I’ve been studying Spiral Dynamics for a few years now and decided to put together an overview. This is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a start. More conversations to come hopefully! Enjoy.
What a sweet film.
If you saw it, then you know it was just an adorable story about a teenage boy coming to terms with his sexuality and desperately trying to protect a life he loves and doesn’t want to change should he decide to come out.
As I watched, some elements of this story rang true and looked all too familiar (more on that later). But a big part of me left saying… wow… I wish every young LGBTQ person could come out under those circumstances.
- A school whose administration is wildly, unapologetically supportive and inclusive.
- A sassy theater teacher who publicly defends you to the school bullies.
- Bullies who do really no more than just mock you and one of the other gay kids (zero violence, zero name calling, zero intimidation, and no actual display of homophobia).
- Friends who aren’t surprised, unconditionally loyal, unafraid to hold you accountable for your behavior, and mature enough to overlook your mistakes (eventually) and forgive and forget.
- A dad whose in touch with his emotions, apologizes for creating an “unsafe” environment through flippant gay jokes (that… weren’t really *that* offensive… insensitive for sure… but not actually bigoted).
- A mom who reaches out but respects boundaries, who is wise, secure, empowered, and patient.
- A sister who is your biggest ally.
- And strong chemistry with another mature, well-adjusted, age-appropriate gay guy at your school.
What an amazing world. And wouldn’t it be amazing if that was the world every kid lived in?
That wasn’t my experience and unfortunately it’s not the experience of (if I may generalize) most LGBTQ people. That doesn’t mean Love, Simon is misleading. It doesn’t even mean that the story isn’t worth telling.
The truth is:
- All of us have a deep fear of what we’ll lose when we come out.
- Many guys have that amazing female friend who walks us through our growth years, and many of them mistake our deep emotional connection for attraction, and yeah, there’s heartbreak more times than not.
- All of us tried coming out to someone we weren’t really *that* close to first… a relationship that we decide is close enough that the reaction will give us a fair baseline but one we could move on without. Most of us (unless we’re outed) don’t tell those we’re closest to first… because those relationships are the ones we can’t bear to lose.
- We are desperate for feedback. Simon asks Abby: “Are you surprised?” And she says… “do you want me to be surprised?” The truth is: that’s exactly what we hope… but we don’t believe it’s possible.
But what I think I loved most about Love, Simon was the fact that not once did they talk about sex in the entire story. The entirety of the story centered around Simon’s desire for love, connection, and family. The climax (no pun intended) of the story is an innocent adolescent kiss. An entire relationship forms over e-mail and when he accidentally (spoiler alert) signs an e-mail “Love, Simon” all that’s happened is an exchange of vulnerability and support. No pictures, no talk of sex, nothing resembling lust… and that is one misconception I love that this movie corrects.
Go see Love, Simon. It’s worth it. Because we can make that world a reality if we want to. And it’d be an amazing world for our kids to grow up in.
So now that you’ve seen a lot of the possibilities, the question then becomes: so what? How does this help me?
I’ve dabbled in some creative writing over the past few years, it’s not my forte (writing) but what I really enjoy is developing plots and understanding characters. I’ve “helped” a good friend of mine with a story of his and driven him crazy with questions like “why is [this character] doing this?” and “does it make sense that [she] would react that way?” Characters are beautiful when they’re consistent and they’re amazing when they break the rules. When they’re not awesome is when they act out of character. I think this is why I like the Enneagram. Because it allows for so much creativity without boxing you in. If you feel the Enneagram is pigeon-holing your character you might be focusing too much on the timeline and not enough on your character.
My biggest creative writing project to date was a modern-day young adult fantasy thriller (or at least I’d intended it to be haha). It had cool plot lines, fun twists, interesting back stories, and characters I spent a lot of time trying to describe in detail.
Since none of you are likely going to read it I don’t mind spoiling a little of it for you. The story was about three brothers who uncover this crime ring centered around this big, yet hidden, supernatural set of abilities (I can hear many of you who know me smiling in unsurprised amusement…)
When I started the story my favorite character was the ambitious, strategic, competitive, driven brother. He is controlling and dominant and embodies probably everything you’d expect from a 3w4. He is textbook: layers his personality with masks, overachieves at everything, makes risky moves to win, and has everything to prove both to himself and to the world around him. The villain is much the same way except probably more of an 8w7 (fear of being controlled or manipulated, amassing power and followers, breaking the rules to advance himself forward, etc.).
The more I wrote, however, the more I realized that this one brother just wasn’t coming up a lot. He’s predictable and a key player in the plot but he isn’t… electric… isn’t relatable or sympathetic enough. What I began to notice was that I was spending far more time following the storyline of another brother. He is probably an 9w8 (peacemaker, always up for an adventure with his two other driven brothers but mostly plays the role of mediator and just enjoys life). This character is likable and reacts to the world around him like many of us would. He’s cool and drives a motorcycle and isn’t tightly wound. He’s up for risk and adventure and even willing to break the rules a little bit.
This character dominates a good portion of the middle of the story and as I plowed through this portion I realized: this is the character I want to watch, this is the guy I want to see win.
9’s disintegrate to 6’s so I began to throw in scenes where he gets disconnected from people, where he is genuinely afraid. 9’s highly value “Engagement” and connection and taking this element away from the 9 forces the character to figure out what they’ll do in the face of tension and conflict.
What we wanted to see was the 9, all alone, deciding to fight for what’s right, what will restore peace (probably by taking down the villain) and to see if he’ll eventually reconnect with those whom he loves and considers his tribe. If he’s truly helpful, he can begin to show some personal ambition (which he does) and stands up to stronger characters and recruiting them to his cause instead of just going along with theirs.
I even gave him a love interest, a 1w2 (which is a common pairing with a 9) who has a strong sense of justice, fights for the underdog, and is unfazed with the idea of sacrifice and martyrdom. Together they balance each other out fighting for their own goals (which become intertwined) and developing a strong appreciation for their desire to fight for people and righteousness.
As a 3 myself, I had intended to write a story where someone like me is the hero (after all, what better inspiration than a character I understand?) But this story just didn’t work with a 3 at the helm (nor his other brother, a broken “2”). I could have fought it, but when I let the character show me who they were, they were far richer than if I’d forced them to be someone they weren’t.
What I learned through this exercise is: dream up your scenario, then figure out who your character is by how they react to that situation. Protagonists need to go on some kind of journey to be compelling (they can go unhealthy as the story progresses, that’s a perfectly legitimate story arc) so let them go on that journey. Once you understand what that journey is, you can craft obstacles, villains, even personal fears to help them get vulnerable and move toward their intended end.
Sin-Virtue Journey: Sloth to Engagement
Belief: Peace is the greatest good and should be pursued and protected at all costs.
Deepest Fear: Losing connection from their tribe, friends, community, or family.
Deepest Desire: Peace, conflict-free life.
How they see/justify their sin: Given enough time, all conflict eventually goes away. I never have to experience tension if I can just wait it out.
9’s site at the top of the circle as the part of us that longs for peace. 9’s are the mediators, the empathetic listeners who have the uncanny ability to understand everyone’s unique point of view. 9’s are mostly go-with-the-flow people who love life and love being connected to others.
9’s signature sin is “Sloth” which doesn’t necessarily mean “laziness” although that’s definitely a possibility. Sloth is more a contrast to their signature virtue: Engagement. It’s a withdrawal from relationship, from life, from being present. 9’s at their worst tend to escape and avoid the difficulties of life (especially conflict and tension) and have impressively long fuses.
When healthy, 9’s press in toward others through connection, support, and engagement. They celebrate relationships and belonging and don’t shy away from the normal disagreements, rubs, and/or conflicts that are part of everyday life.
9 wing 8 | Joey Tribbiani, Friends
Our beloved “glue” character, Joey Tribbiani, from Friends is our example of a 9w8. This wing is more engaged and visible than 9w1’s. Joey is the glue that holds the group together. He instigates plans and capers, stands up for himself, and is unsettled when there’s tension between the “Friends.” When the series ends, the other 5 friends have partnered up, even had kids, and it’s Joey who is left devastated and alone to move on (and eventually start his own spin-off which fared pretty poorly…).
Joey doesn’t often go to a super dark place, but he does have his moments of withdrawal and depression. What we do see is his integration toward “Authenticity” (his 3) paired with his virtue of Engagement. His friends encourage and nurture his dreams (integrated, healthy 9’s exhibit ambition) and every once in a while, the spotlight is on him and not where he tends to always push it: onto others.
9 wing 1 | Kristoff, Frozen
The ice-salesman in the hit Disney movie Frozen is our perfect “leave me alone and in peace” example of the 9w1. Different from more engaged, lively, and connected 9w8’s, these types want peace because, well, it’s the way things should be. Their 1 wing drives them to move when justice, righteousness, and moral goodness is at stake. Kristoff would just as soon hang with his buddy Sven (the reindeer) (remember: “reindeer are better than people”). He likes being an ice salesman and really sees no greater purpose for his life than that.
He’s good-natured and loves going along with others’ plans but when the moment of truth arrives, he displays heroic bravery choosing to “engage” rather than retreat.
9’s are “stasis” personalities. They often are easy going, reliable, and low-maintenance. Consider that 9’s are looking for peace and harmony in their lives. When they grow into their integration line they embrace the “Authenticity” of the 3 and who they are really are. 9’s are often supporting and bringing peace to those around them. When 9’s are healthy what you’ll see is the blossoming of ambition. We see the 9 start to have dreams and hopes for their lives and start to pursue it on their own.
9’s who have swung to the unhealthy end of the spectrum move toward their signature sin of “Sloth” and move into the disintegrated sin of the 6’s “Fear.” What’s unsettling to the 9 is tension, stress, hostility, aggression, and intensity. When their world can’t promise to stabilize itself or a relationship won’t let up on its threatening demeanor they can get withdrawn and anxious.
9’s are most likely going to be support characters due to their stability and chill vibe. Your circumstances if you do choose to make a 9 your primary character should center around emotional safety and danger. These elements won’t be difficult to fabricate because literally every other type can provide this in some way shape or form.
9 villains are exceptionally hard to find. With all my research I really couldn’t think of a good example of a primary, dominant 9 villain. The situation that would have to be created is a scenario where the villain’s inaction is the crux of the conflict. Or it’d have to be a situation where a powerful leader dismisses threats and actually creates obstacles to the hero’s success.
One minor villain I did find as an example of this is the Steward Denethor of Gondor, from Lord of the Rings. If you don’t remember who this is, don’t worry, his role wasn’t that prominent. What you might remember, though, is that he was the royal figure whose son Faramir was wounded in battle and Denethor presumed dead (he wasn’t).
In his grief and in his dysfunctional desire to avoid accepting the hard road toward healing and recovery, it’s easier for Denethor to declare his son dead and order him cremated. Pippen the Hobbit freaks out and orchestrates his rescue while Denethor does what a truly unhealthy 9 would do in such a moment of tension: he goes upstairs and messily eats a salad pretending that it never happened.
You might have to work to make your primary protagonist or antagonist (or even anti-hero… which I can’t think of an example of now for you… but I’m open to recommendations) a full 9. But take the challenge and see what you can do.
One differentiation that may be helpful is the difference between a 9 and 2. They look really similar given their good-natured personas and desire to be connected and engaged with others. What you need to consider is that the 2 is a worker. They want to be seen, acknowledged, thanked and valued. 9’s don’t really need a lot. They want to be included but as long as there’s fun and peace they should be pretty good to go.
You might assume that the intense personalities would feel the most dangerous to the 9 (intense 8’s, skeptical 6’s, steamrolling 3’s, self-righteous 1’s, etc.) but in real life, the 9 tends to be attracted to these types. They actually make great couple pairs for these high intensity types. What’s not likely to work are combinations that are too similar to them such as other 9’s or potentially low grade 2’s.
9’s can be wonderfully creative characters or great support for other intense characters. You can play around with them especially as way to round out an ensemble if necessary.
Marge, The Simpsons
Hal, Malcolm in the Middle (TV)
Baloo, The Jungle Book
Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh
Josh Chan, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Sin-Virtue Journey: Lust to Mercy
Belief: There’s something wrong with the world and everyone needs to start moving the same direction to fix it.
Deepest Fear: Being harmed, controlled, or manipulated.
Deepest Desire: Self-protection, freedom.
How they see/justify their sin: If I can see how things can be better in the world, it’s my obligation to do something about it.
The 8 is the part of our personality that strives for freedom. Revolutionaries throughout history have been 8’s. These are the individuals who have challenged the status quo and rallied the people toward fighting the powers that be. 8’s have the ability to see the world, instinctively see all its shortcomings, and help point everyone in the same direction to fix it. Now, it doesn’t have to be a moral issue (social justice, humanitarian, greater good even). It can be any topic.
When we say the signature sin of the 8 is “lust” we aren’t talking about sexual longing, we’re talking about “Power.” An 8 that is unhealthy is grasping for power either because they feel stress that the power has been taken away from them, withheld from them, or is being denied them. While 8’s often don’t have qualms about confrontation, conflict, or righting a wrong, if they can’t resolve the tension of the issue at hand they can, in their unhealthy state, start to rally other people against their antagonist or begin to right other wrongs in their life with renewed vigor.
But 8’s can move toward health and start to display the virtue of “Mercy.” Mercy toward themselves, toward their authority figures, and toward those they see underperforming around them. The decision point they reach is: what do I do with my opinions/beliefs about people, their actions, and the world around them? Can I give people a break? Can I celebrate people’s journeys and allow them to make their own decisions even if I disagree?
8 wing 7 | Tony Stark, Iron Man
The eccentric genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist that is Tony Stark is an example of an 8w7. Tony has strong belief in how he sees the world and how pretty much everyone around him is inferior and incompetent. He doesn’t accept objects that are handed to him, mocks governmental hearings that are attempting to place boundaries on his work, and has the classic 8 response when Captain America poses him with an ethical dilemma: “Are you the guy to take the fall, lie on the wire so the other guy can crawl over you?” Tony Stark’s snarky response is: “why not just cut the wire?” 8’s hate feeling trapped.
This specific type (8w7) is called “The Entertainer.” Tony’s 7 wing is over-the-top in his parties, his greed (Pepper Potts says “I think [the painting] is incredibly overpriced.” Tony says “I have to have it, buy it.”), and his womanizing. We see Tony start to go toward his healthy 2 integration and show some virtuous “Humility.” He starts to see people compassionately (consider the young boy in Iron Man 3 or Peter Parker in the most recent Spiderman: Homecoming) and offers assistance instead of judgment.
8 wing 9 | George Banks, Mary Poppins
One of the misconceptions about Mary Poppins is that Mary is (wow, it’s weird not to say her name as a whole phrase “Mary Poppins”) the protagonist of the story. In fact, the kids aren’t really even the leads in this story, they more or less simply participate in the various antics of the story (maybe learning a bit about compassion and generosity with the woman who feeds the birds at the cathedral). But it’s George Banks who goes through the most radical transformation.
At the beginning of the story we see a hardened, uncompassionate, elitist father who is fed up with the incompetence of the people around him. His wife can’t hire a good nanny, his housekeeper can’t follow simple directions about letting one interviewee in at a time, his children can’t heel/toe, the operator is incompetent (asking him for the police’s phone number, “no I do NOT know the number!” he screams into the phone), and even perfect Mary Poppins promises to fail his (low) expectations somehow.
But George isn’t interested in pleasure, he simply wants peace (his 9 wing). He wants (as he sings in one of his opening songs) “I treat my subjects, servants, children, wife, with a firm but gentle hand, no ‘bless you’ please.” He wants control of his world, but he simply wants it to operate like a well-oiled machine and stop bothering him.
It’s the end of his journey where he drops his iron grasp on his perfect life, really looks at his wife and children for perhaps the first time in his life and does something a truly merciful, compassionate father would do: he goes and does something what his kids have wanted all along: flying a kite.
We’ve illustrated the healthy integration of the 8: the move toward “Mercy” and “Humility.” It’s not accepting actual oppression, manipulation, or control, it’s looking at anything the 8 finds inferior or inept through the lens of grace, serenity, and patience.
On the other end of the spectrum the unhealthy 8 who fails to procure followship, feels unheard, unheeded, rejected, or isolated will withdraw into the “Greed” of the 5. There’s a sense of “I’m taking my ball and going home” that they begin to hoard their resources, their “wisdom” (opinions), and their emotional reserves until they’re noticed again. At their worst, 8’s can be guilt machines, will never allow themselves to be put in the hot seat without taking someone down with them, notorious gaslighters, and critical. At their best they can be inspirational, winsome, forthright, and committed to bettering the world around them.
Quite a few protagonist 8’s of late have been young lead women: Beca, Pitch Perfect and Tris, Divergent for example. But 8’s actually make up the vast majority of villains in literature, TV, and movies. The tendency for unhealthy 8’s to dominate, control, and condescend makes them easy to script and represent.
Consider the quintessential unhealthy 8 villain: Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada. She’s elitist, opinionated, and actually has all the power. She negotiates aggressively, blackmails, insults, and has created an entire culture that operates to her outrageously high standard of excellence. Only it’s never to her satisfaction. She keeps everyone around her in a full state of panic by criticizes even jobs well done. Her art director, Nigel, even explains to sweet, innocent Andrea: “her opinion is the only one that counts.”
The 8-2 combination between Miranda and Andrea is a great set up for disaster. Andrea kills herself trying to help the impossible-to-please Miranda (while trying to differentiate and individuate herself by integrating to her healthy “4”) and Miranda takes Andrea under her wing and exploits her like shooting fish in a barrel. We never see Miranda’s integration to health, in fact, she stays in her greedy “5” the entire movie without remorse.
What we’re hoping happens to our 8, however, is the development of compassion and humility. They can change the world healthy or unhealthy. What we hope to see is an 8 who uses their natural abilities for good.
8’s are strong characters. They are vocal, strong, decisive, and often people of great conviction. Give your 8 any cause whatsoever and they’ll own it. They’re not scared of powerful people, in fact they can find it stimulating to have someone oppressive to duel with.
Because of 8’s strong commitment to not being controlled, they’ll often live by their own set of rules (unlike the 1). It might even look like “breaking” the conventional rules. When caught or penalized by the normal consequences of violating convention they’re unlikely to feel any remorse, attack any hypocrisy (or deflect by exposing someone elses sin), and/or rally their followers to defend their actions or protest the rule they deem ridiculous.
8’s can work well with strong types such as 1’s, and 6’s. 9’s might actually be better companions for 8’s than 2’s. 2’s, 3’s, and 5’s are likely to be dysfunctional pairing for the 8 as they will work their tails off to win the 8’s favor (which the 8 will have a hard time not taking advantage of). 7’s and 4’s are hit or miss, they’ll do well if healthy, but poorly if not.
Remember that 8’s aren’t all evil. In our modern age of storytelling, every character needs relatable humanization so no matter where a protagonist begins their upward journey or in what state we meet the villain, give them something to humanize them. Even better: give them a cause to champion and you’ll see a tenacity unlike any other type.
Dolores Umbridge, Harry Potter
Captain Kirk, Star Trek
Scar, The Lion King
Frank Underwood, House of Cards
Annalise Keating, How to Get Away With Murder
Sin-Virtue Journey: Gluttony to Sobriety
Belief: Happiness is the greatest good in life, you only live once so make the most of it.
Deepest Fear: Pain, suffering, loss, or being trapped.
Deepest Desire: Pleasure, joy, fulfillment.
How they see/justify their sin: Wastefulness is a travesty. The world has so much to experience and there’s no greater good than doing it all. Happiness is our God-given right.
7’s are the part of us who want to be happy. They believe that there’s no greater good in life than the pursuit of fulfillment and 7’s take that very seriously. They are the people who dismiss the monotony and seek out every potential experience that promises fun. 7’s aren’t slackers and far from lazy, in fact, they can be the most aggressive of social chairpersons and even over plan their lives within an inch of their sanity. But on the other end of the spectrum they can be spontaneous, reckless, and (in line with their signature sin) gluttonous.
Gluttony may not mean (and often doesn’t mean) an over-consumption of food, instead it means the indulgence in anything that promises pleasure. There’s a nervous energy in the 7 who often doesn’t want a single moment wasted (especially as they go toward the unhealthy end of their spectrum). They can be the life of the party, the flightiest opening act, or the most centered, peaceful, joyful, sober presence in the world.
The 7 who has moved toward their virtue of sobriety won’t lose their characteristic joy, but they’ll find a reduction in their compulsions and find a sense of serenity and contentment in the world around them.
7 wing 6 | Maria, The Sound of Music
Our beloved nun of musical legend is our example of a 7 with a 6 wing. Think about her musical numbers: “my heart wants to sing every song it hears”… “these are a few of my favorite things”… “I must have done something good [to deserve falling in love].” Our young, carefree protagonist is the embodiment of fun and considers it outrageous that kids can’t play or that music is banned from the house.
We see her 6 wing pop up every now and again most notably when she flees the mansion upon being told by Baroness Schrader that the Captain is in love with her. She runs back to the safety of the Abbey where her sagely Mother Superior tells her that “these walls aren’t meant to run away from our problems, you have to face them.” Our scared little Maria reluctantly takes that advice and returns to her beloved children and the story moves on.
7 wing 8 | Jack McFarland, Will and Grace
On the less dramatic side of the character illustrations is the flamboyant, high strung, walking-id that is Jack McFarland. He’s selfish, sarcastic, quick on his feet, and constantly tolerates nothing less than his ultimate happiness and pleasure. Unlike his 6 counterpart Will Truman, Jack has few reservations and fears very little.
He’s got an 8 wing that we see often in his recruiting of the group to join him or assist him on his antics. 8’s have a fundamental belief that things should be done a certain way. Not by any commonly held standard, but on what makes the most sense to the 8. The 8 of us resists being controlled, manipulated, dominated, or oppressed. In rebellion of any authoritarian system, 8’s will live by their own rules and expect others to live by them as well. Jack constantly ridicules Will for his fashion choices, his food choices, his friend choices, his quirky interests, and anything that individuates him from society. Jack believes there’s a “right” way to live and Will simply is too inept to understand it or too weak to live by these guidelines.
His friends love him for his spontaneity and passion, but often have to support him through his various interests and flighty unreliability. We see Jack, at his worst, express the “Anger” of the disintegrated 1 when he’s not validated, joined, or supported when he wants something. He can get bitter, withdraw, or even go on the offensive when held back from his goals.
7’s are caught between two very sober and simplistic integration lines. As we saw with Jack McFarland, 7’s disintegrate into the 1 when they find themselves unhealthy. When a 7 is withheld from the things they want, 7’s can escalate in intensity or withdraw into bitterness until they find a way to fill their needs. They have no interest in sobriety and when it is forced upon them they resist. They can withdraw into depression but more often than not they’ll simply find an outlet that will help them feed their appetites.
But 7’s at their best, as they move toward health, find the nobility in sobriety and simplicity. They become “monk-like” and take on the virtue of “Non-Attachment” from their 5 integration. While they don’t lose their appreciate for fun, they do start to lose their obsession with it. They begin to find contentment in a peaceful, quiet, still, and minimalist life.
7’s aren’t the easiest villains to find or write. They might be irritants to the protagonist but not often are you seeing the dominant villain have a 7 type. Think about it, you’d have to have a character who truly wants personal happiness and would likely have to challenge the protagonist who is looking for discipline, order, structure, compliance, etc. Not many story tropes are about a character defending or looking to implement structure in a world of hedonistic chaos.
Characters like Lampwick from Pinocchio (the boy who whisks Pinocchio away to Pleasure Island and over-indulges to the point of turning into a donkey) or the older boys from Lord of the Flies might be fair illustrations.
While many of you might have not have seen the show Sense8 on Netflix, I believe one of the villains is a perfect example of a 7 villain. One of the Sense8’s, Sun, is a talented, yet oppressed woman in South Korea who’s far better suited to take over her father’s business upon his retirement than her playboy brother, Joong-Ki. In this instance, Sun’s goal is to play by the rules and be appreciated for her business acumen regardless of her gender. He brother doesn’t appreciate what’s been given to him and when he gets caught embezzling money from the company to fund his frivolous, extravagant lifestyle he begs Sun to take the fall for him (because in the patriarchal society no one knows or cares who Sun is even if she is the owner’s daughter). Even when she makes the sacrifice for her family, she is unappreciated, unthanked, and her brother (into season 2) keeps expecting Sun to live out the consequences for his own actions so the “unhappiness” can just go away.
We’re hoping that our 7 will give up their selfish lifestyle and learn self-restraint, self-control, and find meaning in life beyond their hedonistic instincts. We want to see them truly value relationships in their lives beyond the benefit it brings to them personally.
7’s can be played as flighty, ditzy, or childish but more often than not they are capable of master planning, recruitment, vision casting, and elaborate orchestrations. It’s easy to craft a character who’s average to unhealthy who is shallow relationally. In fact, that facet alone may be enough to create tension with other numbers who are more depth-oriented (2’s, 4’s, 6’s, 8’s and healthy 9’s). The bid these connection-oriented numbers make for the 7’s genuine relationship may set up a storyline that’s interesting to watch/read.
7’s and 8’s can be good combinations if they have a healthy, mutual respect for each other. 7’s aren’t going to react well to a super dominating 8 (especially 7w6’s) and unhealthy 8’s might not take well to the attention and maverick busy-ness of the 7 (especially if the 7 never gets around to assure the 8 of their loyalty).
7’s and 2’s might have a particularly challenging relationship if the 2 never hears the appreciation they crave for supporting the 7’s plans. 1’s might also pose a problem if they push back against the 7’s fun expectations by invoking rules, legalism, or judgment. 7’s and 4’s can be hit or miss as the 7 loves the new ideas the 4 can bring to the table (thus suggesting experiences the 7’s never considered) but if the 4 is too much of a buzzkill the relationship can capsize.
7’s will add a tremendous amount of color to your cast and help make your story larger-than-life.
Fat Amy, Pitch Perfect
Rachel Green, Friends (TV)
Sid, Toy Story
Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother (TV)
Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean
Fred and George Weasley, Harry Potter
Flynn Rider, Tangled
Sin-Virtue Journey: Fear to Courage
Belief: We have to be vigilant to protect ourselves and others. Together we’re safer than we are apart.
Deepest Fear: Having no guidance or being in danger physically, emotionally, or relationally.
Deepest Desire: Safety, stability, and security.
How they see/justify their sin: Someone has to look out for us. Threats to our safety should be avoided, eliminated, isolated, or decimated because without safety we don’t have anything.
6’s are the people who bring us together. These “loyalists” believe that there is safety in numbers and once you get past the friendship “interview” you’ll be defended and included for life. 6’s have an often visceral reaction to ideas around safety and danger. “Fear” is a huge component to their lives but it can manifest in a host of different ways. It’s not always “terror,” it can be anxiety, apprehension, or even depression, clinginess, or escapist addiction. 6’s may not actually be in danger, but they’ll always be aware of what could happen if they’re not careful.
6’s are the best of friends. In fact, they can put up with a lot of flack or dysfunction once they’ve decided to be in your life. They believe in taking care of their own. They may not pick the “safest” friends, the most healthy, or the most well-adjusted, but once you’re “in” you’re “in.” While 6’s can be anywhere on the spectrum of jittery and apprehensive to full blown anxious or phobic, they believe that connection is the answer. 6’s who are isolated are likely to be at their absolute worst. Even if they can’t get the people around them they want they’ll often settle for minions just to assure they are connected.
6’s are great “glue” characters for an ensemble but can make great protagonists because “Courage” (the virtue of the 6) is so easy to visualize and cheer for. Whether it’s an internal journey or an external journey, any character who is faced with the need for courage will make for an engaging character and 6’s are great options.
6 wing 5 | Woody, Toy Story
Consider Woody from Toy Story. As we go into movie number 4 in the franchise, our beloved cowboy has consistently been one to fight for his people. He loves the stasis of his life and his connection to his fellow toys and especially to his owner Andy. He goes to great lengths to eliminate the threat to his safe little world (Buzz Lightyear) even doing something drastic and expecting to be appreciated for it instead of rejected.
Where his character fails this model is in Woody’s desire to lead. 6’s aren’t often fighting for the spotlight. They are about equality and everyone playing their roles. A case could be made that Woody likes his role as the “leader of the toys” because he trusts himself to guarantee everyone’s safety more than anyone else (remember his whole lecture about “moving buddies”?).
Woody’s 5 wing isn’t super pronounced but philosophically we’d want to see the 6w5’s interest in learning believing that the more they know the safer they’ll be. While Woody isn’t often shown being curious, he does understand the rules of his world and in the first movie, for example, rallies the broken toys at Sid’s to “break” the rules to liberate themselves from Sid’s tyranny. Remember that 5’s want to be seen as “competent” and as a wing, it helps give the 6 what it wants.
6 wing 7 | George Castanza, Seinfeld
On a scale of 1-10 of “calm and collected” to “anxious and reactive,” George is probably an 11. If you’ve seen even one episode of Seinfeld you’ll know Jason Alexander’s character to be the epitome of nervous energy. While Seinfeld is the self-proclaimed TV show about “nothing,” George’s interactions with the world are about overreactions to phantom issues, incorrect assumptions, presuppositions, expectations, and partially formulated philosophies about human nature and the world.
But at the end of the day, George feels an entitlement to be happy. This 7 wing drives him to create a safe world around him so that he can be happy. His advice to his friends is always framed in incredulity when their happiness is threatened. He believes he should be able to go where he wants, date who he wants, eat what he wants, earn what he wants, and yet: he is deeply unhappy because of all the things that could go wrong (and sometimes do). He sabotages relationships on the most insignificant of objections and actively looks for enemies, obstacles, and threats.
6’s are on their way to Courage. As they risk their fears they could go two very different directions. A 6 who is not getting what they need to fulfill their need for safety and security will regress to the “Deceit” of the 3. The unsettled 6 will determine that they must be doing something wrong, that their normal persona simply isn’t working to woo people around them. They’ll betray everything they believe in and adopt a new persona until they get the relational cushion they need. 6’s normally promote a high level of honesty within themselves and those around them (even if that persona is offensive). They are about equality and believe that there’s both light and dark within us all, they accept it and live fully into it.
6’s that are moving toward health take on the “Engagement” virtue of the 9. Here they exercise courage to move past their self-preservation fixations and begin to see others, serve others, without expected reciprocity. 9’s are the peacemakers of the group, empathetic and connected and 6’s who have overcome their fear begin to adopt these virtues as well.
6’s can really play any role you need them to. Protagonists such as Marlin Clownfish from Finding Nemo or phobic supports like Ron Weasley from Harry Potter or Dr. “Bones” McCoy from Star Trek make for great positive roles as they panic about their fears and live into their courage.
But 6’s can also make for some interesting villains. Consider the fearful 6 whose goal is safety and security, especially for the group. While the entire movie might not support this theory, Don Corleone (The Godfather) might be a good case study conceptually. Here you have a crime boss whose goal is the preservation of his family. When Michael shows up he’s self-actualized a bit and differentiated himself from his heritage. But the strength of the family system is enough to get him to eventually abandon his pursuit of individuation and instead stay in line and perpetuate the family’s values. Whatever the case, if you’re writing an antagonist you’re likely going to find someone who’s expressing some kind of fear or anxiety in a fight or flight kind of way and their lived-out dysfunction (or nefarious plan) will likely stem from being ostracized from their tribe or being opposed by a member of the tribe who’s seeking personal individualization or pressing the group toward some risky action (which the 6 strongly opposes).
Consider that 6’s are connected, one way or another. 6 villains are not going to be the isolated, withdrawn, nobody-knows-their-business kind of person. They’re going to have relationships, minions, and could even be obsessed with being connected to their protagonist even as a nemesis. They will pull people who rise too far into the spotlight down with the rest of us and will pretty much never take risks they believe could put them in harm’s way (unless the entire group is moving too). Healthy (or moving-toward-healthy) 6’s can venture out on their own, face their internal or external demons, and begin to engage with people and put them first.
As we’ve said before, 6’s expect fairness. But it can often be a fairness as first relates to them. Consider that 6’s will rarely rise to the top of the group, but they also will do anything to avoid being at the bottom (including cheating… which they see nothing wrong with more often than not).
6’s and 8’s can be intense personalities. They’re not afraid to speak their mind, call people on the carpet, and use their influence to get what they want or need. However, 6’s are far more collaborative and understand that the people around them need to be taken care of. They’ll help out their friends, but expect that to be reciprocated. 8’s tend more to use and manipulate others and focus far more on loyalty and obedience. While both believe there’s a “right” way to do things, 6’s are less concerned with it if the group wants to go a different direction (just as long as they go together).
6’s and 8’s can be interesting opposing characters. Because they can be more dominating personalities they can be the worst of enemies (as the 8’s try and control group and 6’s confront ulterior motives) or the best of allies (as 8’s rally the group toward a common good and 6’s make sure everyone makes it there).
6’s and 9’s make great companions. 6’s and 7’s can be good as well as long as the 7 isn’t too foolhardy or reckless. 6’s might have a problem with 4’s who constantly strive to differentiate and individuate themselves from the group and 3’s who want to stand out from the group more than the 6 approves of.
Liz Lemon, 30Rock (TV)
Will Truman, Will and Grace (TV)
Chandler Bing, Friends (TV)
William Wallace, Braveheart
Sin-Virtue Journey: Greed to Non-Attachment
Belief: Doing things the right way and being fully educated is the most responsible way to live.
Deepest Fear: Being (or being perceived to be) useless.
Deepest Desire: To be seen as competent.
How they see/justify their sin: Being completely educated and prepared for any contingency is the responsible way to live.
5’s are the collectors of the group. They are insatiably curious and are a bottomless reservoir for information and skills. They can be know-it-alls, correcting the smallest mistakes in others, or feeling it their duty to educate those around them with their shockingly detailed knowledge of oddly specific topics. Not only do 5’s genuinely love the pursuit of knowledge, but they believe this amassing of information makes them valuable and integral to the group.
The sin of 5 is “greed” (or the more pretentious word “avarice”). They believe there is always more to learn and they eat it up. They’re the kids who always ask “why” or the adults who seem to ask questions that many others wouldn’t find intriguing or useful. They love the validation they receive when asked for their expertise offering overly-detailed explanations to simple questions. This greed has a downside of making the 5 indecisive and paralyzed in moments where they feel like they don’t know what’s going on or feel unprepared.
The journey for the 5 is “Non-Attachment.” Many authors liken the attitude to that of a monk, one who finds contentment in simplicity and quiet. Healthy 5’s learn to live without the need to fill the space and put to rest the compulsion to gather. They divest themselves of the ideas, catalogs, or even things they’ve amassed (the “greed” applies far more to knowledge than it does to materialism, but hoarders can most certainly be a dysfunctional 5 in operation) and instead choose to quiet their minds and souls.
5 wing 4 | Newt Scamander, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
One of my recent favorite 5’s is Newt Scamander from the Harry Potter prequel. Newt is lovable and quirky and doesn’t really get other people, but he gets creatures. He doesn’t need anyone to know about his sophisticated skill set but he prides himself on having it. His biggest issues are when people devalue the animals, a sin he finds utterly appalling. He withdraws into, literally, his own little world inside his briefcase and there he is the master of all that happens.
His 4 wing is pretty easy to spot because he freely admits he doesn’t understand people… and implies that he is a little strange. At this stage in his life we see Newt somewhat accepting of his oddities and instead of trying to explain them, he chooses to throw himself into his very unique line of work.
Newt isn’t that flawed as a person. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to connect with him as a character. (If you’re a HP fanatic and just spit out your coffee reading that criticism, hear me out). None of the characters in this movie are really that flawed. Tina is trying to rebuild a reputation of sorts, but none of the characters really have anything wrong with them. The story is almost exclusively an “external journey.” Sure, they have to learn to work together and build trust, but everything they do is reasonable and rational. Good storytelling has to include an inner-journey component or it’d better have enough special effects to compensate (which, to its credit, Fantastic Beasts does.)
What we could have seen with Newt is any inkling of an integration. Since he’s reasonably healthy, we see his merciful and decisive “8” come through. He acts when the moment demands and that’s a good sign. He’s not sure how it will all end but moves anyway. Risk taking (for 5’s and 6’s) is really healthy.
He doesn’t really go to a bad place where we might see his gluttonous or “screw it” “7” mentality materialize. But unlike Newt, our next character does.
5 wing 6 |Bella Swan, Twilight
Bella is a classic 5. She has walls up with literally everyone in her life, except the one person (eventually two when Jacob comes to her rescue) with whom she gets completely obsessed. One variant of the 5 is hyper romantic and Bella is a perfect example.
Bella starts the Twilight saga being dropped off by her mother to live with her dad in middle-of-nowhere Washington State. Her mother is lighthearted, happy, a little self-absorbed, and can’t comprehend the depths her daughter is capable of mentally and emotionally. Bella actually prefers living with her dad who pretty much leaves her alone, something she vastly prefers to the helicopter parenting of her other parent.
Like many 5’s, Bella hates being forced into social situations but realizes she has no choice. She would prefer to be left alone but something exceptional, someONE exceptional, piques her interest. 5’s, socially, would often prefer strangers (who demand no further connection or relational obligation) or people who they perceive to be experts. Edward is elite. He’s smart, suave, seems to understand the world around him (something 5’s desperately want help with) and that makes him irresistible.
As we’ve said already, 5’s are journeying from Greed to Non-Attachment. At their best, however, they’re integrating to their healthy 8’s and take on the virtues of “Mercy.” This is slightly different than the 8’s version of “Mercy” because it’s Mercy toward themselves (compared to the 8’s Mercy toward others). 5’s tend to place themselves under an immense amount of pressure to know all and be competent to do all. When they integrate toward a Non-Attachment they begin to extend compassion toward themselves and find their value in who they are and not what they bring to the table.
On the other end, unhealthy 5’s reach the horrifying conclusion that no amount of knowledge will actually get them what they need. They find themselves deemed “useless” by others, their knowledge fails them, or they gather some evidence that all this work has been a waste of their time. When this happens, 5’s take on the “gluttonous” sin of their disintegrated 7 and basically say “screw it.” They will betray all the lessons they’ve learned and do things that might seem indulgent, excessive, selfish, addictive, or rash. They may hook up, drink too much, spend too much money, or find some other way to act as though life just doesn’t matter (basically “I know better, but since nobody cares (or it doesn’t matter), I’m just going to go do whatever I want regardless of what I know.”
Working to create a good 5 character can be difficult for a lead. In fact, it will probably require some exaggeration of their know-it-all attitudes to really come through. But what you’re looking for is someone who places immense value on correct methodologies. They are likely to be uptight about when things are done different ways (not necessarily “wrong” ways or “bad” ways… but inferior to the 5’s deeply researched methodologies.
As far as villains go, one of these exaggerated 5’s can be seen in the character of Vizzini from The Princess Bride. The annoying mastermind’s classic catchphrase “inconceivable!” is a perfect representation of this frustration with humanity who consistently seem to act irrationally. Even his square off with the Dread Pirate Roberts is all about his powers of deduction. What a brilliant, fitting end to challenge the 5 to a game of wits and beat them on a technicality outside the boundaries of the given rules. A 5 villain who believes they’re right may actually integrate to their 8 and become decisive in their plans, yet without the Mercy component, it’s empty and probably says more about a wing than health.
5’s can fill their appetites by escaping into fantasies. They are stereotypically the sci-fi geeks who love to get into intensely complex cult followings. No matter what environment you place your character in, they can find something to obsess about.
Other types can love to learn, even be fascinated by research (7’s for example) so before you type cast a 5 as someone who asks a lot of questions, make sure that the motivations are aligned.
One common theme for 5’s is indecisiveness. 5’s are constantly living with the belief that there’s just not enough data. They pressure themselves to be completely prepared for any contingency and fully knowledgeable about whatever they’re going to do. Unknowns, surprises, or vague directions are going to be unsettling to the 5. Make sure you craft a good “inciting incident” to get your 5 moving.
5’s work pretty well with most other types. 7’s and 8’s might be a challenge if they are unwilling to explain their plans in detail or expect the 5 to blindly follow their directions without question.
Hannibal Lechter, Hannibal
The Vogons, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Sin-Virtue Journey: Envy to Equanimity
Belief: Everyone has figured something out that I just can’t seem to. No one understands me.
Deepest Fear: That they are too complex, flawed, unique, or abnormal to be accepted.
Deepest Desire: To be celebrated for their individuality and the things that make them special.
How they see/justify their sin: Being jealous of others drives them to a kind of self-condemnation. Surviving the resulting depression and avoiding being a burden to others is the best they can hope for.
The 4 is the side of our soul that expresses its uniqueness, individuality, and creative ability. There’s a reality that only the 4 side of us can define that is our us-ness, the person we truly are that differentiates us from everyone else on earth. As you can guess, the challenge is whether or not we believe it. The 4 is in the constant struggle between accepting the one-of-a-kind nature of who they are and living in immense doubt, insecurity and questioning the value of who they are. The sin of the 4 is “Envy” but not for other people’s things, but more so in what they know. 4’s believe that everyone has acquired, procured, or learned something that they have somehow missed. They always believe they are one step behind everyone else and are convinced that they are too complicated to be understood. “No one understands me” is the mantra in the mind and heart of the 4.
4’s can be withdrawn, moody, prone to depression but also incredibly artistic, creative, imaginative and innovative. If they can move toward their virtue (“Equanimity”) they can embrace the truth that they are just like everyone else, completely special and unique.
4 wing 3 | Willy Wonka, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
The exaggerated persona of a 4w3 is Willy Wonka. The more extroverted and social of the 4 spectrum, the 4w3 works to promote their one-in-a-million persona to the world around them because being seen is the greatest source of validation one could hope for. 4w3’s tend to be performers, exhibitionists, and artists. They are the people on the street with style and aren’t afraid to show off their style, creations, or discoveries.
Willy Wonka is once such character. He is completely one-of-a-kind from his garish outfit to his flashy, innovative way to promise an elite presentation of his borderline ridiculous method of making sweets. While he withdraws from society when he’s taken advantage of (I’m combining the stories from the Gene Wilder’s 1971 adaptation and the Johnny Depp 2005 remake) but once his canvass is painted it’s time to let people see his creation.
Even though Gene Wilder’s character is almost a complete ruse (compared to Johnny Depp’s more flawed, angsty representation) if we analyze the character we know until that big revelation we can see a fairly consistent 4. Even the outburst at the end of the movie when he accuses Charlie and his Uncle Joe of stealing from him is all a belief that no one could possibly understand the world he’s created.
Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka is elitist, condescending, and pretty pessimistic about this entire contest. He protects himself by presenting a cynical, resentful attitude to the group and pretty much can’t wait for the tour to be over. His psychological trauma of being humiliated by his 1 father who’s forbidden him to eat candy and forces him to wear extensive dental headgear instead goes unaddressed until he ventures out on this regretful enterprise. We see a character who’s not only a protagonist 4 but one who is living into his grossly unhealthy disintegrated “2” (the sin of “Pride” which says “I gave you a chance and exactly as I expected, you let me down, you don’t get me, and you never will. I was right.”)
We want Willy Wonka to be rescued from his despair. We want him to know he’s special, that he’s seen and known and no matter how high his freak flag flies, that he’s loved.
4 wing 5 | Neo, The Matrix
The other end of the spectrum has a 4 embracing their 5 wing and becoming insatiably curious to try and figure out what’s wrong with them. 5’s are the researchers and learners and tend to become experts in areas that are both very specific and very irrelevant to everyday life. 4w5’s are the most withdrawn and introverted spot in the group but believe the explanation must be out there.
Neo from the iconic film The Matrix is an example of a 4w5. Neo has this literal sneaking suspicion that something is being kept from him. It’s literally “everyone knows something I don’t know.” And Neo goes to extreme measures to figure it out. When Trinity meets him the first time she has him hooked the second she dangles an explanation for his questions in front of him. He’s willing to give up the entire fake life and live in the pain of the real world because in true 4 fashion, equality in the suffering is better than being the oddball in the fantasy world.
Not only does he escape the fake world but he learns that he really is unique, that he is destined to be the savior of the small bit of humanity left, The One. While Morpheus, Trinity and the gang support him however they’re able, he still lives with the belief that no one could possibly understand what he’s going through.
What we see in this character arc is a 4 who integrates (at the end of the trilogy) into their 1. This integration sees a 4 who stereo-typically defines reality by how they feel and integrates into living according to an objective, absolute external set of principles. He does what is right not because it feels right, but because it is right. He’s The One and The One has responsibilities.
As we saw in both these examples, the 4’s integration into the 1 and disintegration into the 2 has to do with where the 4 finds truth. The goal is that they will move away from their emotions and into their convictions. We want characters to get over themselves and find a purpose in the world beyond their ridiculously indecisive romantic entanglements. 4’s who disintegrate to their 2’s can get clingy to their support connections and reject any help whatsoever. When they lose hope, they can tend to isolate and retreat into a fortress of misunderstanding and irrationality.
Healthy 4’s can be deep, loyal, romantic, insanely creative and artistic individuals. They’ll add some incredible flare to your ensemble and intriguing depth to your story.
4’s can be sympathetic as we all want to reach into the pages or through the screen and plead with them to accept that they matter. The challenge with 4 protagonists is not letting their iron-clad belief that the world is incapable of figuring them out make your audience give up on them. 4’s are waiting for confirmation that they are exactly as strange as they fear they are and they have are exceptionally patient. If your character doesn’t eventually move or give us a glimmer of hope that they might actually overcome their doldrums we might just stop caring. If the story is a “descent” story you’ll need to start them (or have them reach) a really healthy place for contrast.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, consider Severus Snape, the notoriously aloof, borderline cruel Potions master, who is desperately trying to overcome the pain that threatens to affirm his greatest fears. He creates a persona of high competency, no-nonsense, unapproachability, and elitism that helps him cope. But even when we do get to see him authentic in his memory with Dumbledore he, one more time, finds himself misunderstood. While he ultimately ends a hero, we unfortunately only get to see one heroic act compared to his years of emotional abuse of Harry and his classmates.
Showcase the 4’s creativity. What they’re able to produce can be incredibly unique, colorful and wonderful. Consider the “goth” character in TV or movies or the teenager who is ultra-alternative. It’s a moment of vulnerability for the 4 and one that can be easily shown and exploited.
4’s can have a love/hate relationship with 3’s as 3’s take on the challenge of trying to understand the 4 and the 4 pushing back on that intense effort by working even harder to find the irrational reasons why it’ll never work.
7’s and 8’s can also be wonderful supports but also the worst villains for the 4. 7’s can get frustrated with the 4’s inability to have fun and 8’s can simply demand the 4 stop being so self-absorbed and get moving in the right direction.
4’s and 1’s can have a tenuous relationship as 4’s crave the conviction of the 1’s and innate ability to understand right and wrong but are irritated when 1’s disregard their valid emotions and simply expect them to move in spite of them.
Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy
Dorian Gray, The Picture of Dorian Gray (Book)
Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones
Sin-Virtue Journey: Deceit to Authenticity
Belief: I can be whoever I need to be to help us all win. Small price to pay for success.
Deepest Fear: If people knew who I really was they would reject me.
Deepest Desire: To be seen and known for who I really am. To be respected and held in high esteem.
How they see/justify their sin: Accomplishment and achievement are some of the greatest goods in life. My ability to adapt and be what the situation demands can help us all win.
3’s are, quite frankly, the superstars. They are the best at what they do, not just the rule followers, but the rule-excellers. They are competitive and image obsessed, ambitious, efficient, talented, and crave the spotlight. You can spot a 3 a million miles away on FB as the people who are constantly seeking other’s acknowledgement for their wit, their accomplishments, and even sympathy for their frustrating little daily challenges (you know what I mean… “Couldn’t find a parking spot at the gym again…”).
But going deeper, the 3 is a master actor. 3’s crave validation that they believe that unless they are exceptional, they are nothing. While 2’s want to add value to be accepted, 3’s believe they must be valuable to be accepted. To accomplish this, 3’s learn what kinds of things people want, the types of people they respect, the manner of individual they follow, and the values and traits people like and craft personas (masks, personality traits, etc.) that embody these ideals. Not only to the live as these perfect characters, they tend to take them to the extreme and become larger than life. They become the perfect host, the perfect friend, the perfect confidant, the most successful employee, the most inspiring leader, and at the end of every scenario: the winner.
3’s believe that these successful, eloquent, suave, winning personas are irresistible. Their perfection makes them impossible to reject. They can’t not be valued because there’s no reason not to. But there’s the rub, even the most master 3 will never achieve the genuine love and acceptance they desire, because what they really fear is that if anyone saw the real them, their authentic, genuine, honest, flawed selves they would be assuredly be dismissed, alone, and found unnecessary and not worth the energy to love.
These masks, then, serve as survival mechanisms at their most desperate. But the journey for the 3 is from Deceit (some say “Vanity”) to Authenticity. The risk of letting someone see behind the curtain is the greatest challenge of the 3’s life. But it’s more than just a chance one takes, it’s dismantling, deconstructing, and disarming all the checks and balances of their perfect covers. It’s a huge gamble and that makes 3’s great characters to watch.
3 wing 2 | Monica Geller, Friends
Monica is an intense, self-made woman. She is competitive to a fault and desperately wants to always be on top, prepared, and successful. There are times when Monica annoys us with her self-absorbed perfectionism. But there are also times when Monica saves the day because, at the end of the day, she loves her “Friends.”
Toward the end of season 2 we see a storyline where Monica gets a job at a diner. Despite the unfairness of it all, she learns that her slender body type and dark hair don’t earn as many tips as some of her co-workers. So Monica does what any 3 would do in her position: don a comically exaggerated voluptuous body suit and blonde wig. Despite all the hijinks she gets into, they do successfully earn her more money and she (with little protest) adopts this new persona and owns it.
It’s her future husband (spoiler alert) and long-time friend Chandler who gets past her defenses, validates her dreams, ambitions, and fears to win her over and craft a safe place for her to be brave enough to be authentic.
3 wing 4 | The Beast/Prince Adam, Beauty and the Beast
For this example I’m going to use a combination of the Beast character from the Disney animated classic as well as the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. The challenge with drawing conclusions from either of these representations is that we don’t know a lot about Prince Adam before he was transformed by the Enchantress.
What we do know, however, is that he begins the story as an exceedingly arrogant, self-absorbed, image-obsessed man (why on earth would he ever allow a filthy beggar in his midst? What would that do to his credibility and dignity?) The Enchantress sees this vanity (3w4’s are notorious divas) and determines a punishment suitable to reveal the vulnerabilities of his heart.
The beauty of this narrative is that the story revolves around a 3 who is forced to live with a reality he can’t mask. While average 3’s often have to choose to remove the mask, the Beast is not given that luxury. Everything about him is rejectable. He’s forced to live authentically whether he wants to or not (at least externally). The Beast predictably (per his integrations as a 3) withdraws from society (the stereotypical 9 sin of “sloth”).
What we hope for our protagonist 3 is that he’ll have the courage (his integrated 6 virtue) to let Belle see the real him: someone who’s willing to sacrifice his personal victory for a greater good. (An interesting note, Gaston is also a 3 but one who has no reason or impetus to live authentically. He’s exceedingly vain and irritated beyond all his reason that he can’t get what he feels should be a no-brainer (Belle’s affection). Instead of courage to be authentic, Gaston chooses to prove his worth yet again by rallying the entire village to “win” at all costs. The contrast between our villain and hero is part of the brilliance of this story.)
3’s are journeying, as we’ve noted, from Deceit to Authenticity. By “Authenticity” we should be seeing a confession to being flawed. It takes an immense amount of bravery for a 3 to risk this kind of exposure. An integration to the 6 means the 3 beings to show Courage. They take the risks, they accept the gamble. By contrast, a defeated 3 who has lost all hope or exhausted all options to overcome the obstacles in their way or even feels trapped will shut down and withdraw (the 9 sin of “sloth” we’ve mentioned).
3w4’s work to promote themselves as unlike anyone else (think Lady Gaga). Their uniqueness is their double-edged sword. It could mean they are ridiculed and rejected for it (a strong 4 mentality) or they could end up being celebrated and heralded for it.
By contrast 3w2’s care about people and desperately want people to like them. Consider The Wizard of Oz. He wants to help the people, even genuinely wants to help Dorothy and her friends. But because he’s actually powerless (an authentic reality) he creates a persona to hide behind.
3’s are intense personalities. They’re known for their high achieving, workaholic, winning at all cost attitudes. They believe they should be celebrated for their deep commitment to being the best and are often confused when people react negatively to this dog-eat-dog philosophy.
3’s can be great anti-heroes and fantastic villains as well. Don Draper from Mad Men is a great example of a super unhealthy 3w4. He’s a winner but hides behind this aloof façade of enigma.
The biggest thing to consider is that when the mask finally comes off, your character must still have a personality, one we recognize. It’s not a complete split personality, 3’s can be authentically competitive and enjoy a sense of productivity and accomplishment.
3’s want, deeply, unconditional love. 2’s can be great support characters for 3’s because they don’t follow them because they are enamored fans, but because they genuinely love them. A 3 can take advantage of a 2 if they’re not careful (consider Gaston again and his friend LeFou).
3’s are likely to have challenges with 8’s (especially if the 8 is in a power position over the 3). 8’s want obedience and 3’s want affirmation. 8’s can parade their prize students, employees, or follower 3’s who will in turn eat up the praise and acknowledgment of the 8. Recipe for glorious disaster.
3’s might also clash with 6’s who resist anyone being too far ahead or behind of anyone else (6’s value equality). They might clash with 7’s who are flippant and might break the rules (a perception from the 3 of winning without honor or unfairly). 3’s might click well with 5’s who have the talent and education but have no interest in the limelight. 4’s are particularly intriguing to 3’s because a 4 will consistently claim that no one could possibly understand them and a 3 will say: challenge accepted. This savior mentality will motivate the 3 until they have tried everything they can think of without ever actually seeing the 4 change and embrace how special and unique they are.
3’s can be great in any role in your story. They are distinctive and easily typecast and can go to whatever depth you want to develop.
Monica Geller, Friends (TV)
Fernand Mondego, The Count of Monte Cristo
Jack Donaghy, 30Rock
Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter
Billy Flynn, Chicago
GaLinda, Wicked (Broadway)
Melanie Carmichael, Sweet Home Alabama
Jeff Winger, Community