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Beethoven’s Personality and Music: The Introverted Romantic

by Elizabeth Wagele

Beethoven was an introvert, not an extravert. He had one of the richest inner lives humankind has ever known, was reported to have been withdrawn from eleven on, and preferred nature to man, saying, “I live only in my music.”As an adult, he sought out solitude – every summer he’d move to the country to a quiet house so he could to create his compositions in peace and walk in the woods. I will examine his personality from the point of view of the eight Myers-Briggs preferences briefly and more extensively show how his music and personality together express the nine Enneagram personality styles.


Beethoven’s innovative contributions to musical form and the ease with which he broke with tradition reflect his preference for intuition rather than sensation.


In discussing the MBTI or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, we usually talke about relationships in connection with the feeling preference. In Beethoven’s case, his feeling went into his art. His relations with people left much to be desired: he was often overly sensitive and quarrelsome. He was probably an introverted intuitive with feeling type (INFJ). His extraverted, sensate, and thinking functions were also essential to being a successful musician, however – composing, teaching, conducting, playing, working with publishers, getting commissions, working out contracts, and so on. Music is one of those hobbies and professions that especially puts all eight functions to use. Beethoven is said to have had little or no sense of order when it came to his household affairs, but he had to have had immense discipline when it came to learning how to master the piano and the principles of composition. His personality was full of complexities and contradictions.


Beethoven and the Enneagram


The Enneagram has been used by spiritual seekers in the Middle East and Asia for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. In the1970’s, in the West, it was adapted for typing personalities and for use as a psychology tool. That Beethoven’s music is characterized by great diversity and spiritual power makes it particularly effective for demonstrating the nine styles described by the Enneagram. There is some overlap of Enneagram types with the MBTI functions and types (See the charts on page 167 of “Are You My Type, Am I Yours?”)

drawings of representations of the nine enneagram types in a circle on the book cover

According to Enneagram theory, when we are young and learning to cope with life, we strengthen personality traits associated with one type. We become more flexible as we learn to access and balance traits from all nine types.


I’ve typed Beethoven as a Four in the Enneagram, a Romantic, because beauty, drama, melancholy, depression, and a feeling of being unique were major themes in his life. He lived for expressing what was in his heart and he taught this to others.


Beethoven was original and successful, yet he felt something was missing. He was widely known for his symphonies and chamber works, but he lamented the fact that he was not a famous opera composer.
He longed for a special heart connection but fell in love with unavailable women and his yearning for a child went unsatisfied. Even though he moved 52 times looking for a home that felt right, it never materialized.


In the Enneagram symbol, each point on the circle connects by lines to two other points, called arrows. As a Four-Romantic, Beethoven’s lines go to the One-Perfectionist and the Two-Helper.


Beethoven’s Perfectionist arrow can be seen in his ability to be exacting in his music and in his ideals. He believed strongly in Brotherhood, Freedom, and God.
Though Beethoven was often in despair – he felt like a pariah for being deaf, for example – the Perfectionist in him could see his problems as challenges to overcome. You can see this in his life story and hear it in his music.


The Two-Helper arrow can be seen in the responsibility Beethoven took for his orphaned brothers and his nephew.


Four-Romantics are often compassionate, but they can take out their easily hurt feelings on other people. When Beethoven was rude, he could really be rude. Sometimes he’d write an apologetic letter the next day to the person he’d offended.


Beethoven was able to produce a large body of work of the highest quality, thanks to the need to express his rich inner life, his incredible intelligence, and his ability to work hard. When his music slipped into mediocrity, it was often because he tried too hard to please the crowd.


Beethoven could laugh and tell jokes, but he was said to have had a turned down mouth. He suffered from headaches, arthritis, intestinal problems, and swollen feet. Preparing his coffee with 60 beans per cup couldn’t have helped his health any. He was often grumpy and disagreeable.


In the winter of 1827, on the way home from a trip, he caught a cold that turned into pneumonia. Serious problems with his liver developed, and he died several weeks later at the age of 56. At his death he was a hero to thousands of people who knew and loved his music.
You can find music in Beethoven’s sonatas that expresses emotions that control each Enneagram type – the passions of anger and fear, for example; and the virtues we connect with transformation, such as humility and serenity. We usually talk about the Enneagram in terms of theories and ideas. Beethoven gives us a chance, however, to experience its beauty and power on a direct feeling level. In the Enneagram, the following words are important: PASSIONS are our faults or our fixations – the compulsions where we’re stuck. VIRTUES are the way out of the passions – what we have when we are no longer trapped in our compulsive ways of behaving.


How Beethoven’s personality and music relates to Enneagram Type One, often referred to as The Perfectionist.
Beethoven studied with Haydn, but was critical of him for overlooking some mistakes he had made in his counterpoint lessons. Haydn wasn’t perfect or demanding enough for him. Most Ones try to keep their passion, which is resentment, from showing. They’re usually fairly traditional and well-behaved. Beethoven was neither. He had some perfectionistic traits, but he wasn’t a “Perfectionist.” He was rebellious and broke through many boundaries concerning harmony, form, and the musical traditions of the time.


The low repeated chords at the beginning of Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata reflect the physical grounding of type One. They mimic the way Perfectionists check and recheck to make sure that everything is right. To generalize, introverted Ones are more interested in how they themselves are doing, while extraverted Ones want to make sure other people are doing things right.


Beethoven shows his connection to type One in his idealism, his self-criticism, and in the balance of his compositions. He particularly liked Kant’s concept of duty and strongly believed in fostering spiritual values. He believed in a personal God and didn’t think it was right to discuss his own religious beliefs.


One’s are often angry that others aren’t trying as hard as they are to be good. Their virtue is serenity, which requires an attitude of acceptance – a belief that the world is already perfect and doesn’t need improvement. The soothing Rondo in Sonata opus 2 #2, expresses the calm and peaceful feeling One-Perfectionists can have after they have admitted their resentment and learned to not be overly critical or self-critical.


How Beethoven’s personality and music relates to Enneagram Type Two, The Helper.
Two-Helpers stand for love and harmony. Beethoven was not a Two, but he was always in love. The noble women of Vienna were fond of him. He would give them piano lessons and they forgave him when he was rude or lost his temper.


Helpers sometimes take the role of a gentle echo behind a more forceful friend, relative, or boss, as in the beginning of Sonata opus 90. They tend toward extraversion, express their feelings dramatically, and tend to experience many mood swings.


Two’s feel angry when they give and give without receiving enough appreciation and think they’re the only person who can supply what another needs, including advice. This is the passion of pride that Two’s need to overcome.


The antidote or virtue for pride is humility. Taking up a spiritual practice or becoming involved in the arts or other personal interests can help Two’s become more self-contained and less dependent on attention and praise.


It helps Helpers to go inward and listen to the music they like instead of what someone else likes. Accessing their Four-Romantic arrow helps them with this.


Young Beethoven’s life may inspire Two’s to become more independent: when his father tried to get him to act cute, show off, and be a child prodigy like Mozart, he simply refused.
Two’s can be influenced by the positive sides of their arrows: the spirituality of the Four-Romantic and the confidence of the Eight-Asserter.


How Beethoven’s personality and music relate to Enneagram Type Three, The Achiever.
The Three, is among the most active, extraverted, and competitive of the types.
Three’s want to impress the world, so they do everything they can to present a favorable image, including making up stories about their accomplishments. Not being truthful is their passion.


Achievers sometimes believe their image and practical abilities are more valued, and therefore more valuable, than their true essence. They can be irritated by others’ inner worlds, especially if they are trying not to go to their own.


In Enneagram theory, the numbers on either side of each type are called wings. Beethoven had wings at points 3 and 5. His Five wing is in evidence as his thoughtful side. His Three wing could be seen in the effort he put into striving to get ahead: composing, practicing, arranging for commissions, publication, and the rest of the business side of his work.


In Sonata opus 31 #1 Beethoven pokes fun at his 3-Achiever wing, the side of himself that wants to impress. The second movement starts out with a simple melody embellished by trills that reminds me of a parading peacock. Beethoven balances the showiness with a strange, highly introverted section, which reflects the inner world most Three’s are trying to avoid.


The virtue for Achievers is to cultivate truthfulness. When they get in touch with their real feelings, they become less motivated to boast or tell lies about themselves. A good way to start getting to know our real feelings is through creative play. It’s good for Threes to have fun in a way that does not involve performing for anyone. Both Achievers and One-Perfectionists benefit from occasionally playing around without trying to accomplish anything.
Music can help find meaningful emotional and spiritual places in ourselves, and help us relax instead of thinking about the next thing we’re going to do.


The Three-Achiever’s arrows are 6 and 9. Enneagram authors sometimes think Beethoven was one of these. I can’t understand calling his personality type Nine, although some of his movements, such as the famous Ninth Symphony’s “Ode to Joy” have a pastoral or 9-ish feeling. Type Six, The Questioner, is a more reasonable choice. I will explain my choice more when I talk about Types Four and Six.


How Beethoven’s personality and music relate to Enneagram Type Four, The Romantic.
Beethoven ushered in the Romantic era of music, but this isn’t the only reason I call him a Romantic. Romantics feel they are missing a connection they believe others have. Their lives are filled with intense emotions.


Their passion of envy can bring out a desire to destroy. Beethoven had a mean, alcoholic father, who was also a musician, and who tried to use his son’s talent for his own profit. In a way, Beethoven got revenge on his father by becoming one of the greatest composers who ever lived.


Music has the ability to transcend personal emotions. When Beethoven’s pain and sorrow over his deafness became so intense he wanted to kill himself, he changed his mind because he was unable to give up his music. Sonata opus 109 is one of many that were written when he was totally deaf. Romantics often find creative outlets for their feelings: in this sonata, Beethoven’s turmoil, fear, and anger can be heard.


The characteristics of melancholy and longing are more common in this type than in other types. We know Romantics can be moody and gloomy, but sometimes we forget how powerful they can be. Beethoven puts a simple child’s folk song in the middle of the belligerent second movement of opus 110. Almost all Enneagram Fours are feeling types.


The theme of victory over suffering occurs over and over in Beethoven’s music. In the second movement of Op 10 #2, for example, sadness is transformed into hopeful acceptance.
The virtue for Romantics is equanimity or balance. While Beethoven achieved this as an artist, he didn’t achieve it as a person. One of Beethoven’s greatest gifts that you don’t hear about enough was his genius for orchestration – balancing the registers of the piano or orchestra.


Humor, especially, tempers Fours’ emotional swings and helps them stay in the present. Beethoven called some of his minuets Scherzo’s, which means a joke. The 3rd movement of Opus 2 #2 expresses the Four’s playful side and some typically Four-ish longing.


How Beethoven’s personality and music relate to Enneagram Type Five, The Observer.
I’m a Five, an Observer. Sometimes we’re accused of staying too private, hiding, and putting off taking action while we collect more information. This is why they say our passion is that we are stingy.


Though we’re no more nor less neurotic than any other type, some people apparently think liking to be alone is a pathological condition. (See THE HAPPY INTROVERT for more about this subject.) Beethoven had a Five wing, liked to be alone, and, like most Fives, was curious about what philosophers and other thinkers of the day were saying. He felt bad that his education had stopped when he was 13 and tried to make up for it by reading Shakespeare, Goethe, Kant, and other literature.


The simple and gentle melody in the right hand of the first movement of Sonata opus 27 reminds me of the unrevealing poker-faces we Five-Observers often wear. Underneath, our minds are active, as represented by the lively runs in the left hand. Soon the emotions we usually try to downplay, what sounds to me like frustration, leaks out.


We Observers can grow by not keeping so much in and by transcending our fears. In Enneagram theory, this is referred to as the virtue of non-attachment.


When my Eight-Asserter arrow works for me, I have the confidence to speak up and say what’s on my mind. Music can help Fives become more aware of their bodies and the outside world. It can also help us feel appreciated; when we recognize ourselves in certain quiet, restrained, and subtle music, we feel there is a place for us in the Universe.

The Five’s other arrow is the Seven, which I enjoy a lot and which contributes to many Fives’ whimsical sense of humor.


How Beethoven’s personality and music relate to Enneagram Type Six, The Questioner.
The first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata opus 57 has the anxious feeling that, to me, corresponds to Enneagram type Six.


Underlying all those questions a Six will ask is the passion of fear. Beethoven experienced fear from losing his hearing, which eventually totally failed him. He ended up communicated for several years by writing in notebooks. Sixes can be made jumpy and nervous by little changes in the environment, not to mention by their own thoughts. We get back to the question, could Beethoven be a Six instead of a Four? He did frequently distrust his friends, possibly because of his deafness, had a restless and contradictory personality (kind one minute, mean-spirited the next, for example), and had bouts of indecision, typical traits of the Six. Also, one Six subtype is especially artistic. However, because of Beethoven’s heart wound and because he preferred feelings and subjectivity over other standards, I stick to my guess that he was a Four-Romantic. In addition, his father’s influence surely accounted for some of his mistrust, since he was mistrustful himself and was known to drink too much and to punish his son severely.


Questioners’ virtue of courage demands that they act even though they’re afraid. Music can help stimulate them to action by changing their mood. The 3rd movement of Op 31 #2 is an antidote for anxiety. It has a slightly nervous quality, in keeping with the Questioner’s personality, but its regular phrase lengths and slowly changing harmony give it calmness and stability. Sixes become more mellow, relaxed, and trusting when they access their Nine -Peacemaker arrow and zero in on their goals with the help of their Three-Achiever arrow.


How Beethoven’s personality and music relate to Enneagram Type Seven, The Adventurer.
Some of us spend our lives searching for pleasure and new experiences. The goal of this seventh type, the Adventurer, is to avoid the darker feelings that fueled Beethoven’s creativity, such as suffering and loneliness. They have a passion of wanting more and more.


Beethoven himself had the Seven-ish trait of liking to play pranks on people. Wit, humor, and lightheartedness, the Adventurer’s defenses, appear often in his music. This personality type is about as far from Beethoven’s personality as you can get, however.
In the first movement of Sonata Opus 2 #2 Beethoven clowns around. It starts out with a two-note motive that says “look at me!” followed by a silly run and a descending broken chord. Then it scoots off in another direction, which is typical of an Adventurer.Adventurers like to live on the edge. Some love to chase and be chased. The first movement of Beethoven’s Op 31 #1 sounds like squirrels chasing each other.


The virtue for Adventurers is sobriety. Since dealing with yearning and accepting suffering and disappointment isn’t something we can do overnight, a sonata, that combines lightness and seriousness, is a good place to start: The first movement of opus 31#3 begins in a melancholy way with a longing bell-like motive. The mood changes to playful… and back again. Moods and themes jump all over the keyboard. The virtue of sobriety has more appeal to the Seven when it alternates with playfulness.


The goal of Adventurers is to be able to sustain sobriety and concentration a little longer so they can accomplish their goals while remaining true to themselves. This is helped by accessing the healthy sides of their One and Five arrows.

How Beethoven’s personality and music relate to Enneagram Type Eight, The Asserter.
Eight-Asserters KNOW what they want! And they want it right now!


They see what needs to be done, but sometimes they see in black and white. Beethoven wasn’t an Eight, but his master teachers may have characterized him this way at times. He could be hot-tempered.
Eights love the truth and become obsessed with policing people and acting tough. They are grounded in their bodies and lust for all that life has to offer – thus the passion of lust.


It is often difficult to remember that the Asserter’s tough exterior is protecting a delicate and vulnerable core. The first movement of Beethoven’s innovative last sonata (opus 111) is rich, lusty, and brutal. You can hear the Eight’s tender underbelly in the middle of this sonata that begins and ends with crashing raw power.
I used to feel alienated and frightened by some Asserters. When I observed how much anger is projected onto them, I began to see them in a more complex and realistic way. Beethoven left his home of Bonn, Germany, at 22 and moved to Vienna. He was unpopular with his master piano teachers for being obstinate and arrogant. Haydn called him “the great Mogul.” When Goethe met him, he called him “an utterly untamed character.” Sometimes Eights are characterized this way, too. They often don’t care about manners or actually like to shock people.


The Eight-Asserter’s virtue is innocence. “Innocence” here means letting oneself feel touched by a simple, pure, and awesome work of art. When Asserters develop spiritually, they become more soft, vulnerable, and flexible – and learn to accept the world in all its complexity. Rather than using their strength for personal gain, they help, protect, and empower others.

How Beethoven’s personality and music relate to Enneagram Type Nine, The Peacemaker.
Peacemakers, sometimes called mediators, can see many points of view. While some other types create chaos around them, Peacemakers try to maintain balance. Keeping things pleasant is very important to them, so they often develop great skill at friendship and understanding. Their compulsion or passion is to forget about their own importance and their own needs.

While Peacemakers want to feel laid back and seem mellow to others, they aren’t always that peaceful deep down inside.


Beethoven wrote a lot of movements in a relaxed, calm, and anchored Nine-ish style that we associate with this type. Most of his first movements begin powerfully, but now and then one will begin in a relatively rambling and unassuming way, in the style of many Nines.

We rarely experience the Peacemaker’s stubbornness. But when they do expresses anger consciously and directly, it is usually good for them. This is what those of us who are friends of Peacemakers have been waiting for. When Peacemakers remove their rose colored glasses, they are able to act freely in a wider range of situations – what’s referred to as the virtue of right-action.

***

After he finished his final piano sonata, Beethoven lived for five more years, in which he completed his Ninth Symphony, wrote his late string quartets, and composed some piano pieces, including the opus 126 Bagatelles and the Diabelli Variations.


While all nine types of the Enneagram can be found in Beethoven’s music, some of his pieces reach beyond personality and express the spirit of timeless essence. Listening to Beethoven’s music I feel glad I’m alive and that some of our fellow humans were capable of such exalted creativity.

Writing classical music uses all nine styles simultaneously,

by calling on:


The perfectionist (1) for discipline, principles of style, and expressing exactness, clarity, and drive.
The helper (2) for a harmonizing attitude and expressing relatedness. Some of Beethoven’s music expresses love and tenderness.
The achiever (3) for working hard and expressing high energy, quickness, and perpetual motion.
The romantic (4) for heartfelt communication with the audience; for expressing a wide range of emotions, including beauty, tragedy, and longing. Beethoven was also famous for improvising on the piano. If I could go back into history, I’d give anything to listen to one of these sessions.
The observer (5) for complex music analysis and applying sensitivity, subtlety, and nuance. Beethoven used his 5 wing.
The questioner (6) for keen listening, musical intelligence, and expressing nervousness, anxiety, and conflict. This applies to Beethoven.
The adventurer (7) for expressing quickness, humor, joy, lightness, enthusiasm, the trickster, and playfulness. This applies to Beethoven.
The asserter (8) for a no-nonsense attitude and decisiveness; for expressing anger and power. This applies to some of Beethoven’s music.
The peacemaker (9) for perceiving the whole orchestra, all the registers of a piano, or all the voices of a fugue; for mellow, sweet, or pastoral feelings.
***
The MBTI: Using the psychological preferences in performing music
As the following shows, it takes all eight preferences used simultaneously to be a musician:

introverted feeling to respond emotionally to the piece of music and to make judgments about how to perform it, extraverted feeling to communicate feeling and style to the audience, introverted thinking for analyzing the form and historical style.

extraverted thinking to communicate these elements to the audience introverted sensation to apply one’s inner life to subjectively interpret the music, extraverted sensation to communicate the sound and style clearly and objectively.

introverted intuition for insights into the structure of the music and imagining possible interpretations, extraverted intuition to express oneself, to be creative and for spontaneity, as if making up the music as one goes along.

perceiving for being open and responsive to new ideas and feelings about the music, judging for settling on one’s own style and interpretation.


The audience listens and experiences the feeling-states of the composer and performer by means of its introverted feeling. The appreciation is expressed by means of the audience’s extraverted feeling.

The Beethoven Enneagram page – find out about the CD where you can hear these and other examples of Beethovens piano sonatas that reflects his personality type.

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