On writing Sex and the Enneagrams — How the Nine Personality Types show up intimately

Sex — it can carry us on wings of pure sensual pleasure, or crush and humiliate us. It can take us from the sacred sublime to the darkest, most depraved aspects of humanity. Sex presents paradox: pleasure/pain, love/hate, gentleness/brutality, spiritual transcendence/primal urge, unconditional giving/self-gratification, playful fun/serious offence . . . Only the essential survival needs of shelter, food, and water create as much desire in the human experience. Yet from the moment prehistoric woman first turned to face her male lover, sex changed from being a random, brief, and instinctual encounter to something more intense and pleasurable. From Sex and the Enneagram.

Your Task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

— Rumi

How we live is mirrored in our sex lives according to the late Dr David Daniels. I’d agree. If we show up in life warm, engaging, open to experience and present with what is, the chances are we’ll do the same sexually. But many of us have had less than favorable sexual (and life) experiences, which can affect the way we relate in and out of the bedroom. If we can understand what holds us back from true sexual presence, then we’ve got the keys to consciously heal ourselves. The Enneagram, with its Nine main types and their Virtues, Passions and Fixations, provides a useful tool for understanding what we do to limit our sexual expression. It also shows us how to work with these insights.

The work of psychoanalyst Karen Horney, has played an important role in the development of the Enneagram. Dr Horney addresses three groupings into which we each fall: The Assertive Group, the Compliant Group and the Withdrawn Group. The groups, which consist of three Enneagram Types each, are extremely helpful in understanding the way our ego shows up in interactions with others and how we attempt to get our needs met.

The Assertive Group (Types Three, Seven and Eight), demand to have their needs met and actively go after what they want. The Compliant Group or Submissive Group, (Types One, Two and Six), move towards others feeling that they have to earn something to get their needs met. The Withdrawn Group (Types Four, Fives and Nines), as the name suggests, move away from others and disengage in an attempt to fulfill their needs. I saw how these groupings could apply to our sexuality — how each Type approaches getting their sexual needs met.

Sexually, terms such as “submissive,” or “withdraw,” (some of the terms Horney used), could be mis-leading. As a result, for the purpose of the book, Sex and the Enneagram, I altered the names to “Advancing,” “Retreating” and “Conditional.”

The Advancing group go after the object of their desire with lust, greed or vanity, seeing themselves as being the center of attention, whilst the Conditional group apply certain conditions prior to having sex. This group views sex then as something that is conditional to certain behavior, which, depending on the Type, could be anything from being a “good” boy or girl, to making sure that they meet their partner’s actual and perceived needs prior to sex or feeling they need to be a loyal and reliable partner.

The Retreating group, in moving away from others in various ways depending on their type, hope a partner will move towards them. This could, depending on Type, involve feeling that you are not reliant on anybody, (retreat from relationships) or being the exotic, mysterious, elusive person who entices a prospective partner or retreating themselves in merging with a partner.

Under the umbrella of these three Groups, I then examined each type in terms of how they show up sexually when integrated (healthy emotionally) and what happens as they become less so. I researched fantasies, any gender variances (the Enneagram does not discriminate genders, but when you add hormones and society’s prejudices, it does create variables), what would attract you to each type (or not), and idiosyncrasies of each type.

Typical of the Enneagram is to show each Type when under the egoic influence of its’ Fixations and Passions and how this affects the positive (or negative), expression of the Type. To quote Russ Hudson (President of the Enneagram Institute and co-author of books such as The Wisdom of the Enneagram), when we do this work, at times it can feel like “tough medicine.” Facing our truths — the good, the bad and the ugly, is work for the serious life student.

Very little sex-related information was available in the Enneagram world at the time of writing — and it’s not as if you can show up at some social function and say: “So tell me about your sexual fantasies.” (I did try actually and was met with a stony silence and odd stares.) Consequently, as well as what I gleaned from the Enneagrams, I explored the vast arena of conventional psychology, as well as the Myers Briggs research, overlaying the findings on the Types.

I was very grateful and blessed to connect with Aephoria, a company that offers leadership guidance. They had done a research survey, which included questions relating to sex. This was great information, as the Enneagram Types of the respondents and their wings, were known and many of the participants had agreed to allowing the data to be used.

Overall, the aim of the book is to bring the reader to a greater level of their sexual self-awareness and, in doing so, lead the way for all of us to be more sexually present.

Ann Gadd is the author of Sex and the Enneagram

Ann Gadd is in iEQ9 Enneagram Coach and the author of Sex and the Enneagram, The Enneagram of Eating, an Enneagram illustrated kids’ series and 22 other books.

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