The Enneagram lineage and its philosophical and psychological roots

Freud and Plato stumble on the Enneagram

DJ Wayne Fri Feb 10 2023

In the intricate tapestry of human consciousness, understanding ourselves is a journey marked by fascinating waypoints. One such is the Enneagram, a potent prism refracting the complexity of our behaviors and personal growth into understandable patterns. This voyage of self-discovery becomes even more profound when we trace the roots of the Enneagram back to its philosophical lineage. In this article, we’ll map the fascinating intersections between the Enneagram’s intelligence centers, Freud’s influential constructs of the psyche, and Plato’s timeless blueprint of the human soul. We’ll embark on a deep dive into how core emotions sculpt these intelligence centers, aiding us to navigate the internal landscapes of our minds with newfound understanding and compassion. So, fasten your seatbelts as we journey through layers of psychological philosophy, unraveling the strands that interweave to create the compelling framework that is the Enneagram.

The Enneagram’s Roots in Philosophy

While the Enneagram is a popular tool for understanding human behavior and growth, it is essential to understand its philosophical lineage to truly appreciate its depth. In this article, we’ll explore the connections between the Enneagram’s intelligence centers, Freud’s ideas on the human psyche, and Plato’s concept of the human soul. By doing so, we’ll gain a deeper understanding of how our core emotions shape these intelligence centers.

Plato’s Tripartite Soul and the Enneagram

The Enneagram’s intelligence centers align remarkably well with Plato’s idea of the human soul. According to Plato, the soul consists of reason, spirit, and appetite. These three components correspond to the Enneagram’s intellectual intelligence, emotional intelligence, and instinctual intelligence centers.

Reason (intellectual intelligence): Plato believed that the soul’s rational aspect guides our thinking and decision-making. This aligns with the Enneagram’s intellectual intelligence center, which focuses on understanding the world around us. Spirit (emotional intelligence): For Plato, the spirited part of the soul drives our emotions and desires. This connects to the Enneagram’s emotional intelligence center, responsible for managing our emotions and interpersonal relationships. Appetite (instinctual intelligence): Plato’s third component, appetite, governs our primal needs and drives. This mirrors the Enneagram’s instinctual intelligence center, which concentrates on survival and self-preservation.

Freud’s Model of the Psyche and the Enneagram

Similarly, Freud’s theory of the human psyche—comprising the id, ego, and superego—also parallels the Enneagram’s intelligence centers.

Id (instinctual intelligence): The id represents our basic instincts and desires. It aligns with the Enneagram’s instinctual intelligence center, governing our primal drives. Ego (intellectual intelligence): The ego is our conscious mind, responsible for rational thought and decision-making. This corresponds to the Enneagram’s intellectual intelligence center, which focused on understanding our environment. Superego (emotional intelligence): The superego is our moral compass, guiding us through our emotions and interpersonal relationships. This is akin to the Enneagram’s emotional intelligence center, responsible for managing our emotions and connections with others.

Freud Plato Enneagram Center of Intelligence Enneagram Core Emotion
id appetite instinctual/ body anger
ego reason intellectual/ head fear
super ego spirit emotional/ heart shame

Core Emotions: Fear, Shame, and Anger

Now that we’ve established the connections between the Enneagram, Plato, and Freud, let’s delve into the core emotions behind the development of these intelligence centers: fear, shame, and anger.

Fear and Intellectual Intelligence

Fear is the driving force behind intellectual intelligence. As humans, we’re wired to predict and avoid dangerous situations, which helps keep us safe. To do this, we construct complex intellectual models of the world, considering hypothetical scenarios and potential outcomes. Over time, this process leads to the development of a sophisticated understanding of the world around us.

Example: Imagine a person who fears losing their job. To prevent this from happening, they might develop an elaborate mental model of their workplace dynamics, anticipating potential pitfalls and strategizing ways to ensure their job security.

Shame and Emotional Intelligence

Shame is the core emotion behind emotional intelligence. Our desire to be accepted and valued by others drives us to manage and navigate our emotions effectively. We learn to express our feelings in ways that foster connection and empathy, while also understanding and responding to the emotions of others.

Example: A child who experiences shame for not fitting in with their peers might learn to develop emotional intelligence to better understand and relate to others, ultimately finding a sense of belonging and acceptance.

Anger and Instinctual Intelligence

Anger is the key emotion fueling the development of instinctual intelligence. Our innate need to protect ourselves and our resources can give rise to anger, which then propels us to take action. As we learn to channel and control our anger, we develop the capacity to respond effectively to threats and challenges, ultimately honing our instinctual intelligence.

Example: Consider someone who experiences anger when they feel their personal boundaries have been violated. Over time, they learn to assert their boundaries and protect their well-being, developing a keen sense of instinctual intelligence in the process.

The Interplay of Emotions and Intelligence Centers

Understanding the connections between the Enneagram, Plato, and Freud, as well as the core emotions driving the development of these intelligence centers, helps us appreciate the Enneagram’s depth and complexity. By recognizing how fear, shame, and anger shape our intellectual, emotional, and instinctual intelligence, we can better understand our own motivations and growth paths.

In essence, the Enneagram offers a framework for personal development that is deeply rooted in the rich philosophical traditions of Plato and Freud. By exploring these connections, we can better appreciate the Enneagram as not only a tool for self-understanding but also as a means to foster personal growth and transformation.

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