Updated: May 26, 2021
In a nutshell
Type 9s are generally calm and good-natured, with a tendency to be too passive. They seek out what is nice and comfortable in life, preferring to focus on the positive, and they help others do the same. Their core desire is to be stable and at peace with themselves and others, but at times can paradoxically keep themselves from fulfilling that desire by avoiding or minimizing negative feelings and situations rather than dealing with them. To grow and be satisfied in life, they learn to accept this tendency and put in the effort to address the problems they previously "swept under the rug".
Levels of Development
Each of the nine personality types are formed based on a Core Fear we develop at a young age. This fear keeps us from being our fully actualized selves and acting from Essence, the version of ourselves that exists when we let go of our fears and ego identifications and allow ourselves to simply be. In response to this fear, we develop a Core Desire, which can either lead us back to self actualization and Essence, or towards deeper fear and false identity.
The Levels of Development are an aspect of each Enneagram type discovered in 1977 by Don Richard Riso. They provide us with a map of how we degrade as we hold on more strongly to our Core Fear, leading us to progressively deeper and more complicated emotional defense mechanisms. There are 9 separate levels of development for each type (not to be confused with the 9 types themselves), starting with self actualization at Level 1 and going down to pathological thoughts and behaviors at Level 9. Each level represents what happens when a new fear is introduced, and a new desire emerges in order to defend that fear. These levels are grouped into the "Healthy Levels" (Levels 1-3), the "Average Levels" (Levels 3-6), and the "Unhealthy Levels" (Levels 7-9).
For a detailed understanding of what happens to each type at each level, I recommend reading the Enneagram books co-written by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. That said, it's important to have a general understanding of how each Type behaves at different levels, so I've provided an overview of the Healthy, Average, and Unhealthy levels below.
When emotional healthy, 9s are in touch with themselves and others, and experience a stable and true sense of peace. At lower levels, 9s idealize others and a warp their view of themselves in order to dull out the anxieties reality is causing them. But by contrast, 9s who are healthy have become genuinely comfortable with themselves and reality, and are hence able to enjoy it more deeply. They are serene but active, happily engaging in their lives and experiencing the full spectrum of their feelings without resistance. They still have their core fear that their peace will be lost however, but healthy 9s engage in their environment to create the peace they desire, rather than withdrawing from it. Because they've spent a lot of time in self reflection, they have a deep understanding of others and have become very good at getting to the root of conflicts and resolving them. They are generally kind, easy-going, and non-imposing, and bring their sense of calm to the world.
To remain healthy, 9s operating in this zone should make sure to continue connecting their feelings to action. Big life changes may make you question whether the peace you've built will be lost, but if you stay centered and take the necessary actions you can handle it in stride.
At average levels, 9s maintain their placid, friendly exterior, but they begin to minimize their problems rather than dealing with them proactively. Essentially, they begin to ignore their feelings and instincts in order to maintain a sense of peace regardless of what's happening around them. The engaged, friendly peacemakers begin to withdraw into their own minds while on the outside they simply do what is expected of them: no more and no less. As this mental disengagement continues, they begin to physically disengage too. They fear change and don't want the world to affect them and shift their inner peace, and so they take a back-seat role to life. They simply allow things to happen around them and pretend to believe that everything will work out for the best. The more inactive they become, the more problems they create for themselves. Important relationships begin to crumble because they have not been nurtured, their standing at their job may slip due to their lack of initiative. Some average 9s somewhat easily remain at this level for extended periods. They are still calm, likeable, and friendly at this point, and can simply minimize their needs and stagnate. They convince themselves they don't want or need nice things, they don't need much money, and so can content themselves with a simple life. Unfortunately, these attitudes are just reflections of wishful thinking that 9s at this level use to cover up their problems and anxieties, which are numerous by this point.
To become healthy, 9s operating at average levels need to begin solving their problems one by one. Everyone is equipped to support themselves, and you are no different. Take your personal development seriously and you'll find that you do indeed have the power to make big, positive changes in your life without upsetting others or creating disharmony.
9s who continue to neglect themselves and their issues for too long end up in a deep state of denial. Unhealthy 9s have woven complex stories justifying their inaction to themselves, hoping that one day this false reality may actually become true. But to people on the outside, 9s who reach this level no longer really seem calm or friendly. Instead, they appear deeply inert and tense. However, any observation or suggestion is met with extreme resistance and possibly even hostility, because the 9 at this point is so anxiety-ridden and in such deep denial that the admission to any aspect of their problems would have to mean admitting to themselves that their self-stories are entirely false, and that would be too much for them to bear. The unhealthy 9 may believe that the person trying to help them is to blame for making them feel this tension - after all, if they hadn't said anything, the 9 wouldn't have had to experience their negative feelings. Unhealthy 9s take shelter in numbness, and may develop addictions in order to sustain that feeling. But for the 9, the addiction is secondary to the complete mental disassociation that they are working towards. Essentially, the unhealthy 9's goal is to completely separate his mind from his experiences so he can achieve a safe distance from the problems he has created. Some 9s eventually experience psychotic breaks or multiple personality disorder.
To begin on the road back to health, 9s should accept that they have issues they need to resolve and seek professional help. Begin engaging in your life again, and take it one step at a time. Watch the steady improvement and know that it will continue if you continue to put your energy into it.
Wings / Subtypes
Every person has some degree of every type at work in their personality, but in addition to their primary type, Enneagram 9s are more likely to draw strongly from one of the adjacent types, 8 or 1. Because of this, we treat them as distinctive subtypes known as “Wing Types”. Not everyone has a strong wing type, but a majority of people do, so we generally describe a 9’s type as either “9 wing 8” (9w8) or “9 wing 1” (9w1). 9s are the primary type of the Instinctive Triad (comprised of types 8, 9, and 1) and so both subtypes are personalities centered very strongly around gut feelings, self repression, and themes of relating self to the world.
9 wing 8
Compared to the 9w1, 9w8s are generally more grounded and assertive, combining the peace-seeking and easy-going nature of 9 with the self-assertion of 8. The result is a friendly, guiding personality, actively pursuing peace and comfort in their inner and outer worlds.
Healthy 9w8s are calm in motion, active and engaged in creating peace in their environment. Where a healthy 9w1 is cerebral and idealistic with regards to their peace-seeking, the 9w8 is more grounded and physical, focusing more on creating peace in their immediate environment. They are natural problem solvers, easily removing themselves from the equation to see the truth from all perspectives. Their 8 wing lends them a kind of strength and force of will that helps them guide those around them out of tension and towards the calm that they look to manifest in their lives. Highly independent and simultaneously deeply respectful of others' independence, they accept others for who they are and enjoy connecting with them in spite of any differences that may exist.
Average 9w8s begin to step out of reality, disengaging from the challenges life offers and seeking personal comfort rather than peace. The road to comfort is an easier one than the road to resolving active conflicts, and average 9w8s begin to channel the strength of their 8 wing towards protecting the boundaries around their comfortable lifestyle. They can be passive-aggressive just like average 9w1s, but the 9w8 is more likely to use plain aggression when their boundaries are crossed. In spite of how defensive they can be when pushed though, they spend much of their time projecting a positive demeanor and simply ignoring or numbing out challenging feelings that arise. They have a stronger affinity for physical sensations than the other subtype, and may set into patterns of excess and eventually addiction in order to maintain the numbness which enables them to keep a false sense of peace.
At Unhealthy levels, 9w8s have learned to successfully repress so much of their feeling that they struggle to interact with the world. Depressive and self-minimizing, they do as little as they can manage while still surviving. Because they are unwilling to experience their own emotions, when their feelings do arise to the point that they can't be denied, the 9w8 may act violently towards whoever or whatever sparked it like unhealthy 8s. Stubborn and isolated, they aggressively defend their space, and dedicate their time and energy towards whatever rote activities they use to "check out". While they may at this point they may have developed physical addictions, they are also capable of becoming addicted to mundane activities, ritualizing actions such as watching TV or scrolling through social media.
9 wing 1
Compared to the 9w8, 9w1s are more cerebral and principled, more interested in ideas and concepts than in the real world. Type 9 has a desire for tranquility and calmness while Type 1 has a desire for objectivity and perfection, and the combination of the two qualities results in a warm personality who takes interest in the structure that makes peace possible.
Healthy 9w1s are objective mediators who develop a clear understanding of all sides of a situation. Where the 9w8 is more interested in guiding to parties in a conflict to peace, the 9w1 is expert at understanding and explaining the roots of the conflict. While they are engaged at healthy levels, 9w1s will spend more time in their heads than the other subtype as they develop their perspective. Both subtypes of 9 are interested in connecting with others, and the 9w1 does so by sharing their carefully thought out perspective and listening to the thoughts of others. They have a sense of idealism, imagining how the world could be, and at healthy levels they love sharing their vision and hope that it will inspire others rather than trying to convince others to agree with them. Positive, upbeat, and easygoing, healthy 9w1s are broadly appreciated by those around them and feel grateful when they are accepted by others.
At Average levels, the once easygoing 9w1s quickly become unrealistic and disengaged. They often maintain a sunny façade and remain active, but begin to develop feelings of bitterness towards others. As 9s they repress their assertive side and go with the flow of others' plans. However while healthy 9s are happy to share in others' plans, average 9w1s follow others because they feel disempowered, believing that others haven't given them a chance to be the one who decides what to do. They become judicious in their minds, labeling others "selfish" for not going out of their way to accommodate them. When others do go out of their way to accommodate the average 9w1, they may even adamantly deny their needs then secretly blame the other for not trying hard enough. They don't know how to reconcile the feelings they've built up with the real world, and rather than expressing or dealing with these feelings they repress them further. Communicating their feelings begins to feel like unsafe assertion to the 9w1, and they begin to have issues with telling the truth. They disengage from the world and focus on the version of the world they've created in their minds, where they can believe themselves to be "right" and "superior" like average 1s, without the trouble of asserting themselves in the real world.
Unhealthy 9w1s become highly withdrawn, holding on to a tremendous amount of tension and anxiety but doing their best to suppress their own awareness of it. They are afraid of interacting with the world and so remove themselves from it in order to spend most of their time feeling calm, clinging on to the feeling that nobody gave them a chance to succeed and totally rejecting responsibility for themselves. Where the unhealthy 9w8 is capable of strong expressions of anger, the unhealthy 9w1 rarely expresses themselves and keeps more of their anger bottled up inside. They stew and judge others, applying a moral charge to their personal feelings and elevating themselves out of awareness of their own shortcomings. They tend to have low self esteem and view themselves as incapable in many ways, however the "important" part to them is that someone else is to blame, and holding on to deep resentment towards their chosen target is more important to them than getting out of their situation. While this intensity of emotion is ever-present on the mind of the 9w1, they use all of their available energy to repress it and give the external appearance that everything is alright. They are so intent on this that the few people in the withdrawn 9w1's life will generally struggle to understand just how bad the situation is.
- Accept that you have a tendency to choose inaction even when it is not the right thing to do. If you find yourself nervous about something, assume it's because you want to do something about it and are blocking yourself, not that you're not sure what you want.
- 9s have a lot of willpower, but are afraid that asserting themselves will cause conflict. Remind yourself that there are almost always win-win scenarios where both you and those around you get what you want.
- Be aware that you may under-communicate how important something is to you. When something is important don't be afraid to state it more than once to make sure the point got across.
- There are many modern conveniences that make staying inert easier. Remember that technology has not changed human nature, and humans to be engaged to be happy.
- Work to cultivate your willpower. Pick something to do daily that matters to you that can build over time, commit to doing it, and watch it grow and improve. Develop a skill, build a business, learn about something new - start slow and watch yourself begin to enjoy doing it.
- Know that you can assert yourself without being aggressive or creating ill will. Start to connect yourself and your actions to what you think will be best rather than to what you believe others will think.