Values are the guiding principles by which we live or, at least, they are aspirations that help us align our actions with our principles. Without values, we would be living in an immoral or amoral world of interpersonal confusion and existential chaos. At the same time, too strong an adherence to our values can create a counter-effect of personal and interpersonal difficulties. And too strong an identification with these values keeps our type structures in place, thus inhibiting our growth potential.
Enneagram 7s emphasize three important values: energy, optimism, and pleasure. They often think or say the following: “I need to keep my energy high and also do the same for those around me.” “Why worry when you can be happy! “Variety is the spice of life; I need to keep myself constantly stimulated.” Enneagram 7s intensely dislike restrictions or anything they believe curtails their freedom, are able to instantaneously integrate seemingly disparate ideas into new whole ideas, dislike being bored, are contagiously engaging, and often move in multiple direction simultaneously.
These three values – energy, optimism, and pleasure – support the Enneagram 7 “ego ideal” of being the “joyful person,” a person who is upbeat, spontaneous – some might call impulsive, inventive, adventurous, light-hearted. The “ego ideal,” according to Enneagram author and teacher Jerry Wagner, is the idealized self that people use as a positive definition of self, a partial answer to the question “Who am I?”
The issue is that while our type-based values are positive ones, we can hold onto these values so tightly and narrowly – after all, our idealized self depends on our firm belief in these principles – that these values can become impediments to our growth.
What is energy from the perspective an Enneagram 7? It means liveliness, animation, high spirits, continuous enthusiasm, effervescence and an endless source of fuel propelling them into excitement. Although these qualities are affirming and entrancing, keeping this up 24/7 is quite another matter. Feeling you must be constantly vibrant, even when you may not feel this way, is demanding. Where is the down time? Where is the space for self-reflection and relaxation. What happens on a day you are just not feeling so great, but others expect you to be constantly buoyant and you expect yourself to keep others vibrant and excited. It is very demanding.
What is optimism from the perspective an Enneagram 7? Many psychologists write that we should all strive to be optimistic, full of good cheer and positivity. But psychologists don’t mean that we should aspire to happy at all times, even in the face of difficult situations. Psychologists would say, “Deal with your issues as the arise and move on; avoiding challenging feelings by simply being positive about almost everything is really not the same as genuine development and growth.” For Enneagram 7s, the super optimism is not the same as true happiness or joy. For 7s, the super optimism can be an avoidance of sadness, fear, and even anger, all of which are human emotions that need to be experienced and worked with constructively to move toward greater satisfaction and wholeness. The super optimism of 7s also causes them to immediately reframe something they perceive as negative into something positive. The result is that 7s don’t stay with human experiences that they would need to explore and address if they want to truly grow.
What is pleasure from the perspective an Enneagram 7? Although pleasure can be defined by anyone, no matter the person’s Enneagram type, as the pursuit and experience of delight, fulfillment and contentment, for 7s, pleasure is the need for continuous stimulation, the pursuit of constant variety so as not to be bored or to have to deal with sorrow and fear, and the need to grab what they need in the moment, sometimes without regard to the consequences. This can cause others to perceive 7s as not serious enough in terms of gravitas or a someone with whom they cannot have deep and sustained conversations.
Values are the foundation of civil communities. Type-based values are organizing principles for people of each type. However, when our values are held too tightly, they limit our development.
Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of seven Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs and training tools for business professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit: TheEnneagramInBusiness.com | [email protected]