Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Exploring Personality: Part Four -- "Let Me Give You a Hand"

When you give..., do not announce it with be honored by others. When you give do not [even] let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. -- Matthew 6:2-3 (paraphrased)

Preface: Enneagram types 2, 3, and 4 make up the emotional triad of the enneagram chart. These three types both act on and react to the world based on how they feel. Decisions are emotion-based and relationships are of primary importance. These three types also tend to be preoccupied with success and status or success as in how it relates to status. These are the romantic, love-is-all-you-need people.

The Helper

Have you ever known one of those people who wants to help with everything, even when you don't want help. They might do things for you (for your own good) that you don't want done or do everything because that's just the kind of people they are. Usually, they'll let you know about it, too. "So-and-so couldn't survive without me; I do everything for him." They like to help, and they like for everyone to know about it. Helping is what type 2 is all about.

The type 2, known as The Helper or The Giver, derives his sense of self worth from what he is doing for those around him. It legitimately makes her feel good to do for others. The Helper is that person who remembers everyone's birthdays and makes sure that a card goes around for everyone to sign. The Helper is that person who volunteers for every committee and helps out with every activity. The Helper is involved. And the Helper is also a flatterer, giving strokes and affirmations to others (with the hopes of getting those things in return).

The problem, though, is that these activities are seldom completely altruistic in nature. In return for all of the "help" the type two is doing, she needs to be acknowledged and affirmed. Patted on the back, for instance. He needs to feel appreciated. However, this need for acknowledgement runs counter to doing the things he does selflessly, so the Helper buries his need for approval, usually under a layer of pride in how "helpful" he is. Or, maybe, in making you feel guilty for your lack of appreciation. [That's your mother, right? "I work my fingers to the bone, and do you ever say even a thank you? You do not. You should be ashamed of yourself."]

Because twos derive so much of their worth from helping and doing for others, they can forget that they have needs of their own, especially if they don't feel like they are receiving the appreciation they deserve for all of the hard work that they do. And how can they? That they need to feel appreciated has to remain unspoken. In public life, this can lead to burnout (often of the crash-and-burn variety) and the sudden withdrawal from all the activities the Helper had been involved in. Of course, sometimes, this creates just the correct type of drama to cause people to heap praise upon the two -- "Oh, we didn't realize how much you did! We need you so much!" -- and draw the Helper back in all martyred and everything.

In personal life, or sometimes in public, unfulfilled twos can become manipulative and bossy, demanding compensation for all of the things they've done. They feel totally justified in their behaviors because they've earned the right to demand things because of their past efforts.

Now, glance back up at the chart and see that the arrow from the 2 to the 8 says "stress" on the 8 side. When the two, who is normally cheerful and helpful and "selfless," takes on too much "helping" or is feeling under-appreciated, she becomes stressed, and the stress is what leads to the manipulation and demands.

So let's look at some environments:

Let's say you have a Helper who works in a healthy, cooperative environment. The Helper is very involved at work, volunteering for committees, cooking treats for the rest of the office, planning events. Whatever needs to be done, really, because at work she feels appreciated and the other staff express how much she means to them on a regular basis and may even do special things for her occasionally, like thank you cards. She feels needed, maybe even loved, which is at the center of a two's emotional needs.

But, then, she goes home to a husband who doesn't appreciate her and never shows gratitude. At home, she is a nag, demanding that he does things for her and withholding favors (of whatever sort) until he does what she wants. She may make sure she is away from home in the evenings (doing things for other people or groups) so that he has to fend for himself for dinner.

Dropping by her office unexpectedly, he would be surprised at how pleasant and good-natured she is. He would astounded that she was doing things for other people of her own accord without asking for anything in return. She would be someone he didn't know, could barely recognize.

If you look at the other arrow, the one that goes to "growth" (also known as "security"), you see the two who gives selflessly. For real. The two is in a place of comfort and warmth and knows that she is valued. This could be the two in the above example in her workplace environment. When a two knows that he is loved regardless of what he is doing for other people, it allows him to give freely without the unacknowledged expectation that others will show their appreciation in return.

Hopefully, you can see the range of behaviors in just this one personality type. We'll break it down into three groups: unhealthy, average, and healthy.

Unhealthy twos (either in general or in specific relationships) are bitter, resentful, and manipulative. If they are not going to be appreciated, they will just take what they need instead. Or try to. This is stereotypical attention-seeking behavior even to the point of substance and food abuse so as to get people to show concern or give them sympathy.

Average twos gives only with the hope of getting in return. They have an over-inflated sense of their own importance and make sure to point out to others just how important that is.

Healthy twos have come to a point where they understand that they have value in their own right and do not need others to validate them. They can become truly altruistic and humble, giving without any thought of receiving anything in return.

Culturally, we have made "the mother" the stereotypical image of The Helper, but there's much more to the two than just being "mom." There's a whole range of available behaviors and situations in which to bring out those behaviors.

Oh, it should be noted: Helpers are generally extroverts but, then, most people are extroverts, so I don't know if that's saying anything extraordinary. The important thing to remember is that a two can also be an introvert, which will, of course, affect the ways in which he goes about helping people.


  1. No matter what the type, we all need to feel appreciated, because we are only human.
    I'm a bit of a giver, but I don't give to get and I certainly don't want the spotlight for it. (Anyone who really knows me know to Whom I give all credit.) There is a healthy balance to the giving.
    And hopefully you get a few extra comments on this post!

  2. Yeah, I'm totally a mom. What can I say? Some of this goes with the territory. I mean, until you know how physically and emotionally demanding it is to be the primary nurturer of other human beings...well, I'm sure there's a bit of this in every mother. (And some fathers too.)

  3. I think I know a couple of people who match these descriptions. Very interesting.

  4. As a mom, yes, I do give to my son, but at the same time, I don't want to do everything for him. He has to be independent when he's an adult, and I don't want him to grow up thinking everyone else will pick up after him. I don't think I am a Giver, but since I'm an introvert, that's not surprising.

  5. Alex: Actually, not all types need to feel appreciated.
    You should take the test and find out if you are a Two.

    Crystal: Right, but it has to do with your primary motivation. When you're giving to a child, it's not so that your child can turn around and say "Wow! Thanks, Mom! You do that better than anyone!" If you're not a Two, that is. A Two might actually be expecting/wanting that from their kids, like that mom that gets upset for being, what she feels like, under-appreciated.

    Michael: It is very interesting. Stick around for more interesting.

    Sandra: I think Twos are the kinds of moms that do their most to make their children dependent on them. It can make growing a responsible adult a difficult thing.