In the 1945 French film Children of Paradise there is a pivotal moment when all seems lost. The story concerns a love triangle set in a theater company involving a shy mime, a glamorous actress, and a flamboyant actor who is a Seven. Late in the film, after much heartache and indecision, the actress finally realizes that it is the mime whom she loves rather than the actor. When she breaks the news to him the jilted suitor takes the rejection with predictable disappointment and a silence ensues.
Suddenly, his face is swept with a smile. “I think I’m jealous. I’ve never felt anything like this. It’s insidious, unpleasant. It infects your heart. You reason, but your reason fails you. Me jealous! And full of regrets. But why should I recover so fast? What if I enjoyed it? What if jealousy was helpful to me? Even necessary?
“Thank you! Thanks to both of you. Now I can play Othello! I didn’t feel the character before. He was alien to me. Now he’s a friend, a brother. I’ve found him!” Off he goes happily, eager to apply the pain he feels for the loss of the relationship – a loss that has already become a gain.
Seven is the last in the trio of Enneagram styles that respond fearfully to life. Where frightened Fives withdraw socially and Sixes become self-doubting or suspicious, Sevens manage their fears in a much different way. People with this style tend to suppress and escape their anxiety by willfully focusing on the positive and imagining plans, options and possibilities. Sevens are natural optimists who look on the bright side, make lemonade out of lemons and keep happily active. While this is the key to what is healthiest about them, the defensive point of this strategy is to avoid inner pain and be hard to hit as a moving target.
At their healthiest Sevens are often well-rounded “renaissance” people who may be highly accomplished in many disparate realms of interest. People with this style are usually adventurous and multi-talented, with an authentic zest for living. At the age of 86, a peripatetic Seven adventurer-reporter was asked what he was going to do next. He replied, “I don’t like to talk about it. People steal my ideas.”
Healthy Sevens often possess an endearing blend of charm and curiosity; they can be outgoing, generous and progressively interested in new horizons. Unlike Sixes who anticipate negative futures, Sevens tilt toward the positive, looking forward to what will happen next, suffused with a feeling of “hooray for tomorrow.” As one Seven says, “For me, tomorrow always begins the night before.”
Childlike but not childish, healthy Sevens are great appreciators who can enthusiastically enjoy life’s gifts, even the small ones. Self aware Sevens are often highly resilient and recover well from calamity and loss. They also make sensitive and loyal friends.
At their best, people with this style accept the realistic necessity for both long-term commitments and occasional struggles in their lives. Facing and integrating life’s difficult dimensions gives Sevens more depth and consequently enhances their joy. Many report that being willing to make appropriate sacrifices gives their lives a stable structure within which they still find variety.
Receptive and open to experience, healthy Sevens have a kind of willed vulnerability, an attitude towards the world that is essentially defenseless, approaching each day with a kind of principled openness. “I want to set a precedent for my children,” a successful Seven explains, “They won’t hear me on my deathbed saying that I wish that I had lived my life differently. I am one big yes.”
By example, healthy Sevens teach the rest of us how to celebrate and enjoy life. A friend of a recently deceased Seven eulogized him this way: “If he had a mission, it was to emphasize that life was fun. He once said that his ideas were more humorous than practical. This meant that he was one of the few people I have known who strode through life rather than circumnavigating it. He always seemed to me a complete and fulfilled man and he died at the age of 84 without ever being old.”