Flying with Both Wings
by Veronica Croft
Recently I was talking with someone who knew a great deal about the Enneagram - not such a big deal, you might think, yet here in Britain this is quite unusual. (Most people in this country have never even heard of the Enneagram let alone have much knowledge about it!) Inevitably then I was keen to chat a while and listen to what he had to say; after all, the Enneagram is my favourite topic of conversation!
In the course of the ensuing conversation he informed me that he had been told that he was a One with a Two wing. And what about your Nine wing? I asked. No, he said, I'm a One with Two not Nine.
Hmm. I was more than a little concerned me to hear what he had to say because I have come across this many times before - the idea that we have only one wing, not two. In fact, my own early experience of the Enneagram had left me with the impression that I was a Two with a One wing but that Three was not part of my make-up. It was a couple of years later, when I examined the Enneagram in greater depth, that I realised that the idea that each type has just one wing is not only misleading and limiting but is just not true. Most importantly, it limits the depth of self-understanding which the Enneagram can provide which, of-course, limits the positive outcome of working with this knowledge.
Each of us has two wings - which is a good job because with only one wing we would fly in circles! (I make this feeble joke on most of our foundation courses and, although no-one actually laughs, it does serve to emphasise an important point.)
Although the nine points around the Enneagram circle are represented graphically as discreet points and each of us has only one core number, we also have within our personality make-up a little of each of both of the adjacent numbers. So a One will have some traits of both Nine and Two; a Five will have some traits of both Four and Six; a Seven will have some traits of both Six and Eight and so on. We refer to the numbers either side of your core type as your 'wings'.
There is no such thing as a 'pure' personality type because the wings affect the overall patterns of behaviour of each person, thereby adding extra 'flavour' to the basic type. No two people of the same number are exactly the same; we are all unique and the extent to which your wings influence the expression of your core type plays a key role in establishing your own uniqueness.
We all have access to both wings, but their impact on the personality can vary enormously between people of the same type. A wing can be only very small or it might represent a large part of your overall personality; each wing may be mostly positive, mostly negative or a combination of positive and negative. Moreover, you may display aspects of one of your wings in one part of your life, such as at work, but show aspects of the other wing in other arenas - perhaps at home or when socialising.
Understanding both of your wings and how the traits of those 2 numbers are played out within your personality clarifies aspects of yourself that just knowing your core type cannot. For myself, when I realised that what I had been initially taught was incorrect - namely that I had a One wing but not a Three wing - many things about myself finally made sense. In my first introduction to the Enneagram, not only did I hear that we have only one wing but also, what was taught about the nine types was wholly negative - that is, none of the positive aspects of the types was described. Now, I've done plenty of negative One in my life so it was easy to recognise my One wing with this sort of (limited) teaching, yet my Three wing is almost all positive so I never realised at that time that I have a Three wing. It was not until I gained the true picture of the Three that I came to understand that my Three wing gifts me with many of the traits that I utilise in my work - namely, the ability to inspire and motivate others, ease with public speaking and, especially important to me, my natural teaching ability. All of this comes from my Three.
Some people discover that one of their wings was more to the fore in their early life whereas the other wing becomes more dominant in later life. A friend of ours is a self-reliant Six and in his young years he did a lot of Seven - for example, he would often go to all night parties and then go to work the next day without any sleep, very much as a Seven might. As he gets older he does a great deal less Seven but his Five wing is more dominant - he is now much more of a stay at home person, reading books or tinkering with things in his shed and when in social situations he watches and listens more than he interacts with the people around him.
Giving definitive descriptions of the influence of the wings on each core type is very difficult, as each of us has our own 'mix' and so the degree to which you are influenced by each of your own wings can only truly be discovered through self-enquiry. But self-enquiry at a deep level is truly worth it because you will find it is a never-ending journey of understanding and self-realisation.
"We see you as diamonds, beautiful cut diamonds with many facets. All humans need to understand all of their facets, both the dull facets and the shining facets and then to polish the less than shining ones."