Withdrawing Stance: Nines

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 Withdrawing Stance is organized around their shared repression of the doing 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 Withdrawing Stance can nurture their center of doing intelligence.

Understanding the Nine’s doing center can be confusing because this intelligence is simultaneously preferred and repressed. Nines see and understand the world through the doing center, but neglect their doing intelligence when they are trying to prioritize the information they have received. Nines focus on taking action, willpower and self-preservation. However, once they have taken in information, they use thinking and feeling intelligences to make sense out of life, causing them to process the information internally, overestimate the value of their own analysis, but then reject the importance of acting on their knowledge. Tragically, Nines overlook opportunities to advocate for themselves or take responsible action, their willpower converts to stubbornness, and they choose to preserve their own peace and safety above all else.

A simultaneously repressed and preferred doing center means that Nines use their doing center, but only in a shallow sense. Nines may do things, but their doing center only engages on a superficial level as they pursue pleasurable activity and safety. Preferred doing means that they are especially sensitive to their energy output, which is dispensed mostly to perform at work. After work hours, they believe that their time is their own and they live out of their strong desire to do only what they enjoy. At home, Nine’s can finally embrace their easygoing attitude towards life and they use their doing center to fill their time with fun and leisure. Much of this pleasure seeking activity takes place outdoors because nature provides the peace they crave. Nines can sustain long work hours as long as their peace is not corrupted by external pressure and demands.

Nines use the thinking and feeling centers to understand the world around them, which makes them capable in complicated situations. This energy is reserved for work rather than the simple pleasures of their private life. They appreciate any praise they might receive for their professional insight or performance because they struggle to know that their presence matters. Their feeling intelligence is demonstrated through their ability to get along with just about anybody. They are generally the most likeable number on the Enneagram, going along with the desires of others and merging with them in their endeavors. They can live vicariously through marriage partners and family members in a way other numbers cannot. One center of intelligence is always more advanced then the other, so either feeling or doing is at least slightly more dominant at any given point in a nines life. It would be good for a nine to ask themselves which intelligence is currently dominant in their life. Nines are self-forgetting, which means they are not likely to pursue the kind of self-knowledge to help them self-actualize, making questions like this one especially difficult, but all the more important for Nines.

We live in a culture that confuses the terms thinkingand feeling. This is not beneficial for anyone, but it’s especially confusing for Nines, who go through life thinking and feeling to the point that the two become fused together. Nines must separate the two by distinguishing feelings from thoughts. Once they are separated Nines can encounter and process their own feelings, rather than numbing themselves to their own emotions out of a desire to maintain inner peace. From this place of feelings, Nines can think productively about their feelings and identify what actions they might be avoiding out of a desire to avoid afflictive emotions and maintain an artificial peace. Nines avoid actions that bring conflict. Unfortunately, this basic posture of avoidance has dulled their doing center of intelligence in a way that has effected the whole center, rendering them generally docile, apart from specific fears regarding potential conflict.

Nines fundamental desire for peace creates the compulsion to be indirect and passive-aggressive when dealing with life’s pressures and to be affable but non-personal in dealing with people. If Nines engage their feelings directly they can increase their emotional awareness develop their capacity to articulate their feelings in relationship rather than maintain their default relational posture-- affable, but distant. This is a vulnerable posture that will threaten your peace as deep relationships always do, but it will also bring you life. Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean.” Distant relationships are clean, slick and seemingly peaceful, but there is no life in them. Fives, this applies to your relationships as well.

Nines must engage in contemplative practices. This will help them remember themselves and connect with their own thoughts and feelings so that you too can begin to befriend and soften to your anger. It has been a profoundly liberating experience for me, unlocking an encounter with God’s peace, love and safekeeping. Take a look at this post on bringing up feeling for a discussion of what this practice might look like.


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