Enneagram in Music Therapy
By Renee De Luca, MusicWorx Intern
Disclaimer and my perspective of personality types
I am not an expert on how the enneagram works, and I do not believe that personality tests are the law. I think as individuals we grow and adapt, and the test is just one method to understand yourself and others, but it does not make it law and shouldn’t prevent us from adapting because of the results it gives us. I am writing this blog to show how this could be helpful in therapeutic relationship or a work relationship.
What is the Enneagram?
On a foundational level, it is a personality test that helps describe what humans do, why they do it, and how these actions emerge from our childhood. The test shows why we decide to do things like change jobs or build a relationship in a certain way. We develop our “personality type” from certain situations that threaten our sense of self when it is being developed. For example, a three-year-old can develop fear or basic motivation based off of experiences that occur repetitively. The three-year-old could be excited about blowing bubbles, and the mother is busy doing other tasks and passively says “congratulations.” More instances like that may happen throughout their childhood in similar ways, and they begin to see the lack of gratification and develop a motivation or desire from it. These catalysts help personality develop and can be from a trauma or can be as simple as how you go to sleep at night.
The test was created to explain:
- A person’s actions through the context of their past
- How situations, experiences, and learned behaviors affect their actions and perceptions as adults.
There are nine distinct personality types, however it is not uncommon to find yourself a little in each personality type.
Below is the outline of types from the Enneagram institute website. All images are from the website as well.
Type One is principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic
- Desires: To be inherently good and have integrity
- Fear: To be bad, to fail
Type Two is generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive
- Desire: To feel love, to be needed
- Fear: Being unloved
Type Three is adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious
- Desire: Feeling worth while
- Fear: Being worthless
Type Four is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental
- Desire: To create out of my inner experience
- Fear: Having no identity (internal identity: what if there is nothing inside me?)
Type Five is perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated
- Desire: Wanting to be capable
- Fear: Being helpless or useless
Type Six is engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious
- Desire: Finding security in support
- Fear: Having no support
Type Seven is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, and scattered
- Desire: To be satisfied and happy
- Fear: Deprived and trapped in pain
Type Eight is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational
- Desire: To protect themselves and determine their own course in life
- Fear: Being controlled
Type Nine is receptive, reassuring, complacent, and resigned
- Desire: Maintain inner stability and peace of mind
- Fear: Of lose and separation
The Enneagram is a 3 x 3 arrangement of nine personality types in three centers. The centers contain three types:
- The instinctive center (action, hands, body, gut),
- The feeling center (heart, emotion, relationships, purpose)
- The thinking center (head, logic, brain, information)
They are grouped and based off types of common assets and liabilities in that center. For example, a person who is an eight has the assets and liabilities that involve relationships in their instinctual drives, which is why it is in the instinctive center, and so forth for all nine personality types. Each of the centers offer us a point of contact through our sensations which enables us to be present. As we become present to the intelligence of a center, we integrate and express ourselves at a higher level of development.
Each type results from a particular relationship with a cluster of issues that characterize that center. Most simply, these issues revolve around a powerful, largely unconscious emotional response to the loss of contact with the core of the self. All nine types contain all three of these emotions, but in each center, the personalities of the types are particularly affected by that center’s emotional theme. For more information or clarification on the centers, see source 3.
Everyone is a unique mixture of their dominant type and one to two types adjacent to it. Those adjacent types are called wings. The wing adds important, sometimes contradictory, elements to your total personality. I am a three wing two (3w2), which means I have elements primarily from three, but I have some traits of two.
Music Therapy with the Enneagram
Understanding a person’s type may give you some insight on what motivates and scares the person or how they best receive information. The test can also give you some insight on your co-workers and how to best work with them. However, the implications of this model on patient/client interactions is the focus on this article. There are a few valuable resources out there that may help you connect with a person through lyric analysis or music production, but one I particularly love and find useful is “Sleeping at Last” by Ryan O’Neal.
Sleeping at Last
“Sleeping at Last” is the moniker of singer Ryan O’Neal. He creates themed songs and albums. His current music is part of the Atlas series, inspired by the origins of the universe and life within. He created three parts to the series. Atlas: 1 is focused more on the universe portion. Part 1 is great for music and the arts. Whether you use the instrumental versions or the versions with lyrics, any of the universe songs could easy draw patients/clients. Furthermore, he has a portion of the atlas that goes over body parts and emotions, like Atlas: mind, Atlas: heart, Atlas: fear, Atlas: anger, and more! These lyrics are great to discuss and dissect. Great for psych patients/clients, wellness, and so much more; I highly recommend you check them out:
Atlas: II contains the enneagram-focused songs. Each song is written from a type’s perspective, and if a music therapist knows a person’s type, they can do a lyric analysis using the song, or lyric substitution. Even if you do not know the type of the person, you could still use the lyrics because the lyrical content has relatable statements in each song. With each song, O’Neal created a podcast that explains the number, the song, and why each musical element was put into the song, which could be helpful when breaking it down with a patient/client.
When it comes to other possible songs or artists, you could look at how the patient/client processes information and find songs where the writers write from their own perspective, which means they would write subconsciously from their type. Understanding the personality type of the song might create connections where the patient/client would relate to the song or the lyrics and open up for discussion or song rewriting. Looking at the perspective of the writer or utilizing personality tests has personally helped me to look at other songs from variety genres and artists in a way that is more conducive for songwriting and lyric analysis.
Personality tests shouldn’t limit our own perspectives of the person, but can be another possible tool in our toolbox to start a conversation or dissect songs and song lyrics. These numbers aren’t labels, but a device to give you ideas or direction in a session. The tests can also help you understand and communicate better with your coworkers, friends, and family.