Dependent Stance: Sixes

All great models of human persons agree that three basic intelligences give us modes of being in the world—thinking, feeling, and doing. All Enneagram types place thinking, feeling, and doing in one of the three categories—preferred[1], repressed, and supporting. The Enneagram’s Dependent Stance is organized around their shared repression of the thinking center.

Unfortunately, your preferred center recognizes only one third of the human experience, and disregards the other two thirds. As you wear your preferred “lenses,” you neglect, to your own detriment, to see and develop the other two centers. Developing your repressed center is some of the most important and difficult Enneagram work. Therefore, this series of posts will focus on how the Dependent Stance can nurture their center of thinking intelligence.

Dependent Stance numbers (One, Two and Six) are oriented to the actions of others.Sixes, in particular, are consumed by daily schedules and responsibilities.

Sixes see the world through the thinking center, but they do not use thinking to process or interpret the information they have received. They see the world in terms of information and cognitive data[2], but they do not analyze that data productively. After taking in information through their head Sixes cease to use the thinking center. If they continued to use the thinking center they would process their information, analyze it, and receive new insights. Instead, Sixes respond to their environment by feeling and doing, which means they desire to respond to life’s situations with care and concern.[3]However, with the thinking center repressed, Sixes cannot guide or evaluate their response.

Productive thinking (the only true kind of thinking there is) moves from one ideological position to another. This mental activity is distinctive because it generates new insights and comes to new conclusions. This kind of thinking is a stark contrast from internal racket fixated on worst-case scenarios and how to prepare for them. Sixes must set aside time to think through their own beliefs and take a break from their anxious mind and nurture productive thinking. Contemplative prayer is an invaluable practice for any Six who desires to disengage from an anxious mind.

Repressed thinking causes Sixes to link every issue to every other issue so that they become confused and increasingly anxious, which prevents objectivity. When you struggle with objectivity decisions are difficult and you continually gather ideas from others, but you can’t evaluate the information so you ask questions, but the questions are not productive because the cognitive racket that parades as thinking cannot evaluate the information gathered from the question. If Sixes overcome all of this anxiety and manage to respond, they are unsure how to evaluate their response; so they use clear rules and standards to relieve their anxiety over the quality of their response and to assure themselves that things will not go wrong. Unfortunately, no static set of rules can replace productive thinking and its ability to evaluate the complexity of real life. In the end their inflexibility and ridged standards only causes more problems.

Sixes mechanically respond to life through conscientious behavior. They gather information from everyone, but then question whether it is trustworthy. They corroborate the information they have gathered by asking more questions. They generally fail to realize that this behavior frustrates others, who feel personally challenged by their questions.

Sixes must nurture productive thinking. This can be practiced best when you not already emotionally invested in a situation, so practice thinking productively by analyzing a situation that seems simple and non-threatening. When this is not possible journal or process with a friend who can help you distinguish between thinking and feeling.

Generally speaking, if Sixes are thinking about things that are not happening right now then their thinking is non-productive and they are probably ruminating on thoughts that have an emotional hook on them. Sixes (and those trying to help them) attempt to solve problems by attending the facts, but they are unsuccessful because no one identifies the emotional component of life’s questions and problems. For example, perhaps a Six has locked their keys in their car and you suggest that they call AAA. “But I’m not a member,” the Six hastily replies. “What if we called one of those pop-a-lock places? Oh, but I’m not sure those places are reputable. I have a coat hangar!” Wincing, the Six says, “I am not sure that will work. We might set off the alarm or scratch my car.” With each suggestion the frustration escalates as the Six questions or denies each possible solution. The Six responds this way because the situation and every possible solution is saturated with anxiety. The friend must slow down and invite the Six to identify their anxiety. Once it is named and felt[4]it is exposed and no longer feels as threatening. We know this is true because this reality plays out inside each of us every time we watch a horror flick. These movies are the scariest when the menace is lurking in the shadows, widely feared, but never seen. If you ever watched Scooby Doo as a kid you remember how feckless and silly the villain appeared once they were unmasked, tied up and brought into the open. Once fear is unmasked, anxiety steps down and thinking is no longer clouded by anxiety and can be productive again.

[1]Some enneagram teachers use the language of “dominant”

[2]If you are a Six you may not understand the unique nature of this way of seeing, but consider, for example, the Two, who sees the world in shades of feelings almost like thermal vision, but it’s “feeling vision.”

[3]If it is helpful you can compare this to the Five, who continues to analyze with no desire to respond.

[4]Anxiety is best felt when a Six is as aware of their body as they are their head.