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Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

The Enneagram (Part 2)

Type Six: The Need for Security

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Six is the central stress point of the head triad. Their Soul Child was the Nine; their primal knowing was true and perfect presence. But somehow the world became a scary place for Sixes. They once held an image of an utterly reconciled and peaceful world, a benevolent universe; but instead of trusting it from Another, they try to manufacture it themselves by laws, authority, and structures of certitude. The root sin of the Six is fear, a sort of primal anxiety. Their core need is for security.

Today’s ever-changing world seems to be producing more and more Sixes, as evidenced by the rise of fundamentalism in all three monotheistic religions. Growing up in a world where everything is in flux and there is little stability, the psyche needs something solid, authoritative, certain, and clear. Joining with “infallible” or fundamentalist groups can give Sixes the illusion of security.

There are two types of Sixes: phobic and counter-phobic. Most Sixes are phobic. To overcome their fear, these Sixes align themselves with a strong leader, institution, or government. They need an outer authority to protect them and tell them what to do because they constantly doubt themselves. Phobic Sixes are naturally humble, teachable, reliable, and loyal. Once they decide to trust you, you’ve got a friend for life—even when others turn against you. Phobic Sixes are by nature careful, hesitant, and mistrustful. They have a hard time trusting themselves and their “instinct.” They continually sense danger. In their most immature forms, they are victims of paranoia. Every new situation is so threatening for them that the memory of earlier victories is useless.

Counter-phobic Sixes are a different breed altogether. They may seek out risky situations because they prefer taking the bull by the horns to continually torturing themselves with their anxieties. They disguise the fear that is the actual driving force of their actions and compensate for it with a put-on hardness, strength, and daredevil behavior. The counter-phobic Six is a classic scapegoater. To control their constant anxiety, they focus the danger and evil in one particular race, nation, religion, or gender.

Phobic Sixes are also prone to scapegoating because their primary defense mechanism is projection. The pessimism and mistrust that they harbor against themselves leads to imagining their own negative motives present in others as well; they project hostility, hatred, and negative thoughts onto other people. Instead of facing their own darkness, they see it, attack it, and kill it “over there.” The Enneagram’s teachings could have far reaching political implications if it can expose the demonic power of fear (and of the root sins of all the other types as well).

The quickest conversion experience for the Six is an authentic God experience. (Actually, the same is true for all nine Enneagram types.) The experience of unconditional love is the one thing that, in the long run, can be stronger than fear: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Perhaps the tragedy that Sixes have feared may be just what they need—so that they fall into the hands of the Living God and know very practically that God is always holding them, believing in them, and loving them—from within!

Now the Six can move from relying on outer authority to knowing and trusting their Inner Authority. They move from needing certitude and answers to having faith, which demands not knowing and not being certain, but rather being able to hold some anxiety and ambiguity. They have returned to the Ground of their Being and to their primal knowing: It is all okay already! “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Hence, the virtue of the Six is courage. Redeemed Sixes know how to combine holding on to sound traditions with the readiness to take new paths.

Adapted from The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective,
pp. 46-47, 131-138, 141, 143
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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