Dealing with Pain, Loss, and Grief and Impacting Change: Lessons from the Enneagram

Dealing with Change and the EnneagramBy Beth O'Hara

Change and the pain it can bring are both a given in life. When we resist what is causing pain, our suffering increases. To decrease suffering from pain, we must surrender to the pain and to the changes around us. In surrendering to our pain, we can then transform suffering into empowerment and make conscious choices about how to respond to change, loss, grief, and pain.

The Enneagram teaches the Law of One: We are all connected and all One. From this perspective, everyone has aspects of all Nine Enneagram Types within them. These practices from the spiritual path of each of the nine Enneagram Types help us deal with physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain regardless of the circumstances. Choose one to practice to integrate into your daily routine each week. Please don’t expect yourself to be perfect. The most important thing is to continue to show up again and again.

1 – I don’t know.

The Type 1 part of us holds ideals of how perfect and incredible things could be. However, when we are judgmental about how things could be better than they are in this moment, we are resisting what is actually occurring. We suffer, and we are not able to be as impactful as when we are in acceptance. From non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment as it is, we can be much more effective servants for change.

The essence of Type 1 is Serenity and Holy Perfection. Holy Perfection states that everything is perfect as it is in this moment, simply because this is all that exists. Serenity is a complete acceptance of things as they are. These essence qualities should not be confused with complacency. Acceptance and present moment awareness lead to great empowerment to create change from a place of compassion and wisdom.


I don’t know how this moment should be or what this should look like. I will show up with acceptance and compassion from a place of discernment.

2 – How am I feeling? What do I need?

From the Type 2 ego aspect of all of us, we can focus on others as a means to repress and ignore our own needs and feelings. This keeps us in a constant state of depletion, unable to fully serve. When we care for ourselves first, we can be fully present and in service to others.

The essence of Type 2 is Humility and Holy Will. Holy Will is knowing we are not the only ones who can attend to these needs or repair what is happening, and perhaps our actions are not even needed in this moment. Humility is the quality of seeing ourselves exactly as we are, which allows for authentic expression and action. From this place of essence, we can be in truly in service when and how we are needed the most.


I fully feel all of my feelings and allow my own needs to be met. I will respond consciously to the needs of others, asking myself first whether or not any action is needed from me in this moment.

3 – Feeling and being are required for conscious productivity.

The Type 3 aspect of our personalities believe that doing is much more valuable than feeling or being. When we engage in this belief, we are locked into mindless and heartless doing in search for recognition from others. From a place of presence, we are much more powerful than this.

The essence of Type 3 is Authenticity and the Holy Idea is Holy Law. Holy Law says we are all in this together, and everyone one of us is an essential player in the symphony of life. Together we are infinitely stronger than apart. From the virtue of Authenticity, we are aware of what is in our hearts and can align our minds, hearts, and bodies to engage in truly empowered action for all.


I will take time to connect with my authentic self through listening to my feelings, thoughts, and sensations. I will bring my full self to the table in service to all.

4 – I exist only in the present moment

The Type 4 personality in all of us has a deep identification with previous wounds and suffering, perpetuating a sense of being deeply flawed. Hanging onto the past keeps us out of the present and locked into melancholy and separation. It is in the present moment we know we are loveable beyond imagining and from this space, able to deeply love all others.

The essence of Type 4 is Equanimity and Holy Origin. Holy Origin is the remembering that we all come from the same source and will all return to the same source. Remembering each day that we and everyone we encounter will die makes it very difficult to stay separate from others. Equanimity is being fully present to the ups and downs of live without clinging or aversion. These qualities bring powerful energy from which pain and suffering can be healed for the self and for all beings.


I am reborn each second. I release the past and pledge to live in the present moment, sharing my gifts for healing for healing pain for the good of humanity.

5 – Energy is abundant. I can show up in this situation.

From the Type 5 ego stance, we believe that energy is limited and others will take it from us. This keeps us pulling away from situations and others which seem demanding and taxing, yet this behavior actually depletes energy further. Paradoxically, energy is renewed by being fully in the present moment.

The essence qualities of Type 5 are Non-Attachment and Holy Omniscience. Holy Omniscience teaches we will know everything we need to know in the present moment. There is nothing to prepare. Non-attachment means not being attached to the state of my energy. From this place, we can fully show up with our minds, hearts, and bodies in the moment, which allows our energy to be renewed. This allows for spontaneous and powerful responses to challenges and change.


I will practice showing up fully in this moment and give my mind, heart, and body to this situation. I bring my knowledge to be in service to the whole.

6 -  I breathe through the anxiety

Our Type 6 illusions have us believing the we are never fully competent to handle changes and challenges, and we are alone to flounder in the world. This thinking creates internal anxiety and doubt as well as being in a state of constant vigilance and/or escape. Truthfully, though, we have always been able to weather change in the past, and we do not have to face this alone.

The essence qualities of Type 6 are Courage and Holy Faith. Holy Faith is knowing we can trust ourselves in this moment. We have strength and reserves far beyond what we might believe we do, and we have faith that we are not alone. Courage is experiencing our anxiety and continuing to move into action anyway. These essence qualities make us unequivocally prepared for handling change and knowing what to do in the moment.


I will practice taking deep breaths, being aware of the support around me, and acknowledging my strengths in facing change. I will keep taking steps forward for myself and for others, even when I don’t know how everything will unfold.

7 – I am competent enough to sit with this pain.

In constriction, the Type 7 part of us incorrectly believes we do not have the skills to sit with pain and suffering, leading to continually planning ways to avoid feeling discomfort and limitations through avoidance of the present moment. Yet when we are so sensitive to pain, we are also uniquely suited to understand just how challenging it is for others to be in pain as well.

The essence of Type 7 is Constancy and Holy Plan. Holy plan is knowing the plan of the present moment is greater and more amazing than anything we could ever create with our minds. Constancy is the virtue of staying steady with the pain and limits of life, even when we want to escape. From this place of present moment focus, we can bring great compassion to ourselves and to others who are suffering.


I will allow myself moments of being with my own pain without escaping. I bring the depth and quality of my heart and my intense sensitivity to pain into being in compassionate service to those who suffer.

8 – I am not in control of this situation and that is ok.

The Type 8 personality within ourselves illuminates for us just how challenging it can be to feel we have no control. When we are heavily invested in not being controlled, we become controlling, often with fruitless results. The paradox is it is only by surrendering control that we can be the most impactful for others.

The essence of Type 8 is Innocence and Holy Truth. Holy Truth teaches us that there are infinite facets of truth, and everyone’s facet of truth is important. The core of Holy Truth is that we are all connected and all One. Innocence is the heart quality of approaching each moment with new eyes and new ears, welcoming each person’s perspectives and possibilities. When others feel heard and seen, they are much more open to being impacted.


I will practice seeing everyone with fresh eyes and ears and listening to each person’s truth. To create change, I will bring the innocence and purity of my heart to each moment for myself and for all.

9 – I am alive in this moment.

In constriction, the Type 9 part of us believes we are not important, valued, or seen. This leads to numbing and tamping down who we are in an attempt to be in harmony with others. When we don’t get to experience the full presence of someone’s being, it is to the loss and detriment of all. We are all critically needed at the table of life.

The essence of Type 9 is Right Action and Holy Love. Holy Love is knowing all beings deserve love, and since we are not separate from anyone, this love includes us too. Right action is making conscious choice to show up completely. Constructive conflict is required for growth. When we show up with Holy Love and Right Action, even if it is with conflict, it is a service to everyone.


I will practice sensing into my full self and bring my full self to the table. I will practice remembering I am just as important as everyone else, and my voice is essential.

For Further Reading on The Holy Ideas and Virtues:

Consciousness and Practice: The Holy Ideas By Ron Esposito
The Holy Ideas By Ron Esposito
The Enneagram of Passions and Virtues Book review by Ron Esposito

Beth O’Hara is a Holistic Health and Life Coach, Iyengar Yoga Teacher, and Certified Enneagram Teacher residing in Cincinnati, OH.  Her listening skills, empathy and intuition make her a compassionate, effective and gifted coach and teacher. She is experienced in working with clients to transform areas that include health and wellness, relationships, self-understanding, self-esteem, and life balance.


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