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Enneagram Type Two Explained

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

A Complete Guide to Enneagram Type 2


If you or someone you know is always giving their time and attention to the needs of others, rarely talks about their own needs, is compassionate, people-pleasing, and occasionally explodes with resentment when they feel unappreciated, then they may be a Type Two Helper.


If you’ve tested or been told by others that you’re a Type Four, Six, or Nine, but you're not quite sure, then video may help confirm or change your thinking, as those three types often mistype themselves as Twos. You can also reach out to schedule an Enneagram type consulting call.


Major Personality Traits


The Enneagram Type Two is nicknamed The Helper because they are driven by a deep desire to give and receive love through acts of service. They are consumed with the need to be needed. Helpers can be extremely generous, nurturing, and compassionate. They’re tricky because some Helpers have a genuine desire to help people, and others just know that it looks good to help people, while what they really just want is for people to love and affirm them. Like everything in the Enneagram system, it all depends on how healthy they are.


Twos find their purpose in life by fulfilling the needs of others, which drives them to be very committed to their relationships. Most of the time, that’s their close friends and immediate family; however, Twos take pride in being able to love people from all walks of life. Twos are probably the most interested in relationships of all the Enneagram types because relationships are where you find and feel love. It’s also why Twos are known for their love of pets, because often pets are the easiest way to feel as though you’re both loved and needed.


The Two's desire to serve and love others if often tainted by the Two's core flaw: their subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) sense of pride. The average Two serves others because they inherently believe that they are in a better place than those they serve. Twos feel as if they have something you and I need. It could be something as harmless as needing a hug or a compliment, but that means they’re currently in a better, stronger place than the person they’re serving.


Twos find their pride hard to acknowledge and accept because they are well-practiced when it comes to self-deception, especially if they have a Three wing. Twos see themselves in a very positive light and believe that they have nothing but the best of intentions. However, insecure Twos set themselves up in a vicious cycle of codependent relationships by enabling self-destructive behaviors in loved ones in order to ensure that they’ll always be in a position to provide, and to be needed by a less capable person.


Ultimately, healthy Twos are the perfect example of the unconditionally loving parent and are people you want in your corner when shit hits the fan because they have the deepest understanding of what it means to truly love somebody, as well as how to make wise sacrifices for the good of others.


Childhood


As we explore Enneagram childhood experiences, we take into account both Nature and Nurture. We are all born with a specific temperament, psychologically speaking. But the way our primary caregivers raise us has a great deal of influence on how that temperament is expressed as adults.


In their earliest years, Twos embodied the traits of Type Four Individualists because they felt as though they were inherently special. They were not burdened by a sense of responsibility yet, and so they felt far more whimsical and imaginative. This is why Twos go to Four in health, or integration, because it’s a return to their most pure, ego-free traits.


The Two's defining childhood experience centers around feeling rejected by their father figure. This doesn’t have to be some intense or even obvious rejection.

And the father figure doesn’t even have to be the biological father, it’s more about the person who embodies the classic paternal traits of authority, guidance, and strength. This paternal rejection can be caused by things like having a sibling with special needs that draws the father’s attention away, or a financial hardship that makes the paternal figure focused on their job and working to provide financially for the family. The Two responded to this by trying to play the role of mom in order to get dad's attention or affection. Deep down they feel like if dad needs their help, then they'll always have dad's attention.


While some Twos may not resonate with this experience on a conscious level, the undeniable experience on a subconscious level is that as children, love did not feel unconditional all the time. Twos felt like love had to be earned, and since Twos love feeling loved, they learned to do everything they could to earn it. Twos will live the rest of their lives with a deep desire to serve and be loved by the paternal, or authoritative figures in their lives and they’ll do this by leaning into more traditionally maternal or supportive roles.


Wings


Every Enneagram type has what’s known as a “wing”--it’s simply an overlap of traits with the personality type directly to the left or to the right of your primary type. So Type Twos can either have a One wing or a Three wing. You always have a stronger leaning toward one wing over the other at any given time in your life.


The SERVANT

Enneagram 1 wing 9

When Twos have a dominant One wing, they’re called the servant. This is an interesting subtype because while Ones and Twos are both compliant types concerned with the rules and doing the right thing, they are polar opposites in the way they like to express themselves. Twos are in the heart triad, which makes them emotional, dramatic and highly interpersonal, whereas Ones are in the gut triad, so they're rigid, rational, and often impersonal.


Think of it like emotions vs.principles. The influence of the One wing makes Servants more altruistic, thoughtful, sharp, and far more concerned with serving behind the scenes than their counterpart--the Two wing Three (2w3)--who can be rather flamboyant about their service. The One wing drives Twos to express their deep love for others through selfless acts of moral service; again, for them it's about loving others by doing the right thing.


Sometimes 2w3's get mistyped as Sixes because of their adherence to rules and submission to authority, but the Two's core struggle is with a sense of shame rather than a subconscious wave of anxiety like Sixes--not to say Twos can’t have intense bouts with anxiety.


Servants struggle in a few distinct ways. If you've watched the episode or read the blog post on Type One Reformers, then it won't surprise you to hear that 2w1's also struggle with being judgmental and controlling because of their pride mixes with a strict sense of morality. Servants work in the background because they believe it's more noble, but also because they're very uncomfortable fighting for attention. This sets them up to become quite bitter because they long for people to see and appreciate their constant service, but they never speak up or show off in a way that would actually get them more attention. They so badly want to feel like they're significant to those they love or work with, but often start to resent them for not loving them enough for all that they do.


Ironically, Servants know that their bitterness is not morally right, so they repress it, and it can often cause stress related ailments or psychosomatic disorders in the body. On the healthy side, Servants are the ones leading charities, non-profits, volunteering after work, and becoming amazing parents and teachers. They readily give of their time and resources and can change people's lives with their warmth and kindness.


The HOST

Enneagram 1 wing 2

Hosts express their love for people by sharing their talents, be it cooking, performing, or (surprise surprise) hosting events. This subtype is a social powerhouse, as both Twos and Threes are highly relational and highly energetic. The Three wing adds heaps of charm, enthusiasm, and adaptability to the Two's inherent desire for human connection and relationship. It can even add a level of seduction, as Threes are political chameleons by nature, so Hosts have a keen eye for what attracts people to them and they know how to play their cards just right to draw in powerful or interesting people.


At their best, Hosts provide opportunities to be entertained, to laugh, and to heal from deep pain by participating in communal experiences within a very hospitable environment. However, average Two wing Threes (2w3) often care more about being perceived as friendly rather than actually being a friend, as one of their top fears is tied to losing social status. This is a huge difference between Hosts and Servants, because Servants care more about their morals than their social status. Hosts and Servants both crave the approval of their peers, it’s just that Hosts are far more aggressive and open about seeking public approval. This can make them look incredibly vain, especially if they fall into name dropping or not-so-humble-bragging.


It can be hard to tell what Hosts actually feel as they often exaggerate their emotions or flatter those they want approval from. Hosts can be irrationally positive people that overlook hard truths just keep the energy up and keep people smiling even if they’re dying on the inside. If the Two wing Three feels like they're being rejected or there's no hope of wooing someone over - they sometimes can erupt in a shocking display of verbal or physical aggression. When they hit their breaking point, that strong interpersonal energy they use to charm people is instead used instead to repel them. Despite the dark side, which we all have one, Twos with a Three wing can be incredibly hospitable, fun-loving and inclusive.


Integration & Disintegration


The concept of a movement toward integration and disintegration is a central teaching of the Enneagram. It’s the idea that we embody the traits of other personality types depending on how healthy we are.


Disintegrated TWOs

Enneagram 1 disintegration to type 4

If you look at the actual lines of theEnneagram, you can see that Type Two is connected to Type Four and Type Eight. Their movement of disintegration is to Type Eight. So when Twos are not in a healthy state, they start to embody the most unhealthy characteristics of the Type Eight Challenger. Since Twos normally repress their negative emotions or harsh reactions, this movement to Eight is pretty unmistakeable. Type Eight is called the Challenger because they’re wired to move against things and people in order to establish their identity. So when Twos disintegrate to Eight, their patience finally deteriorates and they get bossy, dramatic, and aggressive with anyone who doesn’t seem to appreciate them.

Integrated TWOs

Enneagram 1 movement of integration to type 7

But when Twos are mature and grounded, they embody the healthiest characteristics of the Type Four Individualist. Individualists are masters are riding the emotional waves of life through all the good times and the bad times. Whereas average Type Two Helpers try to put a positive spin on everything and are very uncomfortable with the dark side of life, their movement of integration to Type Four looks like the Helper becoming more at peace with the harsh reality of life. They stop trying to give advice to people in pain and instead they can just sit in the awkward silence of not knowing what to do or say to make a situation better. Much like the movement of disintegration to Type Eight brings up aggressive or negative emotions, so too does the movement of integration to Type Four. But in this case, the Helper chooses to acknowledge and embrace those negative emotions rather than having them explode out subconsciously like a rocket.


Instincts


The Enneagram instincts describe the most basic ways we function in our daily lives. The pattern normally goes that we operate out of one primary instinct, then our secondary instinct really just serves the first, and the last instinct is usually repressed due to some formative experience we had growing up.


The three instincts are the self-preservation instinct, the social instinct, and the sexual instinct.


Self-Preservation

The self-preservation instinct is all about our physical or material well-being. So when an average Type Two is driven by their self-preservation instinct, they tend to sacrifice their physical well being in the service of others.


The Helper’s core desire is to serve and feel needed by others, and this is often at the expense of what they themselves need. If the Two's primary instinct is self-preservation, then their tendency will be to neglect their physical health, finances, and the overall quality of their material possessions.


Subconsciously, they resent that no one is taking care of them the way they're taking care of other people. Many self-preservation Twos struggle with their weight because food or drink is how they reward themselves for the ways they sacrifice their needs for the good of others. Self-preservation Twos can become hypochondriacs because they know their health is deteriorating and their anxiety is fed by their inability to ask for help. At their best, however, self-preservation Twos are great at practicing self-care, and cultivating warm, hospitable environments in which they are willing to share all of their resources with anyone in need.


Social

Twos with a social instinct can often be mistyped for Type Seven Enthusiasts because they exude positivity, constantly coordinate group hangouts, and love to travel on a regular basis. However, their core desire is far different than the Type Seven that just loves having a good time for the sake of a good time. Twos with a social instinct are driven to be seen and appreciated by people, so taking on the role of the host or event planner gives them a built-in role within the group where they can never be rejected because after all it's their party! The social instinct ensures that Twos will never be left out, and most of the time this instinct is paired with the Three wing, which is why they're called "The Host."


Twos with a social instinct are very concerned about connecting with the most influential, powerful, or famous people in their ecosystem. This can make them look a little off-putting to other Type Twos, especially introverted Twos with a One wing, because it looks like a shameless attempt to attach themselves to prominent figures rather than appreciating those who work behind the scenes like the Two wing One does.

Social Twos can take advantage of folks, either intentionally or unintentionally, by constantly asking for favors from "lower worth" individuals in order to serve their desire to be seen by "higher worth" individuals.

It's all driven by the social Twos' deep desire to impress people. They feel insignificant at their core--so they have to namedrop, perform a special skill, or give out unsolicited advice to their peers so that people will be wowed by all that the Two knows or has accomplished or is connected to. The big problem with this behavior is that most people see right through it. The more type Twos keep toxic people around them just because they're rich or famous or attractive, the more everyone else slowly starts to back away from the Two and eventually they manifest their core fear of being rejected by their community.


However, when social Twos are healthy, they are masters at staying connected to people they've met, no longer how brief the encounter, and they are tireless in their pursuit of true, vibrant community.


Sexual

Twos with a sexual instinct are what The Enneagram Institute calls "true intimacy junkies." They want intimacy on a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual level. Sexual Twos take what social Twos do with groups and instead focus it on one or two key individuals. They idolize the people they choose and make that relationship responsible for all their self-worth and purpose in life. This makes sexual Twos very prone to jealousy and clinginess. It also makes them neglect their own sexual identity in order to satisfy what the people they love want.


Sexual Twos can have a hard time receiving sexual pleasure because it feels so overtly selfish. And on the flipside, they give sexual pleasure not out of a sense of true love, but out of a desperate fear of rejection.


Sexual Twos need to understand that when they're stressed out or sad that they will tend to feel "not close enough" or "disconnected from" the ones they love. A sexual Two's reaction will be to rebuke their loved ones for not caring enough, but the solution is not to become a low-key stalker or bossy jerk. It's the exact opposite. Sexual Twos are at their best when they realize that love and intimacy are fostered in an atmosphere of freedom and unhurried time.


Overall, sexual Twos are very committed, interested, and dedicated to their loved ones. They set standard for all ride-or-die relationships.


Triads


There are actually three triads within the Enneagram. These triads all group personality types based on shared behaviors that can really help you to understand why you’re so similar in one area and so different in another. The three Enneagram triads are the Triad Centers, the Harmonic Triad, and the Hornevian triad.


Enneagram 1s as part of the Gut or Body Triad Center

Triad Centers

The triad centers describe the primary way each personality type processes their experiences. Twos are in the Heart Triad alongside Type Three Achievers and Type Four Individualists. Heart types processes the world around them primarily through their emotions. While each heart type is guided by their emotions, they’re often unaware of their true feelings because they have a great deal of shame surrounding their emotions. Twos are ashamed of their emotional needs, so they tend to repress any negative feelings in favor of over-expressing positive ones. They present an image to the world around them that everything is ok even if their house is going up in flames. This also ties into their place within the Harmonic Triad.


Harmonic Triad

The Harmonic Triad is all about the way we cope with pain, uncertainty, or trauma. The three groups within the Harmonic Triad are the Competency Group, the Reactive Group and the Positive Outlook Group, which is where Twos live along with Type Seven Enthusiasts and Type Nine Peacemakers. Helpers cope with pain and setbacks by saying “Hey, let’s look on the bright side of things. It could be worse! Cheer up!” Sometimes this is an extremely helpful form of positivity and gratitude, and other times it's a really annoying, self-deceptive way of escaping reality so they don't have admit how dark and difficult life can be.


Hornevian Triad

The Hornevian Triad describes the way each type behaves in social situations. The three groups are the Compliant Group, the Assertive Group, and the Withdrawn Group. Type Twos are in the Compliant Group along with Type One Reformers and Type Six Loyalists. Compliant types focus on appeasing authority in social situations, and Twos do this by serving the leader of the group. Twos are the ones helping to clean up at the end of the party even though you didn’t ask them to because they want to ensure you’ll invite them back. They're especially attuned to helping whoever is in charge of a given situation which can make them look like Sixes at times because they're loyal to leadership and authority. Again this ties into the childhood experience of being a servant to the paternal or authoritative figure.


Practical Exercises

The Enneagram is incredibly critical and it touches on the most sensitive areas of our lives. That’s because it’s foundational belief is that the ego, or what most people call your personality, is just the YOU you’ve become to survive in this world.


There’s a layer below your ego called your essence, or your “true self.” Think about it like becoming the best version of your personality. Either way, the only process to get that true self out of you is to become aware of that top layer of your ego so that you can make healthy choices to either identify with it or transcend it.


Here are a few ways Type Two Helpers can choose work on transcending their ego:

  1. Self Care: It's like the old analogy of how you're supposed to put on your own oxygen mask first during a plane crash and then you help the people next to you. Some of the unhealthiest people I know are always trying to help other people because it's a form of avoiding their own problems. Twos need to take regular care of themselves, not just splurging on a spa day once a year. Intense swings between running themselves into the ground then vegging out on the couch doesn’t produce long term growth or healing. They need regular practices of self-care where they get alone with themselves to feel their feelings and acknowledge their own needs.

  2. Alone Time: Alone time is also key because you'll need it to check your motives. Twos often lie to themselves about why they're helping others, so alone time can help Twos be honest about why they're serving others and what they expect in return. It's almost better to not serve someone at all then to try and manipulate them into needing or loving you.

  3. Respect "no needs": Before Twos begin serving, it's important to ask people what they actually need. And if people say "no thanks, I'm good," Twos need to listen to them. Twos can often pester people like a nagging parent hovering around searching for things to do for them. It may be a profound act of patience at times, but it's really important to let people ask for help. Sometimes it's sweet that you intuited what they needed, but it can stunt people's emotional growth because they never learn how to be vulnerable enough to ask for help.

  4. Allow Space: Twos can often keep people weak in order to feel needed. Part of truly loving someone is allowing them to be strong, to be independent, and to potentially leave the relationship if that's what they need. Twos can be controlling all under the guise of "just trying to help." When people push back on the Twos control, it's vital that the Two not use their long list of generous deeds as a weapon. Twos should have a big, loud radar for anything that comes out of their mouth that sounds like "I can't believe you would do XYZ after I all that I did for you." Score keeping is like cancer for the Type Two ego. If you let it spread it will literally ruin the greatest gifts you have to offer.


Bonus Fluff


🇮🇹 Country: Think about warm, home cooked meals, and a deep sense of hospitality--it's Italy!


🐕🫏 Spirit Animal: It’s the puppy! More specifically the licking puppy and the donkey is also another suitable answer.


✨ Famous Type Twos: Desmond Tutu and Mother Theresa in the real world; fictional characters include The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Ted Lasso


🦸 Marvel: In the Marvel Universe, it’s none other than your friendly neighborhood Spiderman.



SOURCES: Much of this information comes from an amalgamation of sources, but the primary source of this information comes from the works of Russ Hudson and Don Riso of the Enneagram Institute (The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Personality Types, Understanding the Enneagram), followed by Richard Rohr's The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, and Helen Palmer's The Enneagram in Love & Work.

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