“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” ―
Happy Monday! Welcome to Marc Frigon, an Enneagram Type Nine and one of my former college classmates from way back when. (And yet somehow we’re both still technically millennials!) Thank you for being here, Marc, and sharing a bit about your experiences as a Nine.
1. When and how did you discover you are a Type Nine?
I learned I was a Nine while reading The Road Back to You, by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. The first I had ever heard about the Enneagram was when I discovered “The Liturgists Podcast,” and they kept mentioning these cryptic numbers that represented certain essential aspects about themselves. I had no idea what they signified at the time, but I was intrigued. Immediately, I started reading everything Google could tell me about the Enneagram, and shortly thereafter I had The Road Back to You in hand!
It was difficult to type myself at first since I kept seeing myself in lots of the different numbers, but when I got to the chapter on Nines, so much of what they described pages was ringing true. The kicker was a line on page 69: “…Nines tend to see the world from the viewpoint of every number but their own.” I immediately stopped, put the book down, and laughed out loud at the sheer truth of that statement. At that point, it was like I’d found a key that perfectly matched a locked door in my mind, and when that door opened, everything started to make sense. Needless to say, The Road Back to You has a permanent place on the bookshelf in my cubicle at work, and I still go back and periodically re-read that chapter.
2. What do you love about your number? What do you dislike about your number?
My favorite aspect of being a Nine is that I relate to others’ viewpoints so easily. It has enabled me to be a peacemaker in a lot of ways—to find common ground in situations that would be perplexing if I weren’t able to empathize with another person’s motivations and opinions. This, of course, leads directly into one of the two things that I dislike most about being a Nine: the fact that it’s a long, difficult, and confusing process for me to suss out what my own opinions and beliefs are. Because I so easily merge with others out of a desire for empathy and agreement, the discovery of my type threw me headlong into a process of looking back through my life and reexamining every opinion, belief, and philosophy I’ve ever held through the lens of peacemaking. I finally had to be honest with myself—and that was not easy to do. At least, not at first. Now, I am deeply thankful for that journey, as I feel like I finally have a sense of who I am, what I believe, and what motivates me—quite literally for the first time in my life.
The second thing I dislike about being a Nine is that I’m an insufferable procrastinator. I’m reasonably sure that this stems from the fact that I’m also a perfectionist. I know when there is something I need to work on, it will take me a long time. Even the thought of starting a task tires me out, so I’ll just keep putting it off forever. I’m also easily distracted. When I’m working on a task that requires a lot of brainpower, concentration, and time to complete, the temptation to check the Washington Post or Facebook news feed can be almost too much to resist. And if there’s any doubt about the power of my procrastination, it took me almost nine weeks to even begin answering these interview questions!
3. What happens to your closest relationships when you’re stressed and go to Arrow Type Six? What happens when you’re healthy and go to Arrow Type Three?
I have a hard time making decisions, but when I’m stressed, I basically become paralyzed. At the same time, I become much more critical of others, and any tendencies toward passive-aggression are much more pronounced. I get more introverted and go hard into my “inner sanctum.” This translates into radio silence with friends, and an irritable attitude at home. Naturally, this creates strain in my closest relationships. I’ve learned to recognize when I’m heading towards my negative Six tendencies, and proactively schedule some alone time (usually in the woods) to satisfy my need for introversion, gather my thoughts, and regain some balance.
When things are in balance, though, my relationships benefit. I’ve struggled with self-confidence for much of my life, but when I move towards the healthy side of Three, I find that I actually have it in abundance. Confidence is the natural result of when I know for sure I’m in sync with my own identity—when I’ve taken the uncomfortable step of being honest with myself and others about what I’m feeling and what my own needs are. I honestly don’t think I’ve felt quite so assured of my own opinions about anything until I started doing Enneagram work. After a lifetime of merging with others’ identities and not having any kind of certainty about my own identity, going to a healthy Three is freeing. Liberating. It’s enabled me to make hard decisions and stick to them because I knew they are “right action” (to use a bit of Enneagram Nine terminology) and in keeping with the truest part of myself. In my closest relationships with my wife and children, I’m less unsure of myself and irritable, and I can support them when they need to make difficult decisions or undertake challenging tasks.
4. How does narcotizing or numbing affect your daily life? Do you find yourself checking out on both your inner and outer experiences?
The struggle against narcotizing is real! It’s probably my biggest pitfalls as a Nine. My tendencies to procrastinate and to be easily distracted are like twin sirens luring me into a seductive trance of forgetting to experience life. There have been many days where I’ve not felt much of anything. Rather than being mindful and living in the moment, I whittle the day away with distractions and fantasies, then wonder why I’ve done nothing—but still feel out of energy!
5. Do you know what your Wing is? Can you talk about how your Wing shades aspects of being a Nine (for you)?
I’m a 9w1, so my One wing certainly explains my perfectionism and my strong tendency to see things in terms of “right and wrong.” Although I do embody the stereotypically Nine characteristic of wanting to preserve inner and outer harmony at any cost, I credit my One wing with giving me the conviction that I need speak up when something feels so horrifically wrong that I have no other choice. When I’ve felt enough conviction to speak out to friends, family, and coworkers in defense of things that I feel passionate about (such as gender equality and taking a stand for LGBTQI+ rights and inclusion), I’ve been amazed at how it has opened the door to some truly productive, bridge-building conversations. For me, the key is making sure I’m in a healthy enough place psychologically that I feel worthy of taking a stand.
6. What would the phrase, “You can handle being fully yourself and fully present in body, mind, and spirit,” mean to you if you knew it to be true?
It would be tremendously empowering. I’m still not quite there yet, but this phrase would make the perfect mantra for me to use in my goal of becoming an integrated Type Nine. Deep down, I know I can handle being fully myself, fully present, fully alive in the moment, but there is still a deeply-ingrained fear of what that means. What if being fully myself costs me friendships with people I have falsely emulated? What if being fully myself requires me to take a stand that threatens my membership in social groups? These are difficult questions, but I know that if that phrase is true, it means that I can handle it. It’s better to be integrated and alive in the moment than to put up a false identity to preserve relationships and social standing. Whatever the cost, the reward of a life honestly lived is worth it, and will lead to deeper and more genuine relationships than would otherwise have been possible.
7. Are there any spiritual practices you are drawn to as a Type Nine?
This is an interesting question for me to consider at this particular point in my life. As I’ve deconstructed my own outlook on God, spirituality, and matters of faith, I’ve found my most meaningful spiritual experiences have come subtly and unbidden—and they usually involve being out in nature or seeing the Divine in other people. My current spiritual practice has been to let go of the need for theological beliefs and simply live in the moment. The closest I can come to distilling my current “God-concept” into words would be to say that God is Love—in its purest, most powerful, most inclusive, most essential form—as revealed perfectly by Christ (but sadly understood imperfectly by humans), and that She is everywhere and in everyone, if only we have the eyes to see. But even in this description, I feel there is a wideness and a mystery to God that defies the ability of the human mind to comprehend. So I long to accept that the Divine is a mystery, and that to experience life is to experience the Divine and to rest in that.
It occurs to me that as a Nine, it’s probably more natural for me than for other Enneagram types to experience God by stepping fully into that mystical sense of union with the Divine. There is one particular poem that has stuck with me for years, and I would say this, more than anything else, captures the essence of my spiritual practice:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
-“The Peace of Wild Things,” by Wendell Berry
8. Talk about what the words Anger and Goals mean to you today.
Anger: Anger is a tough one. It’s something I’ve had to wrestle with since learning about the Nine’s place in the “Anger Triad.” As a Nine, I’m very good at stuffing anger and keeping the peace by suppressing my own feelings. But as a parent of young children who seem uniquely designed to test the limits of my own anger suppression system, I’ve been alarmed by how my anger seems to be right there, simmering just below the surface. With remarkable speed, I can transition from being a calm, compassionate parent, to an impatient, shouting mess. It’s been so helpful to recognize the things that contribute to those angry outbursts so I can try to prepare for them.
Goals: These interview questions keep pointing me toward the fact that Enneagram work is really a goal-setting process. Knowing that I’m a Nine is one thing, but putting that knowledge into action by transforming the way I approach myself and others has definitely required me to set—and attain—many goals. One goal has been to practice having opinions. My wife will tell you that I’m that guy who responds immediately with “Well, what are you craving?” when asked what I’d like to order for take-out. To be honest, I’m still that guy, so in this particular area, I’ve got room to grow. (It’s not lost on me that this exact example is what Ian Cron used to describe Nine-ness in The Road Back to You.) In other areas, I have made more progress. One huge goal I set for myself was to take the time to respond to these interview questions, and I have to say that it’s incredibly gratifying to have seen it through! These questions have helped me to examine my own identity as a Nine in a much deeper sense, and to achieve the goal of being more vulnerable to myself and to others. (From Melissa: “Wahoo!”)