Withdrawing Stance: Introduction

I was grabbing coffee with a friend one afternoon at a local coffee shop and the place was crowded. There was one open table located directly in the middle of this open, well-lit space. As we approached the table in the middle of the room we both simultaneously hesitated and looked at each other. My friend looked at me saying, “I feel so exposed at this table.” I nodded my agreement. She had articulated my thoughts exactly. I turned my head and noticed a table in the corner. Neither of us saw it at first because it happened to be a low table with tiny chairs. It was intended for children, but there we sat for some time, talking and sipping coffee in between our knees.

My friend and I are both in the Enneagram’s withdrawing stance. She is a Nine and I am a Five and along with Fours we literally move away from others. We would rather withdraw and sit awkwardly at a kid’s table rather than move into life’s fray. The types in this stance are not entirely introverted, but they lack confidence in connecting with the world. They can overcome this lack in various areas while still feeling hesitant or insecure in many hidden areas. Fours, Fives and Nines maintain their distance by looking within themselves for what they need, rather than looking to others.

The Withdrawing Stance’s defining characteristic is its neglect of the doing center of intelligence. All great models of human persons agree 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/dominant, repressed, and supporting. The Enneagram’s Withdrawing Stance is organized around their shared repression of the doing center. Developing your repressed center is some of the most important and difficult Enneagram work.

Enneagram teachers, Hurley and Donson, describe theses doing repressed personalities as those who do what they like rather than what needs to be done. “They think, feel and talk more than they actually do. Its not that they think about what they could do and dismiss it. Rather, what they could do about the situation never crosses their minds. They live the interior life as if it were life in the real world, which can cause them to feel isolated from others and life. They are often dissatisfied with their lives because they do not know how to act on their own behalf. They also have difficulty moving their ideas through to completion. When they repress the ability to affect the world, a strength that comes with the doing center, they have to look within to survive.

All three types focus on the past because the doing center isn’t needed there. Fours ruminate on relationships, conversations, and all that is missing from their lives. Fives think about information they have already gathered and use it develop their own idea systems. Nines think about the way their lives were, both good and bad, and feel powerless to repair the bad or improve the good.”

This series of posts will rely on the teaching of Suzanne Stabileand the work of Hurley and Donsonas I seek to name the unique compulsions of each withdrawing Enneagram Type, since we cannot intentionally cooperate with God’s transforming work in our lives if we do not name our compulsions. I look forward to walking alongside you in this journey.