Passions and Virtues in the Enneagram

The Enneagram talks about the idea of ’Passions’ and ’Virtues’. Passions (also called Vice) represent the nine distinct ways in which we’ve lost sight of our essential nature. They are the unconscious strategy we’ve adopted early on, and continue to reinforce ever since, to get our basic needs met. Their complete opposite is the ‘Virtue’ which represents who we can become with increased emotional awareness.

Our specific Passion (ongoing emotional state of functioning) and Fixation (ongoing mental state of functioning) are continuously played and replayed in our mental and emotional centers which then keep fueling our typical emotional response patterns. These create a self-reinforcing loop which becomes a core element of our specific type’s ego structure.

The idea of Passion is best understood if we look at it as a good teacher who sheds light on how our feeling, thinking and doing have become distorted.

Moving from Passion/Vice to Virtue requires a lifelong inner work. Below is a list of Passions (Vice) and Virtues by Enneagram types:

  • Type ONE - ANGER

    Anger is usually expressed in Ones as resentment and self-righteousness. This repressed anger is triggered either by a frustration at the failure of being perfect under all circumstances, and/or the fact that others fail to meet Ones’ standards. Ones appear outwardly angry only when they feel it is justified and appropriate to express their anger. When they become aware of their Passion of Anger, awareness brings them the Virtue of Serenity.


    Pride is best described as vainglory which is pride in one’s own virtue and helpfulness. However, this is the false pride of self-inflation rather than the pleasant satisfaction you feel after a ’job well done’. Always on the look-out for opportunities to be at service to others, Twos yearn for being appreciated and recognized for their services – which makes them feel competent, needed and loved. Yet, Twos have a feeling that others fail to reciprocate these efforts which then leads to their own needs being neglected. When Twos become aware of their Passion of Pride, awareness brings them the Virtue of Humility.


    Threes deceive themselves by associating themselves with a high-achieving image and playing this role as perfectly as possible. By acting so they work on developing their ego instead of their true nature. Rather than looking at themselves through their own eyes they attach more importance to the opinions of others. Success-oriented Threes believe that without their list of accomplishments they might not be worthy of the approval and love they chase. When Threes become aware of the Passion of Self-Deceit, awareness brings them the Virtue of Veracity/Truth.

  • Type FOUR - ENVY

    Fours tend to have a strong underlying feeling that something fundamental is missing in life. They have an intense desire to be authentic, unique or special. Often comparing themselves to others, they draw the conclusion that others possess qualities which Fours lack. This makes them yearning and envy, contributing to a sense of lack and shame. When Fours become aware of the Passion of Vanity, awareness brings them the Virtue of Equanimity.


    Avarice does not refer to material goods but rather a compulsion to hoard one’s time and energy in fear of being depleted.  Operating with a scarcity mindset Fives fear they lack inner resources and they’d better avoid taking on too many commitments. They worry that if they share too much of themselves, they will not have enough left. As a result, Fives hold on to their resources and minimize their needs. When Fives become aware of the Passion of Vanity, awareness brings them the Virtue of Non-Attachment/Generosity.


    Fear shows up in Sixes as obsessive worrying, self-doubt, uncertainty or guilt. They are great at preparing worst-case scenarios, and play the devil’s advocate in an effort to get prepared for any potential future issues. They are prone to anxiety particularly in social situations when they are concerned about others’ judgements. In response to anxiety/fear Sixes react either by fighting back (counter-phobic), withdrawal or complying with a set of rules (phobic). When Sixes become aware of the Passion of Vanity, awareness brings them the Virtue of Courage/Real Strength.


    Gluttony for Sevens shows up as an insatiable hunger for all kinds of stimulation, from adventures to culinary and other sorts of delights. With an endless capacity for anything new and exciting, Sevens never feel satisfied. Afraid to miss out on what could be another pleasurable experience, Sevens are always looking for what is next, thus can overextend themselves. Also, they are prone to moving away from unpleasant things in life. When Sevens become aware of the Passion of Vanity, awareness brings them the Virtue of Sobriety.


    Lust for Eight shows up as a driving passion for intensity, over-stimulation and control. It drives them towards intense experiences and stimulants, and also to assert themselves willfully. Being defiant, disobedient and confrontational people, they want to be in charge, and project an image of power. So, lust for them is not just for ’flesh’ but also for using, possessing and controlling things and people for their own pleasure. Eights see the world as black and white, and have no tolerance for weakness or indecision. When Eights become aware of the Passion of Vanity, awareness brings them the Virtue of Innocence/Vulnerability.

  • Type NINE - SLOTH

    Sloth for Nines shows up as a kind of ’psychological inertia or laziness’ – a tendency to fall asleep to their own agenda. Nines focus their attention outward rather than inward. Unwilling to fully engage with life itself, they have a tendency, above all, to neglect their own feelings, experiences, opinions and beliefs, and instead choose to go with the flow. When Nines become aware of the Passion of Vanity, awareness brings them the Virtue of the Right Action/Engagement.

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