The Three Drives and the Enneagram

by | Dec 12, 2011 | Enneagram Articles

An essay by Eli Jaxon-Bear (Exemplified with the Point Six Fixation)

Every animal is run by three primary instinctual drives. These are the drives for survival of the species. The species survives through survival of the individual unit, sexual reproduction of the individual unit and hierarchy and role of the individual unit in the herd. These three drives in the Enneagram are called Self-Preservation, Social and Sexual drives or instincts. These drives directly correspond to the first three chakras in the Hindu Yogic system.

The metaphor used in the Kundalini system is of the dragon hoarding both treasure and damsels in the dungeon while terrorizing the countryside. A selfish, aggressive life is a life lived from the three drives or animal instincts.

As long as consciousness identifies itself as flesh, then all of life is mediated by these three drives. These drives run the fixation on a substrate below the level of passion. These drives fuel the passions and until these drives are addressed, the passions will continue to run unchecked.

“What is wrong with that,” you might ask. The rape and pillage of humankind, the destruction of all the kingdoms of nature, the very destruction of the balance of life on Earth can be placed directly at the feet of these drives, which are sublimated into the passion’s desire for happiness.

The Yogic system of awakening calls for the Kundalini to rise from its murky sleep in the lower regions to directly pierce the Heart Chakra. The illumination of the Christ or the Bodhisattva is this piercing and the consequent transcendence of personal ego into Christ Consciousness. The true human potential and the demand of our times is this transcendence.

In our time and culture we have been given the unique gift of the Enneagram for approaching transcendence in a completely fresh way. The opportunity is to use life itself as the teacher in transcending ego. The Enneagram is not a system of personality but rather a definition of Character Fixation. Character Fixation is the egoic masking of the absence of true character. True character displays the essential qualities of the soul. Each fixation is masking a unique quality of essence.

Each fixation is run by a passion. Happiness is sought through acting out the passions as an attempt to fulfill one of the three lower drives. Happiness is erroneously judged to be the result of indulging in fixation. In fact the result of indulgence is suffering and neurosis.

Each time the fixation is indulged, the belief in a limited entity is reinforced. If it is true that all life is merely a random collection of animals, then by all means give your life to the survival, sexual reproduction and social standing of this human animal that is called, “me.” This has been done for countless generations and the state of the Earth today is the result.

It has been the rare individual who was willing to make the supreme sacrifice. This is why Jesus and Buddha are worshiped thousands of years later. Clearly, the awakening of the one rare soul in a generation is not enough. The myth of the divine savior that will sweep in with an army of angels to save us from ourselves is no longer operative. Each one, one by one, must be willing to make the leap from animal to divine. This is not a concept but in fact through the Enneagram a very concrete process for the transcendence of selfishness.

As long as life is lived based on survival, sex, and relationship, this is a life lived for “me.” This is selfishness. It is a life of relative unhappiness. It is a life of relative fulfillment and relative pleasure. What is sought for over and over is ultimate fulfillment, ultimate happiness. Yet, this can never be found in the arena of relative selfishness. The arena must be left to find where true fulfillment dwells.

Remarkably enough, complete fulfillment, deep peace and true love are found in a selfless life. In a selfless life, true Self is found everywhere. In a life that is lived from an identity that is transcendent of fixation true bliss, true love, true intimacy and true fulfillment are discovered to be the natural overflowing of life itself.

Recognition of the three drives and the unique characteristics that show up at each of the points of fixation is useful in two different ways. First, knowing the drive vastly helps in typing. We have all seen so many people who are mistyped. When there is a correlating of the drives to the type, this mistyping becomes more obvious.

Secondly, knowing the drive, you know your own worst enemy. You know where you are most likely to sell out. Each drive must be faced and transcended, but there will be drive that will be the hardest to get past, and the first that will reappear to bring you back into fixation.

Let’s start with typing. The most mistyped fixation that I have seen over the years is the Six. Sixes tend to hide out as just about every other fixation. Recognizing the drives will help the Six trance induction recognize its blind spot and wake up to its true nature.

The sub-types in point Six are the most radically different of any of the nine trances or fixations. When the Self-Preservation drive is running the Six trance, it is called Warmth. Warmth is the strategy used by the fixation to stay safe. This behavior often gets misidentified as that of a Two. Both Warm Sixes and Twos take care of others, but with very different motivations. The Warm Six takes care of others in order to diffuse danger. By making oneself helpful, a tacit alliance is entered into and harm is avoided.

The self-preservation drive that is running is terror around survival. Someone who has woken up from the Warm Six trance exquisitely describes the strategy:

“Survival is perceived as the need to make the environment non-threatening by avoiding power. Alliances are made with those perceived to be non-threatening and of the same power.

Alliances with those who are more powerful are not perceived to be as safe, because there is an underlying distrust of those who have power. Alliances with those of less power are not perceived to be as safe, because there is the danger of becoming the authority figure, and attacked and rebelled against.

Autonomy and self reliance are prized: ‘No one will have power over me, and I will not overpower anybody else.'”

As body types, Warm Sixes tend to be on the small side. Short and thin makes a less threatening appearance. Rare is the overly large Warm Six. Warm Sixes can go into rapport with everyone. They may not agree, and usually are holding a secret conversation in their head, creating distance, doubt and mistrust, while outwardly appearing to agree with everything.

Woody Allen is the classic male Warm Six. His build, his demeanor all suggest someone who is harmless and not to be mistaken for an enemy. His warm, empathetic demeanor is also self-deprecating. Warm Sixes who become comedians specialize at self-deprecating humor. “If I laugh at me first, then it diffuses the danger of you laughing at me,” one comedian reported. If Warm Sixes are on the pushy side of the Pushy/Surrender dichotomy they may appear more like Spike Lee, who might be described as Woody Allen with an attitude.

The Social Six is called Duty. This sense of duty starts with duty to the family. Duty is the flavor of the passion of fear and doubt in the social arena. This is a strategy for staying safe by maintaining order and loyalty in the social or family unit. A Social Six once said that he ran away from home at sixteen to avoid this overwhelming sense of duty. He, however, joined the Green Berets and developed a do or die loyalty and duty to the corps.

Social Sixes are often housed in a larger, more aggressive build than Warm Sixes. If Warm Sixes are Chihuahuas, Social Sixes are Bulldogs. Social Sixes often mistake themselves for Eights because they can be in touch with their anger and can be aggressive. Football lineman, military, firemen and police organizations are filled with social Sixes. Guys you can trust in the foxhole.

Oliver North is the classic Social Six. The loyal soldier who will “take the spears in the chest for the president.”

Yet, when he felt betrayed by his leader, he in turn betrayed. Betrayal being a key theme for all Sixes. Starting with the perceived betrayal of the father, betrayal is projected and acted out in a continuing saga that ultimately can be traced back to the self-betrayal of living in the head as a way of being.

Luke Skywalker, the creation of the Social Six mind of director George Lukas, embodies the Six mythology. Going off to adventure in search of his father, Luke finds wise father figures who prepare him by teaching him to get out of his head and “trust the force.” When Luke finally finds his father, he discovers the “family secret” of the father’s ultimate betrayal. Luke must slay his own father out of duty to the world.

The Sexual Six is called Strength and Beauty. The sexual drive fed into fear and doubt creates the desire for a powerful and/or beautiful body that will make alliances with other powerful/beautiful bodies in order to survive. If the Warm Six is a Chihuahua and a Social Six a Bulldog, then the Sexual Six is a Doberman. Black belts in karate that saunter through the ghetto looking for a fight, sky divers, bungee cord jumpers, jet fighter pilots, mountain climbers, the sexual Six is attracted to being in control on the edge of danger. Sylvester Stallone and Brigitt Nilson are the classic Strength and Beauty couple.

Often Sexual Sixes will identify themselves as Eights, Fours, Twos or Sevens. Sexual Sixes are the most masked of any fixation.

Because the terror is avoided by a mask of strength and beauty, the mask is conceived of as another fixation entirely. In this way the issue of fear need never be addressed.

The terror is in the sexual arena, making sex a deceitful adventure of role-playing behind a mask. Sex is usually perceived as a performance and can tend to be hard and fast as a way of avoiding deep intimacy. Madonna, for example, displays a form of the counter-phobic Sexual Six identity.

In birth, Sexual Sixes often report a bloody, dangerous birth, so that blood, birth, death and sex are all mixed together.

The hardest of any fixation to properly type is the male Beauty Sexual Six. Often they can dress like fours and act like sevens. Maui wind surfers seem to be a gathering of this style of fixation, appearing like fun-loving sevens and often dressing like fours but with spandex.

A good way to get the feel of the different sub types of Six is to examine cultures that reflect the fixation. European Jewish culture was a Warm Six. The public attitude of a rabbit, engrossed in study and self deprecating humor, aggression is only safely expressed at the dinner table.

Germany on the other hand displays the demeanor and psyche of a Social Six mentality. Duty to the fatherland, while no longer politically correct, is the flavor of the aggressive Bulldog feeling in Germany. Following the rules is paramount. Hitler, a Social Six, received his power from the crowds because he was a mirror of the German psyche.

Spain is a sexual Six culture. Bullfighting is classically sexual Six machismo. Here is a display of strength and beauty as the bullfighter dances with danger while flaunting tight pants. Eights would just shoot the bulls. Flamenco dancing, stiletto knives and black leather give the flavor of Sexual Six.

Each fixation is a style of sublimating the core drive into the acting out of the passion as an attempt to satisfy the core drive. Each fixation has all three drives running. One however, as Gurdjieff said, is being overused. What this means is that the core drive will tend to create the arena where the other drives will show up.

For example, a Warm Six will use security issues as a way of making choices sexually and socially. A Social Six will use duty to make sexual and survival choices. For example, a Social Six once reported that she only had affairs with married men, because she was terrified of being tied down to duty to the family and losing her career. Sexuality showed up in the social arena.

This then brings us to the second crucial aspect of facing and transcending the drives. The case above is a clear example of someone, who while not knowing the Enneagram was attempting to deal with the driving issue of duty. This is classically how people attempt to mediate the negative influences of the lower drives: by changing behavior, relationships and circumstances. This is an endless exercise in futility. It reminds me of an existential play, by Sartre I believe, called No Exit. A group of people is condemned to eternal life in a locked hotel room with each other.

All strategies and changes are merely rearranging the furniture in a locked room in an attempt to find happiness, or at least settle for a modicum of relative comfort No attempt is ever made to get out of the room.

Each of the drives is a locked room. Each drive creates the space that the characters, circumstances, passions and drives appear and disappear in. The challenge is to not show up in the room. This is the willingness to experience what has been deemed unbearable. To feel the terror and neither act it out, nor suppress it. To feel the terror and not jump into the head nor disassociate, nor deflect into false emotions, but rather fall directly into that which has been avoided.

For the Warm Six it means facing directly the terror of survival and all the decisions that have been made as a way to placate this terror. It is the willingness to die. For the social Six it is the recognition that duty is in fact a form of self-betrayal. For the Sexual Six it is the recognition that the deceit of the posture is the avoidance of facing the self-deceit of sexual terror.

Once faced, each of the drives will arise to either burn or be re-identified with. The challenge is the willingness to die to all forms of personal identity in the direct discovery of true identity. This is the fulfillment of a human life and the possibility for the saving of Mother Earth


“When you can recognize who you are not, then there is a possibility to wake up and discover who you really are.”