The biological/emotional psychology of enneatypes

The acquisition of self-awareness and control of one’s emotions, as we will see in this course, are the basis of holistic health of body, mind and spirit.

To better understand EnneaMediCina, I therefore consider it essential to know the foundations on which it rests.

We will therefore begin a path of approach in small steps, starting with the study of the Enneagram, in the light of the discoveries of Western science.

Over and above all possible individual differences, the Enneagram makes it possible to identify the individual’s main character proclivities, worldviews and ‘vocations’, enabling him or her to broaden his or her opportunities for self-understanding and inner modification, which, as we shall see, affect health in a global sense.

The nine character types of the Enneagram are grouped into three centres, corresponding to the basic ‘three brains’:

1.Instinct (belly): 8, 9, 1;

Emotions (heart): 2, 3, 4;

Raziocination (head): 5, 6, 7.

Each centre is characterised by a common emotion, which influences the way of being and relating of the individual enneatypes.

It is now well known that already during pregnancy the foetus develops its own subjective identity. As pointed out by Canadian psychiatrist Thomas Verny, the embryo’s experience inside the womb represents its first contact with the world, a contact that will profoundly influence the formation of its future personality.
Within the enneagrammatic map, each typology represents a specific defence strategy, which the new born uses in its process of adaptation to the relational dynamics entertained in the family environment.

With reference to the specific combination of genotype and phenotype there will, therefore, be a basic placement in one of the three centres and three Enneatypes of the Enneagram.

These are strategies that the child perceives as effective behavioural patterns, suitable both for its survival and for obtaining affection and attention.

These traces become fixed in his psyche, later influencing his behaviour, even as an adult.

The instinctive centre: enneatypes 8, 9, 1.

In the newborn, the first brain areas to reach full development are the brainstem and midbrain, which regulate bodily functions essential for survival, such as breathing, digestion, excretion and thermoregulation.

Since the brain in the infant is not yet fully formed, therefore, what the child perceives in its first years of life is recorded in the ‘instinctive brain’, the most visceral of the three centres and the focal point of the individual’s psycho-physical well-being.

Then the limbic system, which handles the emotional aspect of the person, and the neocortex, which allows abstract thought, develop.

The growth of each brain region and its related functions depends to a large extent, on the stimulation that the ‘little man’ receives, right from gestation and, therefore, on the possibility of creating new connections between neurons; positive rather than negative experiences favour harmonious growth and development of the individual.

The way the brain develops determines a person’s cognitive, affective and social capacities, as well as his or her predisposition to physical or mental illness.

Several studies show that children who are listened to, caressed, supported and encouraged show increased brain activity (measured by electroencephalogram), as well as lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and adequate levels of Igf-1, a hormone that plays an important role in growth processes.

Other studies confirm how anxiety and tension affect the function of the belly, the ‘second brain’, with important repercussions on the function of the entire organism. Dr. Gershon of Columbia University states that ‘the gut helps fix memories related to emotions, playing a key role in signalling joy or sorrow’.

In the belly there is, therefore, a brain that assimilates and digests not only food, but also information and emotions that arrive from outside (continued….).


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