Saturday Night Jukebox: Enneagram Nines - John Prine and Disney Princesses

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The Enneagram's personality type Nine is the Peacemaker, the Mediator, the Dreamer. 


A Nine's goal is to maintain peace, at all costs. They hate conflict, and will avoid a direct confrontation, or even a disagreement. If they're in a situation where their peace is being threatened, they might disappear. Physically they'll be there, still smiling, still agreeable, but inside they've tunnelled themselves into their inner sanctum, where no one can disturb them.


John Prine offers a vivid portrait of this in his song Other Side of Town, from his 2005 album Fair and Square



Why do you always seem to criticize me

Seems like everything I do just turns out wrong

Why don't you come on out and despise me

So I could pack my bag and baby I'd be gone

 John Prine

Remember when you used to call me honey

I'd turn around and call you honey too

You might think it's a joke, but it ain't funny

To hurt someone who's so in love with you


A clown puts his makeup on upside down

So he wears a smile even when he wears a frown

You might think I'm here when you put me down

But actually I'm on the other side of town.


My body's in this room with you just catching hell

While my soul is drinking beer down the road a spell

You might think I'm listening to your grocery list

But I'm leaning on the jukebox and I'm about half... way there


I'm sittin' on a chair just behind my ear

Playing dominoes and drinking some ice cold beer

When you get done talking I'll come back downstairs

And assume the body of the person you presume who cares


I'm across the river on the other side of town

In my mind I'm on the other side of town.


The first couple of verses reveal the character's sensitivity to his wife's vitriol. Nines feel pain, no matter how pleasant and unflappable they seem. But instead of packing up his bag and leaving (another avoidant reaction - he has no impulse to fight back directly) this particular Nine transports himself to a happier place in his imagination, full of unthreatening diversions: beer and dominoes (such diversions are a hallmark of nines - games, gadgets, hobbies, TV, fantasy novels, philosophical contemplation, napping, marijuana, music, food, busywork, the internet).


We see a similar reaction to life's difficulties in the heroines of classic Disney movies: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. 


Nines display a characteristic modesty. Their social role, as described by Riso and Hudson, is "nobody special." Snow White has no idea she's the fairest in the land. Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) was blessed by her fairy godmothers at birth with the gift of beauty, but doesn't seem to see this in herself, growing up in a cottage in the woods and spending her days happily doing housework in a patched up skirt. 


Snow white, cleaning, with her animal friendsNone of these characters complain about the cruel treatment they receive. Snow White lived as a princess and was taken to the woods to be killed by her step-mother (the Queen)'s huntsman. She's suddenly released, and finds a home with the seven dwarfs, and seems perfectly content there, cleaning up after them, walking in nature, and dreaming of the day her prince will come. Aurora also spends a good deal of time in nature, surrounded by friendly, loving playful animals. Cinderella plays with the animals in her attic bedroom, naming the mice and sewing clothes for them. 


Nines are noted for their love of nature, and the idealized lens through which they see it. To a Five, nature is full of big animals eating smaller animals, scavengers eating carcasses, and maggots and bacteria eating whatever's left - including the big animals, and each other. But Nines see a beautiful and harmonious whole, warmed by the sun, refreshed by the rain, peaceful, benevolent, rejuvenating and eternal. (And they're both right, of course.)


Cinderella escapes from the actively cruel treatment she receives from her step-mother and step-sisters by dreaming. She (gently) admonishes the village tower clock, saying "Oh that clock! Old killjoy. I hear you. 'Come on, get up,' you say, 'Time to start another day.' Even he orders me around. Well, there's one thing. They can't order me to stop dreaming."



A dream is a wish your heart makes when you're fast asleep

In dreams you will lose your heartaches

Whatever you wish for, you keep

Have faith in your dreams, and someday,

your rainbow will come smiling through

No matter how your heart is grieving,

If you keep believing

The dream that you wish will come true. 


A Nine's journey involves owning up to her own buried anger. As Helen Palmer describes it in The Enneagram in Love and Work, a Nine's overt message is "I'm not important" but her covert message - hidden even from herself - is "I'm angry about being overlooked." But it isn't just others that overlook her - the most significant person who discounts the Nine's importance is herself.


Nines' central issue is one that's germane to all types: self-forgetting, the belief that I'm not important enough, not only to actively assert myself in the face of conflict, and not only to cultivate my talents and pursue my ambitions in the world. The biggest omission in self-worth is the negation of oneself as being worthy to commit to the inner work that will, with long, steady persistence, lead to the untangling of the invisible strings that subtly guide our actions and blind us to infinite spiritual richness, available to all of us, right now. 

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