The Enneagram & Defense Patterns

How Defense Patterns Present in the Enneagram.
November Enneagram Insights

Welcome to Indy Maven’s Enneagram column coming by way of Jenn Lisak Golding of Uncovered Gems. Check out her website for even more info from the world of Enneagram, or to book a private session.

In the last monthly column, we explored how you can move from vice to virtue through your Enneagram type. Beyond vices, however, we also have common defense patterns that tie back to our Enneagram type and core motivation. 

Our core motivations can lead to healthy or unhealthy behaviors, and the defense pattern of each type is essentially a coping mechanism developed as a way to protect us from our core fears. 

Let’s explore the defense pattern for each type:

Type 1: Reaction Formation

Type 1s work to avoid being wrong and making mistakes. They have a strong sense of their own morality while also being willing to do the right thing even if they don’t want to, solely because it’s the right thing to do. 

As a result, when they’re in a defense pattern, they are prone to a reaction formation. They might rationalize and form a position in their head: “I don’t want to do this, but I’m agreeable because it’s the right thing to do. Therefore, this is the right action to do.”

Type 2: Repression

Type 2s live to feel wanted, needed and loved. They are always there to lend a helping hand and have an external focus on others instead of their own needs.

As a result, when 2s are in a defense pattern, their instinct is to move toward repression. They will repress their emotions or deny them when they feel rejected or aren’t needed.

Type 3: Identification

Type 3s strive to be seen as successful and capable. Failure is not an option for them, and they tend to hinge a lot of their self-worth on how others perceive them.

When in a defense pattern, 3s will move toward identification. As the chameleons of the Enneagram, even if they feel uncomfortable or may be experiencing imposter syndrome, they will emulate all of the external qualities of confidence or intelligence to avoid a negative perception.

Type 4: Introjection

Striving to feel unique and significant, Type 4s never want to feel ordinary or inadequate. They work hard to stand out and bring unique gifts to the world. 

When in a defense pattern, 4s will lean toward introjection. They will unconsciously adopt others’ ideas or perspectives as a way to feel part of the group. They will take in the emotions, both positive and negative, of others to feel whole or complete. 

Type 5: Detachment

The core motivation of Type 5 is to be competent, resourced and useful. They tend not to engage unless they are prepared and can be of service, and they will observe before they engage. 

As a result, when in a defense pattern, 5s will move to detachment to separate themselves from the emotion or the center of the issue. It can result in a highly pragmatic view, which may or may not serve them.

Type 6: Projection

Safe, secure and protected; that’s the goal for Type 6. As the catastrophizers of the Enneagram, this type will do everything in their power to mitigate risk and ensure their world is as safe as possible.

When in a defense pattern, 6s move toward projection, especially during times of unpredictability. This can result in 6s taking what they feel internally and projecting it out to the world because they want justification or confirmation there are threats.

Type 7: Rationalization

The idea generators and enthusiasts of the Enneagram, Type 7s aim to be positive and avoid pain at all costs. They want to avoid anything that feels confining and want the freedom to explore the world.

As soon as something negative comes their way, 7s will rationalize, turning it from something negative into something positive. It can lead to 7s not dealing with issues, which can become larger problems later.

Type 8: Denial

As the challengers of the Enneagram, Type 8s want to be seen as strong and avoid weakness at all costs. They will take deliberate action and work to empower others. Being vulnerable is especially hard for this type. 

As a result, when in a defense pattern, 8s will resort to denial if they’re feeling weak or vulnerable. They will deny any indication that they aren’t strong and work actively to take their strength back.

Type 9: Narcotization

Peace and harmony are what Type 9s seek most in the world. Instead of voicing their true wants, they would rather have harmony in the group and will avoid conflict and separation at all costs. 

As a result, 9s will narcotize or dull as much as possible in order to seek harmony within a group or environment. This is so they don’t have to be affected by life or disrupted.

Of course, it’s perfectly natural to have a defense mechanism; this is part of being human. However, our defense mechanisms can help or hinder us. The next time you’re feeling defensive, observe how you react. How is this behavior helping or hurting you?

If you find that in times of conflict or hurt, your defense pattern can make things worse, think about how you can adapt moving forward. Take a step back. Maybe try something different—even if it feels unnatural or uncomfortable at first—the next time you’re presented with the opportunity. You might be surprised how you can work through negative emotions more effectively. 

As always, don’t be too hard on yourself; accept who you are and know that, as humans, we’re imperfect. But that doesn’t mean we can’t want more for ourselves or understand ourselves better.

Jenn Lisak Golding is a certified Enneagram coach through The Art of Growth and the face behind Uncovered Gems. She is also the founder and owner of the sister brand Sapphire Strategy, a measured marketing agency. As a long-time fan of emotional intelligence, Jenn is passionate about helping individuals, teams, and leaders personally and professionally on their growth journeys.

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