The Intimate (Sexual) Seven
They Idealize and Reframe
Walt Whitman, an intimate subtype Seven wrote in that same spirit:
"Beginning my studies the first step pleas'd me so much,
The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion,
The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,
The first step I say awed me and pleas'd me so much,
I have hardly gone and hardly wish'd to go any farther,
But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs."
Sevens love beginnings, they seem like first steps into the rest of their life. The lure of the dreams is intoxicating and if you're not careful, you'll fall under their spell. In the beginning they see all the possibilities while brushing the inevitable little problems aside, usually with a quip or a grand gesture. It is the intimate Seven who invented rose-colored glasses, and then invited you to put them on, too. If you've ever bought snake oil, you possibly bought it from a Seven.
What makes them so dangerous is that they don't ask you to do anything they wouldn't invest in themselves. They are not conscious frauds, they are in an optimistic trance and so they expect you to see things the way they see them.
All Sevens prefer new experiences and an intimate Seven prefers to share these new experiences with someone else - not necessarily sexual at all. Any new, unusual, exotic, intense experience - from hang-gliding to adventures in the apothecary to the study of Arabian love poetry - will energize the intimate Seven. And as they energize, they "share." So they want to share with you. All their charm and energy is focused on the partner so the partner must go along.
The self-referential character of the Seven manifests in their attitude that says even though they make constant attractive efforts to get you to go along with them, they are put off by having to go along with someone else's idea of excitement.
Intimate Sevens really get into magical thinking. The New Age Movement is permeated with Seven energy and their love of magical thinking (creating just by thinking) shows up everywhere.
Sevens have a fear of criticism. Sevens are working hard (remember, our Enneagram style is something we do, not who we are) to see only the possibilities and if someone starts picking and pecking (that's how it feels to a Seven), they are not just making observations, they are challenging the Seven's whole world view. Sevens will often drop the charm and flash anger, usually only briefly, when negatives are brought up, especially in the form of criticism.
This seeing only the good in things is called idealization. Because they focus on their partner, they can often idealize their partner. The technique they use to keep the idealization working is reframing. "All right, she burned the dinner, that's because she's so sensitive to the children's needs that she couldn't pay attention to anything else." The instant reframe can keep the idealization alive for longer than most types and can easily lead them to stay in negative relationships much longer than you'd expect from people who are known as escape artists. They don't always physically escape, they escape through the reframe.
The opposite of fascination is boredom. Bored to tears and bored to death are powerful metaphors for the Seven. The intimate Seven runs the risk of becoming bored with the partner. Idealization is one way of not being bored, but romanticizing works, too. "Here we are huddled in this one room flat. When we're old and rich, just think of the stories of rags to riches we'll tell our children."
Their imaginations are not only powerful, but they are focused on the future because in the future all these loose ends will somehow magically come together and we will all be wonderfully happy. Sevens believe in a premature heaven. What is seductive about the intimate Sevens is that because fantasy is more powerful than fact, they can talk their partners into living a future dream while not facing the wretched current conditions.
Intimate Sevens, when they seduce, (especially but not exclusively sexually) they don't tell lies. They are not phony, they are successively sincere. Today she really loves Brad but tomorrow she will really love Brian. Today she desperately wants to go to the symphony, but tomorrow she much prefers light opera. The appetite is for variety. Now that's fine in many areas. No harm in eating from different ethnic traditions every night of the week. But if you are putting moves on solid Susan today and tomorrow you are equally enamored of Brigid, you may have a big problem.
Remember, this is fear-based. The fascination is rooted in a fear of boredom. The fast pace is rooted in a deeper unacknowledged fear that life is dull, slow and insipid. The penalty in every style is that the more we flee, the sooner we run up against what we are running from. So with an initial fascination, if the Seven doesn't persevere, she finds little satisfaction, because of lack of depth. Without depth, life is boring. Imagine being sentenced to be on a desert island with nothing to read except Reader's Digest! (Like a doctor's waiting room.)
The Self-Preservation Seven
The Facade is Confidence, the Reality is Fear
Self-preservation Sevens tend to surround themselves with people who share their interest, values and pursuits. The presence of like-minded people takes the edge off their unacknowledged fear and often gives them permission to indulge appetites (food, drink, sex) that others might not enjoy.
What will be particularly Seven-like about these positive social experiences will be the emphasis on planning them so they doesn't miss out any anything and the slight but discernible reframing of any negative elements into something lighter and brighter. They may not go as far as Hugh Hefner who called his heart attack a stroke of luck, but lemonade served by a Seven is considerably sweeter than one would expect from the lemon you experienced.
Because of the emphasis on self preservation, the risks that Sevens are famous for will be more deliberate and calculated. They make look spontaneous and devil-may-care, but the weighing of risk and value is lurking in the background, like a banker going bungee jumping with a net. The risk must be taken because of the allure of the possibilities but there's no reason to be a darn fool about this.
Along with this ambivalence between pleasure and the price to be paid is a certain reluctance to really put oneself to the test. The facade is confidence, the reality is fear. So many actions look braver than they are. An ace in the hole while gambling boisterously is the ideal.
Self-preservation Sevens tend to spend more time at home than other Sevens, especially if they have a strong connection to Five. They will be a bit more serious. Entertainment is like a spice, a little prevents boredom, but too much ruins the taste of things. So when the Seven is entertaining, a little goes a long way around home.
Some Self-preservation Sevens, while being light-hearted, can also be very tight with money - a cheap streak. Good times that don't cost much are highly desirable. These freebies can nicely be reframed as appreciation of nature or music or poetry -- anything as long as the package doesn't cost much money.
The constraints of community
Sevens have a base line of escape for their mode of handling difficulties. This escape may be physical, emotional or chemical. Sometimes they just leave the situation, other times they turn to drugs. Another option is to flee emotionally. They may change jobs or spouse or venue.
But with the social Seven, this general tendency is modulated by a desire to achieve a rank in a community. The community may be family, job situation, club or some kind of community or team. This creates a certain tension within the social Seven and simultaneously provides a discipline. The social Seven needs to do some difficult or unpleasant things that he would routinely not do in order to keep rank or esteem in the community.
The traditional word to describe social Sevens is sacrifice. This refers to their willingness to put aside personal preferences in order to serve the larger community. Many times a social Seven will look like and be mistaken for a Two. The difference is that a Two suffers a sense of loss of self in the act of service, while a Seven does not. The Seven may experience instead a sense of confinement. The community can be, in extreme cases, a kind of prison the Seven feels he must liberate himself from.
If the Seven cannot deal with the constraints of community, she will often become highly irresponsible. Social Sevens may take on community/family obligations, then find them crushing and escape from them in one way or another.
Their desire to be important in the community may engender a sense of idealism. In the service of the community, the social Seven may set aside the chronic desire for change and variety and serve the community with a light-hearted energy. But if the Seven is more entranced, he may become bored with the mantle of service and simply skate out from under them.
In the business world, Sevens are often entrepreneurs who start exciting companies based on their creative vision. One reason so many startup companies fail is that a social Seven will start them, but then cannot establish or maintain the kinds of tedious (to them) structures needed to make the company stable over times. A lovely counter example is Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com. He had a vision and then was able to find people who could build a structure to implement his vision.
Two Extra Types:
Sunny Sevens - Cheerful and Optimistic
Sevens are often characterized as Peter Pan, eternal youth. They are cheerful, optimistic, high energy, multi-interest people.
It is a short step from these accurate descriptions to think that Sevens are always happy. They often appear to be, but if you look for happiness as the chief characteristic, you will miss much of the dynamics.
Sevens purchase happiness at the price of the whole truth. Like all the numbers, Sevens skew their world-view. They don't see the whole truth. The Seven world is a scary one, but they don't experience much fear. What they do experience is a compulsion to try to be happy. When you have a compulsion, it's because there is a need, a lack, and Sevens work very hard at being happy, so it is clear they don't have it.
But they say they do. They tend to live in the future (when they are sure their current plans will bring them happiness). "Right now things are a little tense, but it will get better." Of course, none of these plans are certain, so they have backup plans.
Sevens are head types, so they use their head to create happiness. They rationalize as an important defense. If an event occurs in their life, others might call it bad, but they sort of readjust their way of looking at it until they can see the bright side. Once they see the bright side (and every cloud has a silver lining), then their spirits brighten accordingly.
When Sevens become clinically ill, their favored pathology is manic-depressive. And many Sevens could be observed to be perpetually in the manic state. You can study manic-depressive in the move, Mr. Jones, starring Richard Gere as the manic-depressive Mr. Jones. And he is Sevenish, but other numbers can also be manic-depressive (Threes, Twos and occasional Eights).
To see a Seven pathology captured, watch the German film called The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl. She was the German filmmaker who glorified the Third Reich in several wonderful films, one called The Triumph of the Will that is still taught in graduate film courses and the other on the 1946 Olympics that anticipated much of contemporary video coverage.
First you see the Seven's energy. She climbed mountains, she studied endlessly, she traveled, she danced and she made friends in high places. The mountain climbing and the dancing are telltale signs of the Seven's search for expansive experiences. They feel inwardly trapped - this is their polarization. They feel confined, trapped, even suffocated at times, so they love heights, movement and high energy activities. Leni displays her love for all three.
Many Sevens are highly creative and Leni is a superb example. She is especially innovative. Sevens are susceptible to the lure of novelty. When they are talented, it is creative. When they are not, it is monotonous change, which for a Seven is not an oxymoron. All change and no stability is monotonous. It feels like traveling and spending all your time in airports. They're in different cities, but they're all alike.
Leni is still scuba diving at 90 and developing new film techniques. Many Sevens live long lives. Their enthusiasm, their low-stress coping style of looking at the high side of things and their optimistic outlook tend to be easy on the body, so they live long. When you see old folks skydiving or climbing mountains, you'll usually find a high percentage of Sevens.
Let's look at Leni's dark side. She was the most successful propagandist Hitler had. But when she tells it, she had no political interests, she was only interested in the art, editing Hitler was like editing any speaker and her chief concerns were merely technical. The interviewer lets her keep rationalizing and then juxtaposes what happened. They don't fit. Leni's version is a blindness that ignores all the consequences of her actions, it presupposes a naivete utterly impossible in such an intelligent woman, and it is clearly a reinterpretation. Her interpretation goes against everyone else's and she knows they see it differently, but she just can't see it their way. She defends her innocence against overwhelming film evidence and you can see that on one level she believes it. You can also see that she is blind and her blindness enables her to misrepresent what the reality is. She epitomizes Shakespeare's observation that "There are none so blind as those who will not see."
The film is long - a double video - and the last lines are her defending herself out of a position of innocence. She has had to contradict dozens of co-workers, historians, and the filmic evidence. But she wriggles around until she can get the right angle from which to look at it (her camera work is a lovely metaphor for her ability to see things as she wants to see them. Her ability to make Olympic divers appear to be birds, to make the athletes into Gods and Hitler into an attractive, magnetic demigod is precisely her pathology. When she tells her life story, she does the same thing: she is an artist, her only interests are esthetic and everybody else is wrong. Her filmic genius is part of the secondary gain of the pathology.
She vividly acts out both in life and on film what Sevens do: they reframe reality until they see things the way they want to. Then life is good. So when outsiders see Sevens, they are impressed with how much they enjoy life. But like Leni, they enjoy life at the expense of reality.
I referred to their polarization. Polarization is accomplished by dissociation, cutting oneself off from and denying those parts of our lives and experiences that we don't wish to include. Sevens dissociate from negative experiences. This works well in the short run because they experience mostly good things. But in reality, pain is on our side. Leprosy is an inability to experience pain, especially in the extremities. It can be dangerous, even fatal.
On some level, Sevens know that. They are unable to learn much or profit much from painful experiences, so they don't mature. It is no accident that Newt Gingrich, a Seven with an Eight wing, was pictured in diapers in a New York newspapers. Sevens often appear immature. Pain matures us, protects us and educates us about reality. Sevens probably more than any other number prompts people to say to them as you'll feel like saying to Leni Riefenstahl, "You just don't get it, do you?!" It's scary not to get it, so Sevens live in a frightening world from which they choose not to learn how to face the painful, scary parts. It's more fun to stay a child.
The Narcissistic Seven
Certain Enneagram authors argue whether Sevens are narcissistic or not. Claudio Naranjo, in his book Character and Neurosis, says that while many attribute a type of narcissism to style Three, he insists that the description in the DSMIII (The big book, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, therapists use to give standardized diagnoses to collect from insurance companies) fits the style Seven most closely.
The Streisand movie, The Mirror Has Two Faces, is well named. The mirror in the title is a lovely metaphor for narcissism. Narcissus, the Greek youth, fell in love with his own image. This movie displays the narcissism of the style Seven by Barbara Streisand. Streisand is a Seven in real life and plays out her own drama of the narcissistic Seven. The movie is autobiographical and is produced by, directed by and stars Streisand. It is a setup for narcissistic self-indulgence.
Streisand portrays a Seven who has two faces - the ugly duckling of her self image, which is reinforced if not induced by her mother, Lauren Bacall, and the gorgeous creature who transforms herself by diet, exercise and careful cosmetics. The Seven's narcissism of Streisand shows up in the preoccupation with how she looks to herself and to others. (The camera dwells uncomfortably long on her a number of times, and we get longer, tighter camera close-ups than are esthetically pleasing). The tension between her low self-esteem and the image of high self-esteem the movie tries to create doesn't really work, but it is the tension within the narcissistic style.
The other Seven indications are the flip humor and the preoccupation with the pronounced appetite for food and sex. Jeff Bridges plays a fine professorial Five and the Enneagram dynamic between Seven and Five is instructive. The Five wants a cerebral relationship and the Seven wants an exciting physical one. The Seven is attracted to the cerebral Five (her security point), but she can't sustain a purely platonic relationship.
Narcissistic Sevens have an inflated set of expectations of the world, an optimism that really isn't warranted. They tend to have grandiose expectations that they will be appreciated without having to do much to gain that appreciation. For example, Sevens tend to make "entrances" rather than just walk into a room.
Source: Enneagram Central - Enneagram Style Seven For extra readings and development questions.