Enneagram, Personal Growth

The Futile Chase – Part I

In a previous post, I discussed how some use personality systems to keep themselves in the confines of their box — forever remaining an apple, while others use it to climb out of their box, becoming a sophisticated version of themselves — the metaphorical apple pie. Just like the apple’s essence lives on in the apple pie, these transformed individuals retain the essence of their personality type. However, their “box” doesn’t remain the final definition of who they are but serves only as the beginning point of their self-growth journey.

We all want to climb out of our boxes, so what is it that keeps us inside?

The answer is what I like to refer to as “The Futile Chase.”

When you think of “The Futile Chase,” envision a dog running in circles as it tries to catch its tail. Though it can exhaust itself in the process, its efforts are futile.

In the same way, each of the nine Enneagram personality types is driven by unique desires and fears. When we keep chasing after our desires, they remain beyond our reach. This futile chase is exhausting and frustrating and keeps us confined in our box. You know how our Sages say that those who pursue honor, honor runs from them, yet those who run from honor are rewarded with it? The same is true here. Only when we let go and surrender, we stop that futile, exhausting chase, do we finally receive what we’ve wanted all along.

The following is a brief overview of the desire and the chase of the first four of the nine Enneagram types. Of course, a true understanding of the types requires an explanation of their fears, their dominant traits, directions of growth and stress, among other things. Moreover, a more comprehensive explanation of each type’s chase — which is presented in detail in my book Out of the Box — can help prevent mistyping. Nonetheless, I believe the following can be helpful in conveying the idea of The Futile Chase.

  • The One‘s basic desire is to be a good person, to be perceived by others as good, and to bring positive change to the world, and they are indeed blessed with the passion, ambition, and organizational skills to influence change around them. The chase develops as their desire to be good leads them to have strong opinions about right and wrong. Because they want others to see them as good too, they passionately and persistently preach their views. The result is a critical, opinionated person whose black and white thinking can lead to mistakes and whose pushiness alienates the very people whom they are trying to influence. Only after they give up the chase and become more objective, accepting, and tolerant do others respect their views and become more receptive to the messages they wish to share.
  • The Two‘s basic desire is to connect to people and feel loved and needed by them, and they are indeed blessed with exceptional warmth and the ability to perceive when others need assistance. The chase develops as their desire to feel needed leads them to offer assistance at times in an overbearing, controlling manner and to struggle with people-pleasing tendencies, such as the inability to turn down a request for help. The result is a meddling or overextended person whom others begin to resent for offering unwanted or grudging assistance. Only after they give up the chase and offer assistance in a truly altruistic manner, and are honest with their own limitations, do they finally earn the love and connectedness that had eluded them earlier.
  • The Three‘s basic desire is to distinguish themselves and feel valued for their success and achievements, and they are indeed blessed with confidence, optimism, poise, and the strong work ethic necessary to achieve success. The chase develops as their desire to portray an image of success leads them to become overly image-conscious, superficial, and competitive. The result is a superficial person who will not hesitate to use underhanded tactics to reach their goals. Only after they give up the chase and become more authentic and humble do they actualize their potential and find the success and admiration that eluded them earlier.
  • The Four‘s basic desire is to discover and express their unique, authentic selves and to create and find beauty in the world, and they are indeed blessed with unusual sensitivity, self-awareness, and creativity.  The chase develops as their desire for complete authenticity leads them to begin analyzing and dissecting every emotion. The result is a person who is completely consumed by their inner, emotional world and struggles to deal with the minutiae of daily living and to actualize their creative potential. Only after they give up the chase and live with more self-control and equilibrium do they finally learn how to channel their emotions and creativity productively so that they can experience the pleasure of discovering and expressing their true selves.

I hope the above helps to explain how our basic desires lead to The Futile Chase, and how when we stop chasing after our desires with such intensity do we finally emerge from the box and achieve real growth.

In the next post I will be’ezras Hashem present the desires and the chase for the other five Enneagram types. Until then, please post your comments and questions below.

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