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Naranjo's Character and Neurosis: Vanity, Inauthenticity & The Marketing Orientation

Threes, here's an excerpt from Naranjo's book for you, too. :)



1. Core Theory, Nomenclature, and Place in the Enneagram

Vanity is a passionate concern for one’s image, or a passion of living for the eyes of others. Living for appearances implies that the focus of concern is not in one’s own experience, but in the anticipation or fantasy of the experience of another, and thus the insubstantiality of the vain pursuit. Nothing could be more appropriately called “vanity of vanities,” of which the preacher in Ecclesiastes speaks, than living for an ephemeral and insubstantial image (rather than out of oneself).

To speak of vanity as a living for a self-image is not different than speaking of narcissism, and indeed we may regard narcissism as a universal aspect of egoic structure, mapped on the right corner of the enneagram. Yet, since the word “narcissism” has been used in reference to more than one personality syndrome, and mostly since the publication of DSM III in reference to our ennea-type VII, I have not included it in this chapter heading.

Vanity is present especially in the “hysteroid” region of the enneagram (comprising ennea-types II, III, and IV), yet in the case of pride, as we have seen, it is satisfied through a combination of imaginative self-inflation and the support of selected individuals, while in ennea-type III, instead, the person mobilizes herself to “prove” objectively her value through an active implementation of the self-image in the face of a generalized other. This leads to an energetic pursuit of achievement and good form as defined by quantitative or generally accepted standards.

The difference between ennea-types III and IV lies mostly in the fact that the former identifies with the image that it “sells,” while the latter is more in touch with the denigrated self-image and is thus characterized by the experience of a vanity never fulfilled. As a result, ennea-type III is cheerful, ennea-type IV depressive.

As mentioned in the introduction, Ichazo spoke of “deceit” rather than vanity as the passion of ennea-type III, relegating vanity to the sphere of the fixations. Throughout most of my teaching experience I have chosen, rather, to consider vanity as a passion akin to pride, while seeing in deception the cognitive core or fixation in ennea-type III character. The word “deceit” is not the best to evoke the particular manner of deception that goes with vanity, however—different from the lying of ennea-type II or the conning of VIII, for instance; rather than a lack of truthfulness in regard to facts (ennea-type III may be a faithful, factual reporter) there is in vanity a lack of truthfulness in regard to feelings and pretense.

In contrast to the comic vein of ennea-type II and the tragic vein of ennea-type IV, the characteristic mood of ennea-type III is one of neutrality or feeling control—where only “correct feelings” are acknowledged and expressed.

Though pride (superbia) and not vanity is included among the traditional capital sins of Christianity, it seems that both ideas are commonly juxtaposed—as is suggested by the common iconography that depicts pride through a woman looking at a mirror (as in Hieronymus Bosch’s “Seven Deadly Sins”).

It is interesting to observe that the characterological disposition involved in ennea-type III is the only one not included in DSM-III—which raises the question as to whether this may be related to the fact of its constituting themodal1personality in American society since the twenties.

2. Antecedents in the Scientific Literature on Character

Kurt Schneider proposes the expression “hyperthymic” for individuals who “are predominantly joyful and active.” He says that “hyperthymic personalities are gay, frequently kind, active, balanced and with an unshakable optimism. As an immediate consequence of that, they lack in depth … too self-assured.”2

In view of the prominence of the vanity type in the U.S., it may be significant that the corresponding personality syndrome has escaped the committee that produced the DSM III. Along with the comparative difficulty of discriminating character traits that are prevalent and implicitly valued in the culture as a whole, we may understand this omission also as a consequence of the fact that ennea-type III individuals are characteristically satisfied with themselves, since the essence of their psychological aberration is the confusion of the self-image that they sell (and others buy) with what they are.

Perhaps the better known description of ennea-type III was that of Fromm3 who claimed to discover it as a personality orientation beyond the three classically discerned by psychoanalysis (the “receptive,” the “oral aggressive” or “exploitative,” and the “anal” or “hoarding orientations”). Believing it to be a modern development, secondary to the arising of the modern market, Erich Fromm called it “the marketing orientation.”

“The market concept of value, the emphasis on exchange value rather than use value, has led to a similar concept of value with regard to people and particularly to oneself.”

A basic feature in the marketing orientation is that of concern with self-presentation in a “personality market.”

“One has to be in fashion on the personality market, and in order to be in fashion one has to know what kind of personality is most in demand. This knowledge is transmitted in a general way throughout the whole process of education, from kindergarten to college, and implemented by the family. The knowledge acquired at this early stage is not sufficient, however: it emphasizes only certain general qualities like adaptability, ambition, and sensitivity to the changing expectations of other people. The more specific picture of the models for success one gets elsewhere. The pictorial magazines, newspapers, and newsreels show the pictures and life stories of the successful in many variations.

“Pictorial advertising has a similar function. The successful executive who is pictured in a tailor’s advertisement is the image of how one could look and be, if one is to draw down the ‘big money’ on the contemporary personality market.

“The most important means of transmitting the desired personality pattern to the average man is the motion picture. The young girl tries to emulate the facial expression, coiffure, and gestures of a high-priced star as the most promising way to success. The young man tries to look and be like the model he sees on the screen. While the average citizen has little contact with the life of the most successful people, his relationship withthe motion picture star is different. It is true that he has no real contact with them either, but he can see them on the screen again and again, can write them and receive their autographed pictures. In contrast to the time when the actor was socially despised but was nevertheless the transmitter of works of great poets to his audience, our motion-picture stars have no great works of ideas to transmit, but their function is to serve as the link an average person has with the world of ‘the great.’ Even if he cannot hope to become successful as they are, he can try to emulate them; they are as his saints and because of their success they embody the norms for living.”

While Fromm gives us a view of a “social psychoanalyst,” Horney has given us a more explicit clinical report4. She uses for the character the name “narcissistic,” and comments:

“I use the term narcissism with some hesitation, because in the classic Freudian literature it includes rather indiscriminately every kind of self-inflation, egocentricity, anxious concern with one’s welfare, and withdrawal from others. I take it here in its original descriptive sense of being ‘in love with one’s idealized image.’

“More precisely the person is his idealized self and seems to adore it. This basic attitude gives him the buoyancy or the resiliency entirely lacking in other groups. It gives him a seeming abundance of self-confidence, which appears enviable to all those chafing under self-doubts; he has no (conscious) doubt; he is the anointed, the man of destiny, the prophet, the great giver, the benefactor of mankind. All of this contains a grain of truth. He often is gifted beyond average, with early and easily-won distinctions, and sometimes was the favored and admired child. This unquestioned belief in his greatness and uniqueness is the key to understanding him. His buoyancy and perennial youthfulness stem from this source. So does his often-fascinating charm. Yet clearly, his gifts notwithstanding, he stands on precarious ground. He may speak incessantly of his exploits or of his wonderful qualities and needs endlessconfirmation of his estimate of himself in the form of admiration and devotion. His feeling of mastery lies in his conviction that there is nothing he cannot do and no one he cannot win. He is often charming indeed, particularly when new people come into his orbit. Regardless of their factual importance for him, he must impress them. He gives the impression to himself and others that he ‘loves’ people. And he can be generous, with a scintillating display of feeling, with flattery, with favors and help—in anticipation of admiration or in return for devotion received. He endows his family and his friends, as well as his work and plans, with glowing attributes. He can be quite tolerant, does not expect others to be perfect: he can even stand jokes about himself, so long these merely highlight an amiable peculiarity of his, but he must never be questioned seriously.”

Though Fromm and Horney have had great influence on our culture in general, the fall into oblivion of the type may be a reflection on their limited influence in today’s professional world. In today’s psychotherapeutic practice ennea-type III is usually diagnosed in Bioenergetic terms as Lowen’s “rigid.” In Johnson’saccount5 of rigid character it is the splitting of the loving response from the sexual response that is emphasized:

“Wherever sexuality is cut off or split from the loving response some of the natural human loving is lost. In this sense the rigid can not truly love.” More generally he observes that the rigid “is more able than any other character to attract, achieve and be self-sufficient. Her illusion is that she can buy love with this accomplishment but, because she can not let true love in, all that she really gets is attention … Love-sex relationships are the most consistently troubled parts of life. She may, for example, find she can be sexually attracted to but not love one man while she can love another but experience no sexual arousal with him. Or, she may find herself sexually attracted to unavailable men but lose interest when these same men become available. Alternatively, she may be very skilled, satisfying and satisfied in the initial seductive phases of love relationships, but unable to sustain any of that as the relationship becomes more intimate.

Typically, the rigid compromise is the most effective, best defended, and culturally most approved … As a general rule, the more purely rigid people in our culture seek psychotherapy only when their spouse threatens to leave, their children begin to act out, or a heart attack or other illness threatens the workability of the compromise.”

The ennea-type III syndrome is the most usual background for what is diagnosed as type A personality: achieving, competitive, ever stressed, and prone to cardiac diseases.

Practitioners of Transactional Analysis are also acquainted with this syndrome, at least in some of its manifestations. In Steiner’s Scripts People Live,6 for instance, we see a picture of a “Creeping Beauty”: “She has standard attributes of so called ‘media beauty’ … she sees herself as deceiving everyone who thinks she is beautiful and thinks they are fools for buying the deception.”

We also find a description of a “Plastic Woman”: “In an effort to obtain strokes, she encases herself in plastic: bright jewelry, platform heels, foxy clothes, intriguing perfumes, and dramatic make-up. She tries to buy beauty and OKness, but never really succeeds. She feels chronically one-down of ‘media beauty’ women whom she idolizes in women’s magazines and the movies… . When superficial beauty can no longer be bought and pasted on, she ends up depressed: she gets no strokes that she truly values, either from herself or from others. She may try to fill the void with alcohol, tranquilizers, or other chemicals. As an older woman, she often fills her life with trivia and her house with knick-knacks.”

I recognize the ennea-type III pattern in Kernberg’s7 description of hysterical personality. I quote from his description of its manifestation in women: “A dominant characteristic in women with hysterical personality is their emotional lability. They relate easily to others and are capable of warm and sustained emotional involvements—with the important exception of an inhibition in their sexual responsiveness. They are usually dramatic and even histrionic, but their display of affects is controlled and has socially adaptive qualities. The way they dramatize their emotional experiences may give the impression that their emotions are superficial, but exploration reveals otherwise: their emotional experiences are authentic. These women may be emotionally labile, but they are not inconsistent or unpredictable in their emotional reactions. They lose emotional control only selectively, vis-a-vis a few closely related persons concerning whom they have intense conflicts, especially of a sexual and competitive nature.”

He adds that: “even though hysterical women are prone to emotional crisis they have the capacity to ‘snap out’ of such crises and evaluate them realistically afterwards” and that “they may cry easily and tend toward sentimentality and romanticism, but their cognitive capacities are intact.” This is in contradiction with Shapiro’s observation8 of “a cognitive style of hysterical patients characterized by their tendency toward global perception, selective inattention, and impressionistic rather than accurate representations”—all of which, I think, fits the histrionic ennea-type II well.

While men with a hysterical personality may be differentiated from those with histrionic personality also in terms of the more restricted field of lability and impulsiveness (“while maintaining the capacity for differentiated behavior under ordinary social circumstances”), and they are also characterized “by a pseudo hypermasculine quality, a histrionic accentuation of culturally accepted masculine patterns, usually a stress on independence and superiority over women, combined with childlike sulkiness when such aspirations cannot be fulfilled.”9

I do not find the ennea-type III characterological pattern among Jung’s descriptions of psychological types, although it is unquestionably an extroverted type with well developed sensing and thinking.10 Examining the description of test profiles I find the pattern in the portrait of an ESTP (an extroverted sensing, with predominance of thinking over feeling, and perception over judgment). Keirsey and Bates11 describe them as men and women of action:

“When someone of this personality is present, things begin to happen. The lights come on, the music plays, the game begins … If only one adjective could be used to describe ESTPs, resourceful would be an apt choice.

“Their attractive, friendly style has a theatrical flourish which makes even the most routine, mundane event seem exciting. ESTPs usually know the location of the best restaurants, and head waiters are likely to call them by name.

“They carry on amusing repartee, and laughter surrounds them as they recount from their endless supply of clever jokes and stories.

“The ESTP’s mate may in time come to feel like an object—the female a chattel, and the male a negotiable commodity. Relationships usually are conditional, and the condition is the consideration of what the ESTP is to gain in the relationship.

“… They are masters at using these observations to ‘sell’ the ‘client’. The eye of the ESTP is ever on the eye of the beholder, and all actions are directed towards this audience.

“ESTPs are ruthless pragmatists and often offer the ends as justification for whatever means they see as necessary …

“ESTPs are outstanding as initiators of enterprises that bring people together to negotiate. They make invaluable itinerant administrators who can pull troubled companies or institutions out of the red very quickly, and with style! They can sell an idea or project in a way no other type can… .”

It seems appropriate that the brilliant and active ennea-type III personality be associated in homeopathy with Phosphorus.12

“Anyone who has been by the ocean at night has seen the flecks of sparklingPhosphorusdancing in the foam or gleaming in the swells. This restless element captures the attention, and thePhosphorusindividual has a similar eye-catching impact. He attracts by his sparkling appealing manner and his bright intelligent face.”

Catherine R. Coulter describes Phosphorus individuals, both men and women, as neat, graceful, and refined, with clear skin sometimes porcelain-like or translucent: “Emotionally, Phosphorus is sympathetic, responsive, and sensitive to another’s wavelength. The whole manner betrays a readiness to establish warm communication with his interlocutor, and he immediately senses how best to establish rapport. Finely intuitive in his dealings with people, he predisposes others toward himself by little verbal kindnesses, warm praise, or touching consideration, and at times by almost undue generosity. When assistance is required, he will drop whatever he is doing and be the first to arrive… .

“Phosphorus is gregarious and needs people around to feel whole, well, and happy… Phosphorus is highly impressionable and susceptible to his emotional environment … Disagreeable or unpleasant feelings can make him physically ill, bringing on trembling stomach and head pains, or palpitations. Even pleasurable emotions affect him similarly…”

Coulter describes at length not only the vivacity and sociability of the type, but also the qualities of vanity and narcissism present in the ennea-type III character:

“The Phosphorus sparkle proceeds not only from eager responsiveness to others and love of life but also from self-love. He considers himself more sensitive and refined, more intuitive, more entertaining, more gifted, more spiritual than others. He can be quite fascinated with himself and view his person as the center around which others revolve… .Phosphorus does not dominate aggressively yet still manages to divert attention to himself. Usually, however, he does it so subtly that others hardly realize what is happening, or so entertainingly that they do not object … Liking of self must be considered a healthy characteristic … But carried to an extreme, it reveals a negative side, a self-limiting narcissism… .

“He has a performer’s temperament. Beneath his genuine sociability lies the need for an audience, whether of one or of thousands, for whom he is prepared to supply entertainment and affection and to give his all. For he needs others’ appreciation and attention to bring out the best in his own nature and to feel alive.”

3. Trait Structure

Attention Need and Vanity

If we regard the substitution of appearance for self as the fixation of ennea-type III, what are we to regard, then, as the ruling passion in this character?

It is my impression that the most characteristic emotional state and at the same time the one that underlies the characteristic interest in display to the point of self-falsification is a need for attention: a need to be seen, that was once frustrated and seeks to be satisfied through the cultivation of appearance. Other than the felt sense of wanting to be seen, heard, appreciated, there is in type III character a corresponding sense of loneliness that arises, not only from the chronic frustration of the need to be for others, but also from the fact that whatever success is met with needs to be credited to a false self and to manipulation. Thus there lingers the question “would I be loved for myself if it were not for my accomplishments, my money, my pretty face, and so on?” The question is perpetuated by the fact that the individual is not only moved by a fear of failure in his rushing around in the pursuit of achievement, but is also plagued by fear of self-exposure and rejection if she were to reveal herself to the world without a mask.

I have included the expression “concern with appearances” in the clustering of type III descriptors along with “vanity,” which not only makes reference to a passion to appear, but also involves a capitulation to cultural values and a substitution of internal direction with extrinsic direction andvaluation. I have also included as part of the vanity cluster “perfectionism in regard to form,” “imitativeness,” and “chameleon” (in virtue of which, for instance, vanity in the counterculture may cultivate a self-image of striking lack of concern for personal appearance).

Not only a passion for the modulation of appearance is involved in the psychology of ennea-type III. A skill to the effect of achieving the aims of vanity typically supports it in the individual’s psyche. Thus, beautiful women are more likely to embrace the strategy of brilliance (and the corresponding existential mistake of confusing their attractiveness with their true self). In addition to characteristics reflecting a generalized desire to please and attract, such as refinement, considerateness, or generosity, some traits stand out because of their prominence which I discuss below: achievement drive, social skill, and concern with personal appearance.

Achieving Orientation

Ennea-type III strives for achievement and success, and this may imply striving for wealth and for status. Since a number of traits may be understood as instrumental to this aim and drive, I will consider them under this general heading.

a) The ability to do things expeditiously and with precision is characteristic of these individuals and makes for both good secretaries and good executives. In the service of efficiency thinking tends to be precise and there is often a leaning towards mathematics. A fast tempo is also characteristic and has probably developed in the service of efficiency as well as out of a desire to stand out through special efficiency. Also in the service of efficiency is an orientation to life that is both rational and practical—an orientation often seen in the personality of those who take up engineering as a profession. Though there is interest in science, the peculiar bias of the character would be best described as scientism—that is to say, a tendency to undervalue thinking that is not logico-deductive and scientific. Along with this, one usually sees a high valuation of technology, and the broader trait of being systematic and skilled in organizing one’s activities or those of others.

b) Also related to the high achievement drive is a measure of ruthlessness in human interactions when it comes to a choice between success and considerateness. Ennea-type III individuals are not only pleasers, but frequently described as cool (i.e., a “cold cookie”) and calculating, and they use others as well as themselves as stepping stones to their goals.

c) Closely related to the pursuit of success are also the traits of control over self as well as over others, and dominance. These are typically observed in parents in their behavior toward their children, whom they may overpower through unsought advice and the insistence on having things done their way (even in the case of choices that would be more fitting for the children to make on their own).

d) Another important trait within this personality syndrome that stands out as a means to achievement and winning is competitiveness—a trait connected in turn to ruthlessness, to the cultivation of efficiency, and to the use of deception, bluffing, self-promotion, slander, and other behaviors discussed below under “image manipulation.”

e) The traits of anxiety and tension are an understandable result of exaggerated striving for achievement and the implicit fear of failure. The rise of blood pressure in response to stress goes along with them and makes of these people the well known “type A personalities.”

Social Sophistication and Skill

Another group of traits that stands out among the descriptors of type III brings together the characteristics of being entertaining, enthusiastic, bubbly, sparkling, conversationally active, pleasing, needing applause, and witty. This generalized trait might be called “social brilliance” or “social performance.” Concern with status might be regarded as an indulging motivation in these. “Tell me who you associate with, and I’ll tell you who you are.”

Cultivation of Sexual Attractiveness

A trait similar in nature to the previously mentioned ones are those that have to do with self-beautification and the conservation of sexual attractiveness—traits that are most specially evoked by the image of the mirror in the traditional iconography of vanity. (Generally speaking, no other women are so dependent on cosmetics as those of type III). Just as cultivated sexual attractiveness goes hand-in-hand with frigidity, there is, more generally speaking, a special kind of vain beauty: a cold porcelain, doll-like beauty—formalistic and yet emotionally hollow.

Deceit and Image Manipulation

In the case of the two generalized traits of sexual attractiveness, social brilliance and achievement, we are in the face of differentappearancesthrough which the individual seeks to satisfy the thirst to be, and which at the same time veil over his existential vacuum. For while the passion to display oneself may be understood as the outgrowth of an early need for attention and validation, it can also be understood as the consequence of a confusion between being and appearance, and the corresponding confusion between extrinsic validation and intrinsic value. Since deceit is what we may call the fixation, that is, the cognitive defect in ennea-type III, I have separately grouped some descriptors that have to do more specifically with it, such as: “becoming the mask,” “believing in what they sell,” “affected,” “false,” and “phony.” Most characteristically, we should include here deceptive emotional experience. Deception goes beyond emotional experience proper, however, for it involves rationalization and other maneuvers.

The words deception or simulation may be used as pointers to a central feature of this personality organization, used in connection with self-deception (believing in the idealized image that is presented to the world) as well as in connection with simulation before an outer audience (as in bluffing or hypocritical kindness). Yet it is the identification of the person with the role and with the mask—the loss of the sense of merelyplaying a role or putting on a mask—which causes what is seen by others to come to be perceived as one’s reality.

Ennea-type III not only cares for appearance but also has developed a skill in presentation; presenting others, presenting things and ideas. The special flair for selling and advertising that characterizes these individuals would seem to be a generalization of an ability that was originally developed in the service of “selling” and promoting themselves. Thus they not only are interested in such things as their clothing and cosmetics and exhibiting good manners, they are expert packagers of goods and information and excel in the advertising industry. The trait of promoting others, explicitly or implicitly, can be akin to a complementary one: the ability to present things or people in a bad light, to manipulate their image in an adverse way—which may be done not only through slander but also through a sophisticated social skill whereby it is possible to seem nice while back-stabbing an opponent or competitor.

Other Directedness

Closely related to this group of traits having to do with concern about appearance and the skill in self-preservation is another having to do with the values according to which the ideal self is shaped. These are characteristically neither intrinsic nor original but external to the individual, who is the most other-directed among all the characters and has developed a skill in conducting an implicit and ongoing “marketing research” in the entourage as a point of reference for his thinking, feeling, and action.

The trait of identification with prevalent values embodies both other-directedness and the chameleon quality of type III in general, i.e., his or her readiness to change in attitude or appearance according to fashions. Related to this other-directed characteristic, in turn, is the progressive but conservative disposition of ennea-type III—a disposition not unqualifiedly conservative, as in type IX, but a combination of conformity with a striving for progress or excellence (that results in an orientation to what is modern and avant-garde) without being radical. In practice what is both modern and shows itself tobe modern without throwing traditional values into question is scientific progress and thus again a root of technocratic orientation that is so characteristic of ennea-type III psychology.


Typical of ennea-type III (in contrast with the more distinctively emotional neighbors in the enneagram) is the characteristic conveyed through traits of rationality, and a systematic orientation to things, also implicit in their being described as “calculating.” The expression of these traits is not only intellectual, for the control over self that it entails can be manifested also as being organized and keen, practical, functional and expedient. It is in the service of efficiency that we can understand the more rational skills which typically give type III an engineering or an entrepreneur mentality and manifest also in an orientation to technology and technocracy.

Active Vigilance

At a higher level of abstraction than both the cognitive and behavioral sharpness or effectiveness, there are still more general traits related to achievement that I have called hypervigilance and activity.

The type III person is not only hypervigilant but incapable of surrender, of self-abandonment; he or she needs to have everything under control and has learned early in life to cope in an attitude of self-reliance, out of the feeling that others are not taking care of him or her properly. Because of this we can not separate the trait of hyperactivity that makes the type III person an “ego-go” from either stress or a deep distrust in life—distrust that things might go well without being in control over them. The same can apply to hypervigilance; it is part of a stressful coping born of an anxiety about things going all right and distrust in surrendering to the “organismic self-regulation” of one’s psycho-mental being. The underlying lack of trust in type III contrasts with its superficial “polyannish” optimism (which regards everything as not only OK but wonderful) andconstitutes one of the factors through which ennea-type III is prone to anxiety.


The trait that an outsider may describe as superficiality is in the individual’s awareness more likely to manifest as a sense of not having access to the depth of her feelings, as an identity problem—in the sense of not knowing who he or she is (beyond roles and tangible characteristics) and not knowing his or her true wants (beyond pleasing others and being effective). Although the person may not consciously thirst after a missing depth, the presence of dissatisfaction is apparent in the very intensity of the rushing for accomplishment or the labors undertaken to be pleasing and acceptable. To the extent that the thirst for being is displaced into an outer search, the individual does not allow the opportunity even to acknowledge it—thus perpetuating the chronic error.

4. Defense Mechanisms

Central to type III is identification with an ideal self-image built as a response to the expectations of others, and thus we may assume that in early life this involved identification with parental wishes, values, and behaviors.

Unlike introjection, which refers to feeling like another, identification is defined as a process through which the person adopts the characteristics of another and is thus transformed, to some extent, after an external model. However true it may be that the adoption of parental traits is a universal characteristic of human development, it is also clear that an imitativeness that orients itself to outer models is most characteristic of type III values. Unlike the situation of introjection, in which the person seems to cling excessively to an early identification, it is most typical of the adult expression of vanity to identify, not with significant individuals of the past so much as with an updated and constructed image of what is regarded as socially desirable. Thus, in the elaboration of a personal self-image the type III individual seems to conduct an implicit marketing research to know the expectation of the generalized other. It is this “computed” image of what is valued and desired that the individual pretends to be and seeks to implement with characteristic effort.

Also the mechanism of rationalization is prominent in type III psychology (as also in type VII). But most characteristic—aside from identification—is the mechanism of negation: that by which something is declared not to be the case (in anticipation of somebody’s realization that it is). This maneuver, implicit in Shakespeare’s “The lady doth protest too much,” and also the target of the French saying “Qui s’excuse, s’accuse” (who justifies himself, gives himself away) is closely related to self-image maintenance and is, of course, a direct expression of deception.

5. Etiological and Further PsychodynamicRemarks13

Constitutionally ennea-type III exists in the context of somatotonia and, correspondingly, a good measure of mesomorphia. As a whole, the ennea-type III population may be the highest in mesomorphia after that of type VIII and that of the counter-phobic character.14 It is not surprising that an athletic constitution supports the active and energetic character of type III. It seems to me likely that physical beauty and general intelligence may also be among the factors leading to the implicit choice of vanity as a way of psychological survival.

Though it is common to hear that type III individuals felt stimulated during the time of their growing up to comply with parental expectations and ideals, it is also very common to find that their desire to attract attention to excellence in one form or another has arisen in reaction to an earlier experience of not having been seen or heard enough; thus it would seem that the wish to be brilliant has been a reaction to the fear of being ignored.

“I was the youngest of five. There was no place for me so I had no other resource than shining to get attention.”

A factor that I have noticed often in women in the situation of not being seen or acknowledged enough is the presence of a type V father.

Also frequent in ennea-type III life histories (especially in the preservation subtype) is a sense of not being able to count on anybody which has stimulated the child’s autonomy. Efficiency in this case does not only stem from a desire to attract parental love through a good performance; it also arises from the need to care for oneself. “I had to seek safety for myself and my sisters. Fighting at home was continuous.” “I had to take care of myself. The conflict level at home was such that my attitude became ‘everything is fine here’.”

It is not uncommon for a type III person to come from a family in which there was illness or some kind of chaos, the situation in which a great problem (such as father’s alcoholism) competed with the attention that parents might have given to the child, and contributed to the child’s incentive to take care of itself.

Often, too, there are memories of situations conveying to the child that it was unsafe to say the truth or reveal his or her feelings and wishes.

“A childhood memory that I have that just sprang into my mind, to confirm and affirm deceit was: We had apple trees and whenever we would eat the green apples, we would get the diarrhea. And my mother had forbidden us to eat the green apples. And she went out to hang up the clothes and found apples with bite marks in them. And so she promised anyone,”If you tell the truth, you will not be punished. Who ate the green apple?” Well I had taken a bite out and so did my sister. So I admitted it. I got the spanking and my sister got a penny out of the sugar bowl. To me, I was so confused and I thought, “Well what’s the point of telling the truth. So you learn then to be deceitful.”

The self-controlled characteristic of type III can be understood not only in view of survival and image manipulation: there is often behind it all a story of stern discipline. Speaking for a group of three women of the same character, one of them said: “We all could identify with the strap. If we didn’t get it someone else got it. And I remember for me that was always a real horror, you know, you’d do anything to not ‘get it’ and so then the good behavior kind of thing and sometimes not knowing what it was for, but the strictness again. That things had to be a certain way. It wasn’t perfectionism, but it was proper not to, I think it had a touch of shaming, but it was a sense of being shamed if you didn’t do it the way it was to be done.”

It is not uncommon for the type III individual to have a type III parent, in which case we may think that the concern with appearances has arisen through identification. “My mother turned me into a doll: ballet lessons, dressing up nicely, not raising my voice, no laughing, no feeling … She died when I was nine and my father continued her task.” At times, seduction was an added incentive in mimesis: “My father was a very dignified man. He was retired, but he had a white shirt and he wore gold rings and a blue serge suit always. He was very, very proper. And this came off on me as a role player. He was a role player.”

“Parents always needed to look good to the neighbors, parents always needed to look good. You know, we needed to look good as three’s, but we had athreeparent, and so thatthreeparent passed on that they always had to look good and so we were their product and so we had to look good.” The most common ennea-type among mothers of type III individuals is type IV and in these cases it is possible to speak of a rebellious disidentification—a desirenotto be a complaining and problematic person, but one that acts independently causing others the least trouble. This may coincide with a situation inwhich the child feels that it cannot afford to have problems since it is put in the role of having to take care of mother.

It may be said that throughout the character development of type III the search for love has led to a motivation to perform well and eventually the wish to please and to be acknowledged, becoming autonomous, obscures the original love wish. Also there is a striking sexualization of the love wish so that being loved is equated with being attractive and successful.

6. Existential Psychodynamics

Just as in the schizoid character the existential issue is most apparent to the subject—who is keenly aware of the experience of inner emptiness—it is in the case of the ennea-type III style that the existential issue of an inner vacuum is most observable to outsiders, who typically see vain persons as superficial, empty, or “plastic.” The tendency of the vain to ignore the impoverishment of their experiential world brings them close to type IX in which, as we will see, ontic obscuration—through its very centrality—is most ignoring of itself. Their similarity in this regard fits the relationship between them on the enneagram according to which vain identification with appearance is the psychodynamic root of pathological self-forgetfulness.

The fact that type III is not to be found in DSM III and that type IX is only imperfectly congruent with one of the syndromes in it suggests that the recognized pathologies constitute a more external or visible layer of psychopathology than is entailed in these two; ennea-type III and ennea-type IX may live very ordinary and perhaps successful lives without clearly recognizable interpersonal defects, harboring mainly a spiritual psychopathology—loss of inferiority and of true spiritual experience.

When aware of “something missing inside” a type III individual is likely to verbalize this perception of emptiness as a not knowing who he or she is—i.e., an identity problem. The wide recognition of the identity issue together with the sense ofits universality reflects, I think, the prevalence of ennea-type III in American culture.

What “not knowing who I am” generally means in a type III individual is, “All I know is the role that I enact—is there something else besides?” The individual has come to realize that his or her life is a series of performances and that identity has rested thus far in identification with professional status and other roles. Together with realizing “this is not me” or “these roles don’t amount to anybody” there is a sense of being out of touch with some hidden or potential self. Along with an intuition of an ignored self or individuality, there is usually, also, thesenseof not knowing one’s true wishes and feelings—a sense that dawns upon them to the extent that they begin to recognize fabricated feelings, and the extent to which choices are not inner directed but supported in outer models.

While in more socially-oriented individuals there is a “butterfly” quality to their status-seeking drivenness, and it is obvious that their self-alienation has resulted from an excessive concern with the image that they sell in face of the public eye, in the more sexually oriented ones an equivalent process takes place in regard to the search for “sexual applause” behind the cultivation of sex-appeal. The passion to please and attract polarizes the attention of the person towards the surface of her being at the expense of focus on the depth of erotic and emotional experience—bringing along in women the frequent complication of frigidity.

That something similar may happen to men is reflected in an insightful account that Jodorowsky has in a short magazine article on a sexual superman who has hundreds of hands and thousands of fingers in each of which there is a sexual organ or a tongue, who can achieve the highest standards of sexual performance, yet whose focus on effectiveness tragically leaves him with no attention left toenjoy.15

Given the prominence of the existential issue in ennea-type III (understandable in view of its place in the enneagram) it is useful to go beyond the interpretation of the passion for applause as a substitute for love, or as the indirect expression ofa love wish. True as that may be and important to acknowledge, I think we need to consider that the chronic struggle of ennea-type III to obtain “narcissistic supplies” is supported by a self-created impoverishment that arises, precisely, from the diversion of psychic energy towards performance and living through the eyes of others.

The way in which the frantic agitation of “ego-go” creates the loss of being—which, in turn, fuels the search for being in the realm of appearances—is, I think, worthy of due consideration; for, if it is true that truth can set us free, true insight in this vicious circle can liberate the individual’s energy and attention to focus on that habitually avoided—and potentially painful—inferiority.

In his or her frantic agitation in pursuit of achievement, status, or applause, and in the corresponding inability to pause to look within, the ennea-type III person seems to be repeating to herself that very American injunction “Don’t just stand there,dosomething.” This is just the sort of person who needs to be told, “Don’t just do something,standthere.”

It is important also for psychotherapists to understand that these “masked” people who usually have difficulty in being alone and in extricating themselves from over-acting achievement can particularly benefit from the task offacingthemselves and from bearing the “loss of face” entailed by not looking into the social mirror.

Because inferiority is so foreign to them, something seemingly nonexistent from the point of view of a world centering on form and quantity, meditation—particularly meditation that emphasizes non-doing-may seem most uninteresting and meaningless to them. Through closer observation of this meaninglessness of “just sitting” with enough intellectual conviction or personal trust to engage in the task, however, it is possible that further focus on boredom or meaninglessness might lead to some perception of the tragedy of an incapacity to be nourished through a living sense of existence.


1A statistical-technical term meaning the most frequent by contrast to an average.

2op. cit.

3Fromm, Erich, Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964).

4Horney, Karen, Neurosis and Human Growth (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1991).

5Johnson, Stephen M., Ph.D., Characterological Transformation: The Hard Work Miracle (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1985).


7Kernberg, Otto, op. cit.

8Shapiro, David, op. cit.

9I disagree with Kernberg’s contention that this is the pattern that used to be called “phallic-narcissistic,” for Reich’s description resembles more closely the more exaggerated masculinity dominance and impulsiveness of ennea-type VIE.

10Unlike ennea-type VIII where sensing is prominent and thinking is usually not.


12Coulter, Catherine R., op. cit., Vol. 1, all excerpts on Phosphorus from pp. 1-17, reprinted by permission of the author.

13 According to Kernberg in Cooper et al.’s Psychiatry “there is as yet no evidence for genetic predisposition to the personality disorders within the hysterical-hystrionic spectrum,” yet the “persistent failure to differentiate the hysterical from the hystrionic personality disorders in empiric studies … weaken the currently available contributions to the genetics of these personality disorders.” Freud’s obeservation that hysteria involves an infantile conflict at the phallic-oedipal stage is mostly applicable to our ennea-type III. Also those of later psychoanalytical writers stressing the predominance of the Oedipus complex and of castration anxiety and penis envy as dynamic features of the hysterical personality.

14The sexual variety of type VI.

15“La vida sexual del hombre elastico.” In Metal, No. 47 (Spain).

7 Posts
Seven years late to the party, but I made it! Thank you for posting such an insightful analysis of Type 3s. The discussion of childhood abandonment really resonated with me. Growing up gay in the Deep South wasn't so much intimidating as it was motivating. Looking back, I can see how my relentless pursuit of success in the political realm directly relates to feeling inadequate and underestimated as a child by parents (who have since come around and been wonderfully supportive) and my more mean-spirited peers. I suspect many 3s have similar stories. Fortunately, my Mama gifted me with a pretty tender heart, which surely contributed to my decision to pursue a career that grants significant social status while focusing on improving the lives of others. Again, thank you for your post. I learned a great deal about myself in just fifteen minutes!
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