Nine Kinds of Shame

doesn't look clean

E. Wagele drawing from “The Career Within You”

Darlene Lancer, in her article, Shame: The Core of Addiction and Codependency, wrote, “Whereas guilt is a right or wrong judgment about your behavior, shame is a feeling about yourself. Guilt motivates you to want to correct or repair the error. In contrast, shame is an intense global feeling of inadequacy, inferiority, or self-loathing. You want to hide or disappear. In front of others, you feel exposed and humiliated, as if they can see your flaws. The worst part of it is a profound sense of separation — from yourself and from others. It’s disintegrating, meaning that you lose touch with all the other parts of yourself, and you also feel disconnected from everyone else.”

All 9 Enneagram personality types exist within us to varying degrees. One of these is primary, however. For example, I’m a 5-Observer; my 4-Romantic wing is less powerful, followed by the other 7.

Here are some ways the 9 types feel ashamed.

From my One-Perfectionist friend: “Shame for me is a perfect gleeful vehicle to incite my inner critic. The myriad of ways I have found to be not perfect create a field of fodder for lashing out at myself. It’s like that critic has a bag full of candy from which to dispense its sickly judgment and harshness. And sometimes the only way I have unconsciously believed that I can ease myself of this weight is to shame and judge others.  Ick.” – Jan Conlon.

From "The Career Within You"

From “The Career Within You”

2-Helpers tend to attract love by giving love. If they don’t feel they’ve succeeded, they may feel ashamed that they’re not worthy of love.

In order to find success, 3-Achievers work hard and look for clues from others about how they’re doing. They are likely to boast in order to cover up feeling inferior or inadequate.

When 4-Romantics feel ashamed of feeling alienated, defective or flawed, envy can be a way of hiding this shame.

For us 5-Observers, shame can come from feeling different, separate, or foolish.

Anxiety and shame can build in 6-Questioners when danger is suspected or present and they don’t feel in control.

Shame is taboo for a 7-Adventurers, since they feel their role is to always be happy and to create happiness around them.

8-Asserters avoid feeling vulnerable by emphasizing their power. Over-controlling and bullying can camouflage their shame.

9-Peace Seekers try not to feel angry and may not perceive conflicts. Burying these reality can lead to anxiety and shame.

Ms. Lancer continues her article, “Because shame is so painful, it’s common for people to hide their shame from themselves by feeling sad, superior, or angry at a perceived insult instead. Other times, it comes out as boasting, envy, or judgment of others. The more aggressive and contemptuous are these feelings, the stronger the shame. An obvious example is a bully, who brings others down to raise himself up, but this can happen all in your mind.

“It needn’t be that extreme. You might talk down to those you teach or supervise, people of a different class or culture, or someone you judge. Another tell-tale symptom is frequent idealization of others, because you feel so low in comparison. The problem with these defenses is that if you aren’t aware of your shame, it doesn’t dissipate. Instead, it persists and mounts up.”

  • Elizabeth’s 8 books include The Happy Introvert, The Enneagram Made Easy, and Are You My Type, Am I Yours? Please go to to see and order them.

    From "The ENneagram of Parenting"

    From “The Enneagram of Parenting”




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