At a recent Enneagram Workshop, we discussed ways of making it easier to code some shorthand characteristics for each of the 9 Fixations in such a way as to be able to recall their qualities more fluently when needed. Famous people, film stars, people we know, cartoon characters, symbols—whatever works for you!
The ‘theoretical accuracy’ of the coding is not as important as the way it enables you to be able to have a working sense of each Fixation for yourself as appropriate. It’s probably most easy to start with your own Main Fixation and Wing/s, Direction of Integration and Direction to Avoid—that’s more or less six Fixations catalogued especially when you do the exercise we managed during the workshop of walking round the internal dynamic of the Enneagram, visiting each Fixation in turn and telling the story of how you can relate them cumulatively to your own life.
I recently watched an extraordinary film whose main character can be depicted as having visited all the Fixations, first in Downward Spiral (DS) and then, after the film’s climax, reversing things by going in the Direction of Integration—everything portrayed by one film star in one film. It makes this film unique.
The brilliant film is The Soloist. Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr), a live-wire investigative journalist in Los Angeles, discovers Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a homeless black suffering from what’s called ‘schizophrenia’ playing a two string violin very competently in the street under a statue of Beethoven. A response to the initial story in the newspaper comes from an old lady whose rheumatics now prevent her from playing the cello—she sends it to the newspaper office for Ayers’ use.
Lopez is so bowled over by Nathaniel Ayers’ cello playing that he resolves to save him from his dire situation on the street and help him to become the virtuoso he might have been, all without considering Ayers’ feelings on the matter.
I tell a story about the way the film illustrates a progress round the Enneagram in two directions.
Lopez’ crusading spirit perhaps marks him out as a so-so 1—when things don’t work out he finds it difficult to adjust to the disappointment and, although he continues his crusade to win Ayers back from the abyss, he becomes intolerant and inflexible. At the turning point of the plot, having committed a good deal of his energy to helping Ayers, identifying fully with him, thinking it might be a fairly straightforward matter to redeem him, he talks about dropping the whole thing as having been a big mistake. This suggests that he has a 9-Wing: sinking himself in another person but withdrawing when the going gets tough—anything for a quiet life.
A gentle sub-plot in the film is Lopez’ relationship with his ex-wife. It seems as though he might have left her on the ‘anything for a quiet life’ principle. The sub-plot is rather nicely left to our imagination.
The Direction to Avoid for somebody with a 1 Fixation is 1-4-2-8-5-7. At 4, when Lopez’ creative endeavours are frustrated either by Ayers himself or, as Lopez sees it, by the care organisation he is connected with, he despairs and wants a way out. A DS4 seeks an easy way out of a challenging situation.
It’s pretty clear that Lopez, bold and committed as he clearly is, seeks some kind of personal kudos from ‘rescuing’ Ayers; manipulation of others to suit oneself is characteristic of a downward-spiralling 2 who maybe sets off with good intentions to ‘help’ but is in the end a self-deceiver and accuses the ‘helpee’ of being ungrateful. It can be argued that Lopez secondary Wing is 2—the ‘Helper’.
Without being honest with himself—we can see all this loaded with dramatic irony—Lopez’ high-minded grandiose ideas are doomed; belligerence is the response at DS8 when we are faced with a situation that’s not going our way. He takes it out on Ayers and confronts the leader of the organisation for the homeless with the statement that he’s abandoned any effort to get Ayers ‘cured’.
Before the turning point of the film, ironically precipitated by the sensitivity of Lopez’ ex-wife, Lopez displays all the characteristics of a DS5, unthinkingly dogmatic and withdrawn, obsessed by trying to get a positive outcome for his crusade, come what may. A racoon digging a hole in a lawn.
Until this point we are on the edge of our seats wondering what the outcome is likely to be: Lopez clearly doesn’t know when to stop. We have seen him constantly looking for new experiences as a journalist—characteristic of a person in so-so 7; he has binged on his experience with Ayers.
From what could be said to be his Main Wing, 9, the Direction to Avoid is DS6. To compensate for his growing sense of insecurity, Lopez scapegoats the refuge leader and, ironically becomes dependent on his ex-wife to make up for what he sees as his incompetence and failure. At DS 3, with a determination not to be a loser, there’s a chance for him to make a turn around which can go either way—into ruthlessness or into something more positive. At the turning point of the film he just escapes total withdrawal from the situation when his ex-wife gently suggests that he simply needs to be a friend to Nathaniel Ayers. That’s all… Drop the crusade, she hints!
From this moment on Lopez reverses his direction round the Enneagram. 1-7-5-8-2-4… The Direction of Integration…
At this point you may wish to stop reading and, having watched the film, figure out how the reversal happens…
At Fixation Top Form (TF) 1 he takes his wife’s advice and commits to a rational objectivity, re-establishing true friendship with Ayers, without wanting to change him. At TF7 he becomes practical and simply feels joyful at the virtuoso tendencies of his ‘discovery’. At TF5 he simply delights in thinking through his relationship with Ayers and his sister with whom, through Lopez, he is reconciled; we sense that this is likely also to spread into his relationship with his ex-wife. At TF 8 he is able to take control of himself, to become a leader of his own intentions in an inspirational sort of way—which enables the passage to TF2 where he can be objectively compassionate and able to act without regard for his own interests. This helps him to discover more about who he is and what he’s at (TF4).
The renewed sense of inner energetic direction makes Lopez more flexible and adaptable (TF3) so that at TF6 his independent reliability, his loyalty to Ayers cements the friendship. He is able to give support to Ayers without thought of gaining anything in return. He can relax at TF9, fully committed.
While Nathaniel Ayers has been ‘rescued’, it could be argued that the film is more about the redemption of Steve Lopez than anything else.
There have been seventeen previous articles on the practical applications of the Enneagram. Until §18 they have been accessible only to those who have attended Enneagram workshops. Since I no longer have any pretensions to building an empire I am gradually re-classifying them as ‘public’. I now run courses on the basis of recouping my expenses only.
2 thoughts on “Enneagram §18”
Thank you Colin for the clarity in this glob. I’m familiar with the film you’ve written about and anticipate watching it again through a new lens.
Like Patrick, I too saw this wonderful film a few years ago, Colin, and will now look for an opportunity to view it again from the perspective of Lopez’ personal journey of growth. I must confess to having been completely transfixed by Jamie Foxx’s remarkable performance as Ayers the first time around, and consequently paying too little attention to the Lopez character.