Every time I give an Enneagram talk, I discard the old one and completely re-write it. I don't know why because it ends up being very similar to the previous one, although I do get something out of the repetition. Writing the material over and over again gets me more and more familiar with each psychic structure, reinforcing how our personality types are triggered as we descend down the levels into a contracted state, and what landmarks we meet as we go up into the realm of expansive emotional well-being.
I've been writing my seventh talk, and for this one, I decided to include how the Superego, Id, and Ego come into play for each type when they come under stress, as explained by Don Riso and Russ Hudson in their 1996 book, Personality Types, an utter masterpiece on human nature as explained through the Enneagram.
I started off with the Type One, saying their Superego kicks in when under stress and berates them mercilessly for not being more perfect and integrated. Then there's the Type Two whose Superego kicks in when under stress and shames them for not being more loving and kind. At Type Three, we have the Ego expanding under stress to assert their place among the competition, but it's at Type Four that I had an invaluable insight.
At first I wrote that the Four's Id kicks in and steals them away from reality, pulling them into the heart space. The picture I meant to paint was the Id withdrawing them down to the heart to indulge their emotional life. (Type 5 withdraws into the head, and the Type Nine withdraws into the body). Remember, the Id is the third of Freud's tripartate brain that has the appetite for fun, excitement, and carnal pleasures. Once in the heart space, the Four indulges their imagination until it's safe to come out. So that vocabulary worked for a couple days- saying the Id "kicked in", as if it was the assertive force pulling the Four into their withdrawal, as if escapism into the imagination was the carnal pleasure of the Id. But by that logic, Fours don't really want success, happiness, and financial freedom- they want to hide. Huh?
The experience around wanting is admitedly painful and complicated for the withdrawing Four. At work, we watch the assertive Eights and Threes get ahead because they "want it more". We get told we didn't get the promotion because we didn't "toot our own horn" enough. And Fours are often told by the "rescuers" they've attracted into their lives what they want, or that what they want is wrong. Even when they do know what they want, being addicted to frustration, they don't allow themselves to fully have it anyway, because the Four's ego structure is centered around not having. The internal flow of logic in the ego structure only "works" when it's not getting what it wants.
Anyway, the Id is supposed to want yummy and exciting things, and withdrawing doesn't actually feel that good. It isn't on par with sticky toffee pudding. I mean, yes, it does feel a little good because you're escaping from something that's maybe too tough to deal with, or maybe you're being passive aggressive with a partner, and it feels good to stick it to them by giving them the silent treatment. There's a certain tastiness about withdrawal revenge, I'll give it that, but it doesn't feel like the same kind of fun you get when you're binge-watching your favorite show- withdrawal is a contracted state of the soul. In other words, using that vocabulary tells me that the libidinal impulse of Fours, Fives, and Nines doesn't really work. It's like saying that the Id's turning against itself is intrinsic to its operation, which doesn't make things any easier to discover (or attain) what makes us happy. Might as well just tell Fours that they want to suffer, and Fives that they want to be on the fringe, and Nines that they want someone else to blend into.
So I tried switching the wording around and I had a beautiful aha moment. I decided to say that under stress, the Four gets disconnected from the Id impulse, because that implies that that the Id is still healthy and red-blooded, and there is a knowing at some level what we want, and eventually, through practice, we can become more comfortable there. This is more how Riso and Hudson worded it:
Fours, Fives, and Nines are all withdrawn from the direct expression of their Id impulses and especially their ability to assert themselves in the environment, compensating in characteristic ways....
Notice that the Id has an intrinsic directness toward the object of its desire. So I'm so happy to know our Id is intact and the problem is with our withdrawal from what we want, not in some weird, unhealthy desire to contract away from life, or worse, having no desires at all.