrifice myself and think of myself as the strong one who didn’t need love. Much easier to not feel at all!”              

It took him time, much time, to realize that his zealous efforts to create love and connection with others actually pushed people away, or attracted those to him who were very unhealthy.

Protective Mechanism of the Two—I Don’t Need Anything 

The Type Two protects himself from rejection by not letting anyone know what they need (because the Two often doesn’t know what they need). If I don’t expose my needs you won’t have an opportunity to reject me directly, and I could not bear that, they think. Driven to give love now, in this moment, they are incredibly sensitive to rejection. And while wanting to stay connected and close to those they love, they invariably make it impossible for others to genuinely love them for who they are, because they don’t reveal who they are, warts and all.  They are terrified that their needs will deem them selfish (and god forbid they get angry!). The Two believes in their bones that to be lovable, they must be loving at all times, as in “I only have loving feelings towards you and only wish to do things for you.”


Type Two Challenge: Two’s are endowed with the gift of being able to attune to the needs and suffering of others. They arrive in addiction recovery habituated towards seeing the suffering of others, while being unable to sense their own personal suffering. Easily they reach in to help others before checking in with their own needs for support, or giving themselves permission to express and feel all of their feelings. They’ve learned that this is “selfish” and makes them unlovable and worthy of being abandoned. Your challenge will be to help them notice when they’ve abandoned themselves in the action of caring for another, or have moved away from feelings of anger, sadness, humiliation by reaching to support another. This is major recovery work for the Two at all stages of their sobriety.


On an unconscious level they live with the silent belief underlying much of their actions, of “I’m not lovable. I have to prove I’m worthy of love. I must work for any love scrap I can get. And if I don’t get it, it’s my fault. If it’s given to me for free, I’m not really worthy and must pay back what I’m given in triplicate.”                                                                                                             They labor under the incredible heavy weight of this dictate, which is strongly reinforced by their inner critic who says something akin to “You are only worthwhile if you feeling loving towards others, doing nice things for others, thinking about the needs of others, making sure your relationships are filled with love” (meaning that other’s are including you in their life).” Talk about impossible. Driven to please their particular inner critic (who’s a loveless unhappy chap to begin with who cannot be pleased no matter how much the Two gives, ask any Two!) and those they seek to love, the Two is not willing to take any chances that his needs or heart desires might upset or interfere with others loving him. So he cuts himself off from even asking the question “What do I want or desire?” As one Type Two man in recovery said to me when I asked him how he dealt with his desires and wants in early recovery, he replied, “What wants? I learned early that having wants meant I invited suffering and ridicule. So, that was the end of wants. I turned my heart off; I stopped wanting what I wanted. Who would ‘want’ when it only brings suffering?” And that’s the key question for the Two: who would ‘want’ if it only brings suffering?                                                                                                                                                 Inspired to calling forth the best in others, and reflecting the happiness of their heart when healthy, when unhealthy they hide behind the happy face and the happy side of life, to the exclusive of their own heart. Thus, the heart-desires of the Two go unheeded, or are masked so that no one really sees them, leaving him with a heart that is truly impoverished. This becomes a deeply entrenched habit that makes his soul a feeding ground for addiction. When the Two self-abandons himself, addiction can easily fill in the empty space of his abandoned soul, numbing it to sleep.                                                                                                                                                And so the question becomes for the Two, how do I get real? How do I begin to admit the darker side of myself, my anger, my rage, my shame, my broken heart, my empty heart, my abandoned heart? How do I begin to notice that when this empty heart comes online that I immediately try to flee it and go into automatic pilot and reach out to help others, or attune to their needs. How do I slow down enough to see, with compassion, that when I am suffering I shift this hurt into helping others without being aware of whether help is wanted. And that ultimately this has a way of attracting emotional vampires to me, that see me as a desperate, needy soul begging for scraps of love, and unwittingly use my despair and my good intentions to suck me dry. How does the Two begin to get conscious of this powerful pattern such that he stops throwing his jewels of caring at the feet of fools in moments of desperation and hurt.

This is the path back, and a most difficult one for the Two because they are wired to dropping their needs, wants and agenda in a heartbeat when someone who they seek love from, be it their daughter, son, husband, wife, lover, friends, asks for something. They jump into action. They begin doing for the other without awareness of what they have left behind, themselves and their needs. This is called unconscious giving and not the best of the Two. The Two truly feels he has only one choice—to give when others need him.


Tip for the Two: Once you have begun recovery from addiction high-tail it to Al-Anon. You must learn to identify your needs and become able to put them first and foremost, if you are to stay sober. Healthy Selfishness is high on your recovery agenda!


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.