Taken from here: Enneagram: how types pay attention
How Ones Pay Attention
Perfectionism is supported by the habit of making mental comparisons. It is a way of paying attention in which thoughts and actions are automatically judged against an ideal standard of how perfect the situation could be. The internal terrain of a One's decision-making process carries the image of a courtroom scene. An opinion is mentally brought into court, where it is then attacked, defended, and finally judged for correctness.
I am sitting in meditation, and become immediately aware of the loudness of the critic in my head. A small space of deep quiet, and I hear, "Not deep enough" or "Was better last time you sat." Then the argument starts: "Sit up straighter." "You're not trying." "Yes I am." My mind gets caught between attack and defense, as if I have no say in the situation and can only listen to the voices in my head until one side or the other wins out. Each quiet space in the meditation is interrupted by mental comments, until, happily, I can disengage from my thoughts.
Ones also suffer from the habit of comparing their own levels of achievement against each other. Was this meditation productive? Am I improving or am I slipping back? There is a painful need to check out progress in order to feel assured of a continuous march toward self-improvement, which can also produce the feeling of never measuring up to the mark.
In meditation practice this way of paying attention is called judging mind. To some extent we all judge our progress against standards of excellence, but Ones live with an internal measuring rod that also extends to chronically comparing themselves to other people. It is like an internal seesaw in a children's park: one child goes up, the other goes down. She goes up because she makes more money, but she goes down because I have status. I'm up on this point, but I'm down on that point. His face is handsome, but my body's better. The making of mental comparisons by Ones is often an automatic and unrecognized factor in their perception of daily life events and is a major cause of suffering. Ones automatically notice what is right and what is wrong in any given situation, and because they are attached to a one-right-way point of view, another person's win makes the One feel like a loser.
When Ones begin a self-observation practice, they realize, perhaps for the first time, how pervasive the mental habit of making comparisons can be. Because judging mind is clearly a source of suffering, Ones can become highly motivated to learn to meditate so that judging thoughts recede.
Ones can begin to change the Perfectionist style of attention by noticing when the mental chalkboard goes up. Each time attention shifts into a detailed account of someone else's pluses and minuses, and the feeling that when that person is one up that the Perfectionist is one down, there is an opportunity for learning to shift attention to a neutral ground.
How Twos Pay Attention
Attention is by habit focused upon the emotional fluctuations of significant others, guided by the wish to become the object of their love. On the level of physical cues, this would mean some thing like watching to see who the partner pays attention to, or watching to see whether he or she smiles or frowns when a particular topic of conversation is brought up, and then trying to join with those interests in a pleasing way.
On another level of perception, Twos say that they find themselves altering to become what others want without being aware of any facial or behavioral cues that have caused them to modify their presentation. They say that when their attention is attracted to someone that they find themselves adapting to what they imagine that person's innermost desires to be and that their habit of falling in with another's wishes means that they can become the prototype of what the other believes to be desirable.
It starts out with hating to be rejected. What you do to not ever get rejected is learn how to be the same as someone else. You learn to look at a stranger, sense how the two of you are the same, and then slide into that feeling. It can happen on the street, where I find myself going out to someone and fitting into how we're the same.
At the level of intimacy, it's far more intense. It feels like whatever you want, I also want. Whatever you desire, I feel that same desire. Whatever you wish for sexually can be acted out through me. When the chemistry is working, it's the most wonderful form of intimacy. But when I feel like I'm standing on the street corner, tilting into someone else's life just because I feel insecure that day, the whole idea of merging is a burden to me.
Because attention is outwardly focused upon what others want, there is a systematic lack of attention to personal needs. From a psychological point of view, these repressed needs get satisfied through helping others live out a life in which the Two would like to share. A Two can be helped in therapy by learning to recognize personal needs and by learning to stabilize a consistent sense of self that does not alter in order to meet others' needs.
From the point of view of attention practice, Twos can learn to intervene in their habit of sensing signs of approval from others by learning to shift attention away from others and refocus attention at a reference point within their own body. With practice, Twos can recognize the difference between staying present to their own feelings and allowing their focus of attention to go out to others.
How Threes Pay Attention
To an observer, a Three looks like a highly focused achiever; Threes report, however, that they are only trying to keep up. If someone else is good, the Three has to be better, because a Three's self-esteem is riding on a win. Activity is a form of control, and personal value and security depend on how much you can get done. A Three habitually does several things at once, a way of paying attention that is called polyphasic thinking.
I'm in the car and slightly late. At the same time that I'm driving, I'm conversing with the back seat rider, scanning mirrors for cops, moving back and forth over the speed limit, eating a sandwich, and checking in and out of the radio. There's a sense of well-being with it all going on at once; like being on top of things.
Polyphasic activity has its counterpart in an internal habit of attention that is largely focused on tasks. Attention rarely stays with the project at hand, but moves rapidly on to the next thing to do. There is practically no space between thoughts for reflection, for reconsideration of priorities, for paying attention to personal feelings about the job.
You've got to be best, because otherwise you don't exist. The sense is that you're perpetually number 2, trying to be number 1. There are always three or four projects under way, and you're running through the physical motions of one, with your mind on the mechanics of the next. By the time I'm near the end of the first project, I'm so involved in the next that I hardly realize the first one is over. It's like the present doesn't exist, because I'm always ahead onto what to do next.
As a way of understanding this stance of attention, you might imagine yourself established at permanent high speed, gravitating toward stress and competition as a preferred way of life. You are sensitive to anything in the environment that iwill contribute to your current goal, and you see people in terms of what they possess or what they can do to help the project materialize.
As goals become more focused, your interest increases and so does the speed at which you want to work. Attention narrows to those cues in the environment that will support forward motion toward the goal, and people start to look like automatons who are either blocking forward motion or who have something that will serve the work. If they are automatons who are in the way, you either ignore them or walk around them. If they are automatons who can serve the project, you seek them out for what they can give.
Obstacles only serve to increase your focus of attention. Focus increases under pressure because if you fail to achieve the goal, or somebody else gets there first, you will feel anxious about being an unlovable failure. Runners-up are unlovable. You either take first place or have no place at all.
If obstacles continue, then you go inside yourself and brainstorm every similar situation that you can remember, ferreting out every relevant past solution that has any bearing on the current case. This narrowing of attention to all the bits and pieces of environmental cues, old memories, and past solutions that relate to a current goal is called convergent thinking. It is a state of mind that Threes are particularly suited to and that helps them find creative solutions when routine solutions have failed.
I've turned several businesses around to where they've become extremely profitable. Some of my best saves have been when I've geared up for a deadline by pulling out every half-feasible idea from all the other projects I've been on. My saves have been through a bizarre combination of ideas that worked successfully in other contexts.
This is an exercise that can help you understand the shift of attention that Threes undergo when their attention merges with an image.
Sit facing a partner. Designate one of you to be teh observer, and the other to be the Three. If you are the Three, you are the active partner in the exercise, so close your eyes so as to be undistracted by the observer's reactions. Keeping your eyes closed, choose a quality with which to identify. Choose a quality that you don't believe you actually embody. For example, you could choose to identify with the quality of beauty, or handsomeness, or intelligence, or compassion, or joy; but try to pick one that feels alien to you.
Imagine feeling that quality within yourself. It will help you recognize the quality's feeling if you remember a time when you actually did feel that way. Notice the shifts of attention that you go through while you "make up the quality." Notice the fact that the quality comes and goes. When the quality is present, you are feeling like a Three who is becoming identified with that quality, and when you have to exert effort to keep the quality present, you are feeling like a Three who is holding up an image.
With your eyes till shut, focus fully on the imagined quality and let it permeate your body. When you can stabilize your attention on the sensations or feeling that the quality stimulates in your body, open your attention to include the observing partner, and pretend that she or he is an important person in your life; someone such as a boss or a spouse, who has the power to affect you, and who you are going to pretend is susceptible to the quality that you are embodying.
Now open your eyes, and while keeping your attention focused inwardly on the presence of the quality, simultaneously carry on a simple conversation with the observer. Notice the shifts of attention that happen as you attempt to identify internally with the quality to which your partner is susceptible. Threes would recognize these internal fluctuations of attention as the difference between times when they are faking an impressive image and times when they have become so immersed in an image that they are the quality that the partner values. Threes habitually shift their attention to identify with culturally valued images and begin to project these images as themselves without remembering to question the difference between an adopted image and their own internal feelings.
When a Three can successfully personify an image, she or he will become acutely aware of other people's reactions. If the image is effective, the Three will remain identified with it. If the public does not approve, then self-presentation will tend to be unconsciously modified.