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Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

The Enneagram (Part 2)

Type Seven:
The Need to Avoid Pain

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sevens once lived in a world of “enoughness,” an inner world of satisfaction and essence like the Fives. Sevens usually admit to an early kind of fantasy world where all was explained and had meaning and grounding. When this security was threatened, perhaps by traumatic childhood experiences, they decided on a one-sided response: “I will make it all positive and no negative.” They once knew God as total foundation and reality as utterly satisfying, but now they insist on enjoying it in an incomplete way. They will not accept that God’s character includes and incorporates the negative.

The need in the Seven is to avoid pain. They are masters of denial: “I will not admit, own, or participate in the dark side of anything. I will keep smiling, and I will make the best of it.” Sevens radiate joy and optimism. The Seven is the “eternal child.” But the merriment of the unredeemed Seven is the result of their fear of facing pain and a tool of their instinct for self-preservation. Sevens love infinite horizons and keeping their options open. They unconsciously avoid committing themselves too deeply to someone or something, because in depth, they always see pain lurking. Besides, in commitment, their own limits might become visible—and that too would be painful.

Sevens love adventures and travel, because here and now is always boring, painful, and insufficient. Unfortunately, when they get there, it’s always a disappointment, too. So they have to up the ante and plan something even more exciting. But none of it truly makes them happy down deep. So they may move toward addiction. Their root sin is gluttony; their motto is, “More is always better!”

The beginning of conversion for the Seven may be something dark or painful that they initially refuse to deal with. Usually, it means the facing of pain that they cannot avoid, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the failure of health. Then they may finally recognize that much of their life has been characterized by running from pain. At that point they begin to grow up. Like St. Francis, who was a Seven, they actually learn to dive right into it instead of running from it.

The invitation to Sevens is cooperation with God. Unredeemed Sevens think that they are the fashioners of their own happiness, and so they continually plan new ways of optimizing their lives. When they cooperate with God, they confront the reality of the world, which is always a combination of joy and pain, and they accept both sides of life. They go God’s way, which leads through death to resurrection. They are capable of bringing joy and hope where grief reigns. It is the step from idealism to a wide-awake realism.

The gift of redeemed Sevens is sober and deeply grounded joy in the face of and despite all the difficulties of life. Healthy Sevens find a deep self-acceptance when they discover they are accepted by God and by significant others, not only for their radiant side, but for their entire being.

Adapted from The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective,
pp. 47, 146, 147, 150, 151, 155, 159-160
and The Enneagram: The Discernment of Spirits
(CD, DVD, MP3 download)

Gateway to Silence:
I want to see all—my sin and my gift.


Interested in deepening your
understanding of the Enneagram?


The Enneagram and Grace: 9 Journeys to Divine Presence,
a presentation by Richard Rohr and Russ Hudson,
explores the power of the Enneagram as a spiritual tool.


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