Enneagram Sixes: Ruth Nathaniel & Julianne Gibson

“Affirmation for Sixes” – Melissa Kircher

Good morning Enneagram Paths friends! I hope you are safe and well. I’m sending out love, presence, and light to all of you today.

We have two amazing people, and Type Sixes, in the house! Ruth Nathaniel and Julianne Gibson have graciously allowed me to interview them and ask what it’s like to be a Type Six. Their answers put me in the mind, body, and emotions of a Six and are so helpful. It’s wonderful to hear from all different kinds people about how the Enneagram is impacting their lives. Thank you both for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

Ruth Nathaniel

1. What has it been like being a Type Six during Covid, quarantine, and social distancing? How have you coped?

As a Type Six, this season of life has been tough, but pulled out the greatest shades of courage I could muster. I practiced radical acceptance as we postponed our wedding not once but twice (fingers crossed for 2022!), trekked through the nerve-wracking green card process and its limitations (including not working for a whole year), as well as trusting the scientific community to pull through with a viable vaccine to help curb the pandemic since so many of my loved ones are immunocompromised and abroad. Deep down I knew I had all of the tools to ground myself when I felt anxious, depressed, or lonely. The real challenge was to actually do it! Some of these tools were creating art, staying physically active, scheduling FaceTime calls with my friends in Canada, and giving myself permission to simply rest when I needed to. 

2. What is the thing you like the most about being a Six?

Over the last few years, especially since learning more about my type and growing towards health, I’ve wrestled with my silence and lack of boundaries in relationships with authority figures. There was a time when I would’ve completely crumbled at the thought of “disrupting” the flow of these relationships or calling out abusive behavior, even when I was being mistreated. However, I’ve been empowered by my ability to look within for assurance in my decision making and judgement, and not to others. As a Six I have a strong voice and now use it to speak truth to power. Furthermore, when you’ve had traumatic experiences with important figures in your life, it can negatively affect how you view other people too. As a Type Six, I need not resort to pessimism and suspicion, but can actually trust the people around me since I possess an abundance of good faith AND know there is an abundance of good humans to call my friends. 

3. Tell us about fear or doubt. How do you engage with fear/doubt and calm it so that you feel internal peace and trust in yourself?

Fear and doubt are familiar voices in my head, as such I’ve focused less on silencing them and more on speaking to them in the moments they show up. My fear and doubts can be justified (through some train of logic) almost all the time but realistically they have the most power when I keep them inside and let them cast larger than life shadows in my mind. I’ve found that naming my fear or doubt aloud strips them of some of their power and ambiguity, and makes space for alternative perspectives to be introduced. I like to remind myself of decisions I’ve made that yielded less than ideal outcomes, and how all of those choices still led me to a life I love and people I adore.

4. How do you use your Stress Arrow to Type Three to help you these days? Are there any tips you’d give other Sixes about choosing some of the high-side traits of Three to be of service to you in stress?

One of the most impactful perspectives about the stress arrow is that it is merely a weak coping mechanism to get us through a difficult time. The inclination to be overly competitive or achievement based is a feature of my personality in stress and does not reflect my personhood or essence. As a child, affirmation was only given in response to achievement. I performed to be loved. It was such a literal conditioning that my parents’ house is full of displays of ribbons and trophies from my youth. As such, it’s easy to be highly irritated by Type Threes when you associate some of their traits with your own trauma and stress, so I’d encourage Type Sixes to do life with a Type Three. This friendship will not only teach you how to be empathetic and open-minded when they are not at their best, but also foster grace for yourself when you exhibit similar features from time to time or lean on your old personality crutches. I have a few healthy Type Threes in my inner circle who illuminate the positive side of those much needed traits, and help me see that self-assuredness and decisive action can be harnessed for good and not to simply position myself when I am insecure or seeking love.

5. Are you a Social, Self-Preservation, or Sexual/One-to-One Subtype? What does this instinct look like in your daily life? How does it drive some of your behaviors, thoughts, and feelings?

I am dominantly a self-preservation subtype, surely gleaning from the other subtypes from time to time. This instinct is most present in my approach to feeling and communicating my anger. As a child, I felt that if someone was angry then their love was conditional, and receiving their love was based on how little I could anger them. As an adult, I had to reckon with that conditioning and examine why safely communicating anger is actually important and can be a loving thing to do. I’ve learned that my anger signals when something hits close to the heart and acknowledging my own defensiveness is helpful to both me and the people I communicate it to. Anger does not make me less lovable, it clarifies my values and can actually increase the stability and safety in relationships when used appropriately. At my best, this looks like communicating when I am upset in a clear, confident manner without bottling things up or lashing out. 

6. From the perspective of a Type Six, how can we best support each other during these difficult times? 

A deep breath can change everything. When you are feeling overwhelmed by something you’ve read, heard, or witnessed, take a moment to ground yourself in the present. Sometimes all it takes is closing your eyes and taking a few conscious breaths. Other times, when tensions are high, and it’s easiest to lash out (especially behind a computer screen), consider writing down how you feel in a notebook and decide if it’s actually how you want to represent yourself and your perspective online before publishing it. A little grace goes a long way, and while hardship exists everywhere at all times, this past year and a half has perhaps opened our eyes to the sheer vulnerability and insecurity so many people experience. When we are tempted to compare suffering, I would encourage us all to approach our interactions from a place of abundance. Compassion, kindness, and a listening ear cost us very little and go so far. 

Ruth Nathaniel is a licensed psychotherapist who sees clients in Chicago and Denver. She is Tamil-Canadian and the daughter of immigrants. You can usually find her laughing at niche memes and tweets, painting, trying a new recipe, or working up a sweat. You can read more about Ruth’s approach to therapy at https://optimumjoy.com/ruth-nathaniel/ and follow her on Twitter at @ruthsnathaniel


Julianne Gibson

1. What has it been like being a Type Six during Covid, quarantine, and social distancing? How have you coped? 

It was difficult to be a scientist during this time. I work in the wilderness, and I could not access the wilderness – my research was literally shut down. It was hard having the thing I’ve dedicated my life to taken from me. It was also hard not being able to collaborate with my colleagues in person anymore. It really took the joy out of science for me for quite a while. I coped largely by taking it easier on myself, taking the lesser grade, accepting that my field research would have less data and a shorter time frame. I think I had a harder time being separated from colleagues than I did my friends, but my best friend is a colleague so I’m sure that’s why. I Zoomed with her quite often, and that helped a lot. She and I really supported each other in our scientific expenditures during that period. 

In terms of non-scientific matters, I can’t say that I coped. I had family issues, relationship issues, body issues, everything. I think at the time I just kept telling myself to take it day by day and that everything would be okay. I took every problem one problem at a time and tried to communicate as best as I could with my partner. Also, I had weekly virtual therapy with my therapist, and she helped me feel hope.

2. What is the thing you like the most about being a Six?

I like how brave I am. I genuinely believe I am more courageous than most because I must face legitimate fears on a more consistent basis. As a result of this, I appreciate that I know how I will handle fear and doubt when in bad situations. Unfortunately, some awful things have happened and my significant other really did not cope well, he shut down emotionally. I took control in that situation and stepped up to the plate. I like that I know that if I am out conducting research with a group and we get lost in the wilderness, I know that regardless of how scared I am, I will put it aside in the moment. I would say as an extension of this that I like how quickly I can imagine all of the possibilities as it is really a wonderful trait for my career as well as for everyday life.

3. Tell us about fear or doubt. How do you engage with fear/doubt and calm it so that you feel internal peace and trust in yourself?

It’s funny because I was pretty unaware of my issues with fear prior to finding out about my type three years ago. I’d been in weekly therapy for several years prior to that and I’ve had anxiety for as long as I could remember. However, I always viewed myself as a brave person – which I am, but I had not identified that many of the issues I dealt with were fear-based. Now that I recognize that, I have developed some coping skills and generally I focus on mindfulness. Primarily, I find that doing helps the most. I can really convince myself that I am not capable of things when I think, and I can support it with many experiences and feelings. However, often, when I go out and do that thing, I am completely fine. One example of this is scuba diving. I was so terrified the entire lead up to my first time scuba diving, but when I finally did it, I was fine. Additionally, I think that the more that I push myself to simply take the jump and do things, whether it’s an activity or making a choice, I build more trust in myself and create more memories of myself being successful. Sometimes I can’t go right out and do something though – such as with the Europe trip that my best friend and I are planning. I have so many fears – what if we fight and are never friends again? What if I can’t sleep in the hostels considering my bad sleep issues? What if someone steals from us? What if we get hurt? I cope with these fears by acknowledging that they are possible, and doing my best to prepare for them, but that I can’t not do things based upon my fear. I think in truth that is my greatest fear – to not do all of the things I have dreamed of doing my entire life out of fear. One last note I will mention on the topic of fear is that I’ve learned the worst time for fear for me is at night. I think this is the worst time for many people but for me, it is a very fear-based time. As a result, I practice a lot of thought-stopping prior to falling asleep and I generally refuse to allow myself to think about these things, once I notice consciously that I’m thinking about it because it is unproductive.

4. How do you use your Stress Arrow to Type Three to help you these days? Are there any tips you’d give other Sixes about choosing some of the high-side traits of Three to be of service to you in stress? 

Ha, so I’m a scientist and I’m not going to lie – I love my three disintegration. I will let myself completely fall apart trying to get an A or set up the perfect research study (or etc.) before I will allow myself to accept being unsuccessful. Also, I’m wonderful at being a chameleon when networking with other scientists and I know how to present myself to them in the way they want. All I can say to other sixes is that if you are going to use your stress arrow, do it for something that is good for you in the grand scheme. I am okay using that stress arrow for my career because my career is the thing that I want the most in life.

5. Are you a Social, Self-Preservation, or Sexual/One-to-One Subtype? What does this instinct look like in your daily life? How does it drive some of your behaviors, thoughts, and feelings? 

I am a sexual subtype and I feel that it’s obvious when you learn what a sexual Six. I cope with my fear by trying to be the smartest, strongest, and prettiest in the room. It shows the most when I’m stressed, and it can be extremely toxic. I love weightlifting and athletics, I’ve played sports all my life, but as a woman who grew up in the digital age, I have body issues. I’m also in a healthy relationship so I have some extra love pounds. As a result, I notice that I suddenly become extremely hateful of my body when I am stressed. Similarly, when it comes time to find a new research position or join a new lab, I often become far more stressed about being the smartest than I typically am. Overall, I think my sexual subtype coupled with three disintegration makes for a nasty breed of perfectionism that I spend a lot of time in therapy coping with.

6. From the perspective of a Type Six, how can we best support each other during these difficult times? 

For me, it’s listening. I don’t need you to really tell me advice – I’ve already thought of every possibility before I ever came to you. However, sometimes, I don’t have the strength to convince myself that my doubt is just doubt. As a result, having you listen and confirm what I am thinking can be helpful in times where I am too weak to do the self-work to do that for myself. Additionally, I think that more gentle criticisms can be beneficial in hard times.

Julianne Gibson is a scientist who studies wildlife ecology and conservation. I specialize, or rather am trying to specialize, in spatial ecology so I look at ecosystems on a large scale to look for patterns and processes, and I do a lot of coding and mapping to support this work, as well as your general wildlife scientist fieldwork. I am 23 years old so I am still very early into my career, and I would like to get a PhD so that I can be a professor one day. I have been in a long-distance relationship for three years with a nerdy yet extremely adventurous chemist. I am proudly bisexual, though I have not always been so proud in the past. I live in Florida, but I am from Texas. In my free time, I love all the hobbies! Cooking and baking, crafting, games, kayaking, hiking, television, consuming good food and drinks, all the things! I have one dog, a small black lab mutt, who is my world. On the internet, you can find me as @radredecology on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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