The Romantic Personality

From "The Career Within You" by Stabb and Wagele

From “The Career Within You” by Stabb and Wagele

The Romantic type in the Enneagram is known for its gifts of compassion, admiring and often being able to produce great beauty, and being sensitive to nuances of moods. “Healthy 4-Romantics are capable of a depth of feeling most of us have no access to… {They can] express something universally valid. William Shakespeare and T. S. Eliot are examples of poets in whom the great emotions have been so purified and shaped by discipline that they remain valid for all time. Redeemed Romantics are better than most others at understanding and guiding people in psychic distress. They are not intimidated by the difficult, complicated, or dark feelings of others since they themselves have lived through it all.” (From The Enneagram – A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert.)

Romantics are also known for noticing who has more than they have—whether talent, style, attention, class, good taste, or wonderful belongings. If you ever writhed while you watched a fellow worker get attention he/she didn’t deserve and hoped their reward would be taken away, you were probably feeling envy. From The Career Within You: “Romantics are familiar with the all-consuming experience of feeling resentful from wanting what another has. Haythorp is tall, handsome and a brilliant, top-notch speaker on science. The ladies all puff themselves up when he comes in the room. He has what Evan wishes he had and Evan envies him for it.

A mathematician acquaintance set out to prove the most difficult problem Helga had ever seen. She had thought she could prove this theorem after just a little more preparation, but this guy seemed to have so much more innate talent than she, no training would ever compensate. Most of their friends were content to be in awe of his abilities, but she found herself seething with negative emotion.

Loki envies a former good friend who sometimes out-shined him performing music. Unfortunately, their friendship suffered when they marked their progress off of each other. Loki wished they could get past their egos and help each other by collaborating. He said, ‘It’s a shameful indulgence, but my confidence was based on my sense of being better than those around me, so that I would stand out for being good at what I do.’”

Of course, all the Enneagram types can suffer from envy and all the Enneagram types can be compassionate, but they will not usually expresses these traits with the depth of feeling of the Romantic.


Guest blog by Charlotte Melleno: “If you cry, I will never tell you how I feel.” Part III



This story about an Enneagram 5-Observer type from The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear, and Dying  is infused by the feelings and style if its Enneagram 4-Romantic author.

When Frank was first diagnosed, I asked if Don could help him. He said, “Don has to take care of his mother, and besides, we don’t love each other.” I said, “That’s baloney. He loves you and I think your willingness to spend ten years of Saturday nights with anyone is, in some way, a love connection for you.” He never really admitted that, but the week before his death he told me how grateful he felt to Don for all his support and how surprised he was at Don’s generosity. Frank was so fearful of being encroached on by anyone and was so suspicious of people’s love for him, he barely gave it credence. He found rejection and struggle a headier and more exciting, albeit painful, experience.

He talked with us about his funeral arrangements and intended to look into Hospice and make a will. All of this was normal Frank, tried and true.

What surprised me was the person who emerged after he was given the news—an open and unguarded man—one I had rarely seen since we first met him thirty-six years prior in an encounter group at San Francisco State. His father, a high-ranking officer, who didn’t meet Frank until his second birthday, had denigrated his early, loving relationship to his mother, and called him a sissy when Frank showed more interest in books and music than sports. Since his father put down self-expression and his mother took any expression of negative feelings personally, he had developed a poker face by the time he was six. Then, the fledgling human potential movement opened Frank briefly to a beautiful vulnerability that I fell in love with. Now, these two Franks braided together in an unusual manner. Once unwilling to express his needs for fear of indicating weakness, he now drew up a list of simple house rules for visitors, beginning with a brief explanation of his illness. He asked for help in an assertive and direct manner:

Please put food back in the refrigerator exactly where you found it.

Please hang up any clothes, books, or items you may have moved during your visit.

Please take down the trash when you leave.


At the time, I’d been ill for almost four years and many household chores had become difficult, but I never thought to hand out a list to my friends asking them to be mindful in order to ease my physical suffering. He was teaching me something about being entitled to ask for help.

More surprising was how the news shook the starch out of him and loosened his tongue. He began to talk with other people in an easy, eager, and comfortable manner. Our mutual friends had never seen him so easy-going nor heard him disclose his feelings in such a vulnerable manner, accompanied by dark humor.

He had never cared much about money nor saved for retirement and only began to make more than a living wage in the last ten years of his life. His main ride at sixty-six was still a motorcycle. He didn’t own property and had feared that once he grew old he’d have to depend on the kindness of friends or move into a senior residence like the one he had managed as a facilities director in his early forties. It would take more than his social security to feed his love of travel, learning, and adventure. He had retired as a young man—having adventures, visiting exotic countries—and only buckled down when our son was born shortly before his fortieth birthday. “There’s a certain relief in going out before I have to worry about how I’ll support my old age.”

I realized I had passed his test when I didn’t cry after he told me his diagnosis. Over the next month, he called me more often than he had in the previous six. Sometimes, just to give me the news of the day; the family member he had told, how different it felt to connect with other people, the internal freedom he had never known. The watchfulness deep in the back of his skull was gone.

“I spoke to Mary Lou yesterday,” he said, referring to his closest Aunt, who had, herself, been living and dying with lung cancer over the past year. “After she got sick, I began to call less and less. I didn’t know what to say. Poor Mary Lou.” They had been so close when he was small. She was only twelve years older, his father’s little sister. “Now, we’re like Chatty Kathy,” a talking doll from the nineteen-fifties, “We don’t want to stop.”

I heard the pleasure in his voice and realized he was also talking about us. “No one else knows what to do with me,” he said. “They’re all giving me advice. I’m just delighted with you.” Shortly after, I received a text, “…a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.” These acts of tender openness meant the world to me. It was as if his dying had opened a vault, a safety deposit box.


Charlotte Melleno is a Marriage and Family Therapist living in San Francisco CA.

Read Part IV of on this blog, the last installment, on December 25.

Visit Elizabeth’s updated web site to check out her books, CD, articles on Beethoven and introverts, cartoons  and videos, and Famous Types page.

Read What I Learned about Prisons at My School Reunion and “The Enneagram as a Standard for the DSM” in Elizabeth’s recent Psychology Today blogs.

Save the date for  FINDING OUR WAY HOME February 9, 2013 in Chicago with Elizabeth and Ruthie Landis. A day long workshop. Please see

On May 25, Memorial Day weekend, Saturday at 7:30, Elizabeth will speak in the South Bay Area in California. Save that date too.

“Two Guns” Part III (final) – Guest Blog by Mario Sikora

Mario's sons

Mario’s sons

Mario Sikora is an Enneagram 8, an Asserter type. This is one of the stories in Chapter 8 on Asserters in “The Enneagram of Death– Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear and Dying” by Elizabeth Wagele. In parts I & II on this site, we found out Mario’s cardiologist had said, “It could be no big deal, or it could be something like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

I often travel on business. Once, toward the end of a three-week trip, Alexei, son number three, said, “Mommy, I’m starting to forget what Daddy looks like a little.” Alexei is five now but he was only three during those twelve days. After three weeks the memory gets a little fuzzy; what happens in three years, or ten?

Sure, I could make one of those “dying-dad” videos, but I always imagine they end up in a closet somewhere, unwatched, or watched as something obligatory and oddly historical. My wife would tell them fond stories for a while, but life would go on and the stories would become less and less frequent and eventually stop. What terrified me was that I had not had enough time with them to leave my mark on these four little boys who I cherished, that I wouldn’t be there to guide them and shape them, to pick them up and dust them off when they fell, to hold them when they needed it or push them when they didn’t think they could go on.

One afternoon Warren Zevon’s Keep Me in Your Heart shuffled onto my iPod in the car. At the line, “If I leave you it doesn’t mean I love you any less,” the dam broke. They wouldn’t understand and I feared they would hate me for not being there.

I feared my kami would wander alone, unbeckoned and unnoticed.

When the diagnosis arrived, it too was anti-climactic: enlarged lymph nodes, non-cancerous, consistent with sarcoidosis. I had a condition with no known cause and no known cure. “It can be fatal in African-Americans,” my pulmonologist said, “but typically it just shows up in some people and in a year or two it goes away. You’ll be fine. Stay away from saw dust and talcum powder.”

I have a scar at the base of my throat (which I jokingly tell people was from a knife fight if they ask). I saw the hospital bill that my insurance company paid. A quarter of a million dollars.

“Stay away from talcum powder.”

Six months later, the symptoms were gone.

I wish I could say something was different, that having stared into the abyss and survived I had some profound insight or made a significant change in the way I live my life. But life goes on pretty much as it did before.

My one aim, my one straight and true goal, is to last long enough to matter to my sons. I don’t feel an urgency to mold them like clay (St Paul’s potter I am not), but I’m acutely aware that every inadvertent moment leaves a mark, and gives the kami breath.

The quartet

The quartet

So every once in a while in the midst of the chaos when everyone is yelling and we’re in a hurry to get them out the door to school and son number one can’t find his shoes and son number four is flailing on the floor because he wants the car that son number three is playing with and son number two realizes he forgot to do his homework and says you know I don’t like jelly on my sandwiches, I take a moment to remember Sisyphus. I feel my muscles brought alive by the weight of the rock and my heels digging in to the dirt so as not to lose traction. I take a slow breath and I press my cheek against the cool, rough surface, losing awareness of where the rock stops and I start. In such moments all sounds are muffled, and everything happens—briefly—in slow motion. I look down the hill and see a long way to the bottom; I look ahead and see a long way to the top.

Feeling momentarily in on the joke, I raise my face to the gods and I smile.

Mario Sikora is an executive coach. He is the 2011-2012 president of the International Enneagram Association and he has an Enneagram certification program for professional users. Visit him at and

Please visit Elizabeth’s improved Famous types page and subscribe to this and her Psychology Today blog.

“Two Guns,” Part II, Guest Blog by Mario Sikora

Mario's sons

Mario’s sons

Mario Sikora is an Enneagram 8, an Asserter type.

This is one of the stories in Chapter 8 on Asserters in The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear and Dying by Elizabeth Wagele.

I hadn’t gotten used to the fact that there was someone in the world who I was calling “my cardiologist;” by Saturday afternoon I had an oncologist and a pulmonologist as well.

Five days in the hospital and seven more waiting for the results of the biopsy of the nodes scraped from my chest through an incision at the base of my neck. This provided a lot of time to think. Twelve days is a long time when you’re waiting for that kind of news.

My thoughts didn’t turn to the afterlife; I’d long ago stopped speculating on such things. The threat of hell and enticement of heaven had lost their efficacy when I was twenty. There is a certain appeal to Eastern notions of the dance of Shiva or recycling through continuing stages or of somehow becoming one with some universal consciousness, but we’re adults, right? So let’s be serious.

Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele

Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele

I can’t count the times I’ve read Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus.” Camus takes what others see as the bleakest of fates—Sisyphus condemned to endlessly push a rock up a hill only to let it roll back down and do it again—and turns it into something noble. Like each of us must do, Camus’ Sisyphus has come to terms with his fate, and thus “one must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

My view of the life after death had settled into what I like to think of as a mildly Shinto-istic existentialism: that we leave a mark on those things and people we interact with; they carry our memory, they are reshaped by our having come into contact. While our lights may go out when that last electrical spark emits from the brain, others carry us with them and the way we shaped them lingers on, and thus do we. Like Shinto’s “kami,” or spirits, the memory of us lurks in those we have touched, longing to be seen.

I met a man once who was wearing the shoes of his son who had died five years prior. I always thought of those shoes as the most sacred of shrines, an intimacy beyond the comprehension of most of us. Speculations on the afterlife feel hollow in the face of such acts.

On the occasion or two that thoughts about what happens next did cross my mind over the course of those twelve days, they passed quickly. Pascal’s Wager had always seemed a coward’s ploy to me and I wasn’t going to blink now.

So here were the choices–it could be no big deal, or I could be in for a long sickness and unpleasant treatment or I could be dying. The pain in my chest and shortness of breath that sent me to the doctor in the first place were real. They weren’t stress—sure I have stress, I’m self-employed, our fourth son had been born a few months earlier, but I’m not that way. So maybe it was no big deal, but it was something.

For the most part, I put it out of my mind. It seems like they shouldn’t, but the events of the day go on–and it is surprisingly easy to fill up the time and be distracted.

But I’ll let you in on something; I’ll tell you what woke me up at night, what filled me with terror and heartache and despair, what made me get in the car by myself and drive fast and scream until nothing more would come out and I thought my throat would bleed: the knowledge that my sons would forget me.

Read Part III (the final) of Two Guns Tuesday October 30.

Mario Sikora is an executive coach and the 2011-2012 president of the International Enneagram Association, and he has an Enneagram certification program for professional users. Visit him at and


Please visit Elizabeth’s improved Famous types page and subscribe to this and her Psychology Today blog.

“Two Guns,” Part I Guest Blog by Mario Sikora

Mario Now

Mario twenty years after the first gun incident.
Photo by Tanya Sikora.



This is one of the stories in Chapter 8 on Asserters in The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear and Dying by Elizabeth Wagele. Among other things Mario can’t control he copes with the possibility his sons will not be old enough to remember him if he dies now. Mario Sikora is an Enneagram 8, an Asserter type.

It sticks in your mind, I can tell you, the first time someone points a gun at you in anger.

More than twenty years ago but it feels like last night; the feel of the carpet under my bare feet, and smell of the bourbon on his breath. John, my housemate’s brother who was sleeping on the sofa until he got back on his feet, had been on the short-end of a bar fight and came back for his brother’s gun with the intention of settling the score. Roused from bed by his girlfriend’s screams, I went downstairs to see what was going on. When I got between him and the door he pointed the Browning Hi-Power 9 mm, a gun I well knew to be loaded, directly at my nose.

As I said, it sticks in your mind.

I wish I could say I had a more profound thought at that moment. Oddly enough, I’m writing this at an outdoor cafe off Boulevard des Philosophes in Geneva, home of Rousseau and Calvin, a long way from that Southwest Philly row home. Perhaps an insight on civility and society in honor of Rousseau, or more apropos, something on the perseverance of the saints or the ramifications of God’s hand in human affairs in honor of Calvin. (“Hath not the potter power over the clay…” as St. Paul wrote to the Romans.)

But all I could think at the time was: I refuse to die at the hands of this idiot.

I was younger then, of course. Fast and good with my hands. John was drunk so his reactions would be a little slow, maybe giving me a slight edge. But he was a bad drunk and I didn’t know how much time I had and I wasn’t waiting around to see which way things would go. I had coiled my legs just a little to get some spring and I was trying to shift my angle ever so slightly to see whether John had released the safety when he lowered the gun and eventually calmed down.

Anti-climactic, perhaps, but not when it’s you. I went to bed a little dizzy and wondering if I would have felt the impact of the bullet or if the lights just would have gone out.

Mario and his family

Mario and his family

The second gun pointed at me was metaphorical.

“It could be no big deal, or it could be something like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” my cardiologist said. “But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. On Monday I’ll call a pulmonologist I know–he’s very good–and we’ll get you in to see him as soon as we can.”

It was late on a Friday afternoon. Five minutes after I hung up I called him back.

“Doc, I’m not a sit-and-wait kind of guy. I won’t make it through the weekend just waiting. I need to do something today. Right now. This hour.”

I had gotten to know him over the preceding weeks, as one test after another had shown nothing to be wrong with my heart. But my symptoms were “troubling” to him and he kept looking. A CAT scan the previous day had proved irregular. Probably an Asserter himself, my cardiologist said, “Okay, go to the hospital, I’ll admit you. We’ll get some tests done over the weekend.”

Read Part II of Two Guns here Tuesday October 23.

Mario Sikora is an executive coach and the 2011-2012 president of the International Enneagram Association, and he has an Enneagram certification program for professional users. Visit him at and

Please visit Elizabeth’s improved Famous People page and subscribe to this and her other blog on Psychology Today.

When Heroes Die

Embracing Death

Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele

I visited my sister shortly after Marilyn Monroe died. A neighbor of hers in her twenties was a fan of Marilyn’s. The neighbor had long blond hair, was quite pretty, and had a husband and a small son. Within a week or so after Marilyn died, this young woman killed herself. I don’t know whether she was imitating Marilyn or couldn’t bear life without her hero. This death freaked me out. MM was a Romantic Enneagram type. The young mother probably was, too. My fantasy of what went on with this woman is that her dream of becoming Marilyn died when Marilyn died. I wonder…

When did you first learn what death was? When you heard about someone you knew who died – someone in your family or an acquaintance? Someone famous? When you witnessed the death of an animal or a person? From TV? Or did you intuit what the word meant without any experience of knowing something or someone who ceased to exist?

We had goldfish and turtles that died. Of course, flies died in our house, too. My mother showed those flies no mercy. Then Raid came out and we sometimes got caught in the crossfire. I gathered up a baby bird fallen out of its nest when I was around 5. No other bird could be seen anywhere around. I fed the tiny bird, made it a nest in a box, and tried my best to nurture it so it would grow strong and I could release it to nature again. But in a few days it died. I was crushed. Around the same time, my grandfather died 700 miles away. I had known him, but I don’t remember him. My father left as soon as he could but he couldn’t get there soon enough to attend the funeral.

I must have been only three years old when I saw the movie Bambi. It was the most awful experience I had had and I cried. Bambi ran really fast with his mother to escape monstrous hunters and she told him to hide, then she disappeared. This movie was tailor made to torture little children. I felt as sad about Bambi losing his mother as if I had lost my own mother. Maybe that’s why I felt like not growing up for a couple of years after that. I remember being more clingy than I wanted to be in those years, acting young while I really wanted to grow up. Maybe I was still afraid of losing my mother and didn’t quite know it. Maybe my confidence in nurturing myself weakened with the defeat of nurturing the bird. I wonder…

I introduced my new book, The Enneagram of Death, at the International Enneagram Association conference last weekend. I think people are interested in having conversations about death, bringing it out of the shadows as much as possible, trying to spread healthy attitudes about a subject our culture tries to deny.

At the end of Bambi he becomes a hero by fighting off dogs and saving his girlfriend. Then he gets shot by Man while jumping over a ravine. Eventually he escapes a terrible fire and goes to an island to take refuge with the other animals. He stands watch on a hill while his girlfriend gives birth to twins and the “Great Prince” man slinks away.

Our heroes inspire us to accomplish things. to practice succeeding, and to feel strong by identifying with them. Any type can be a hero, but the Asserter has probably internalized the archetype of hero more than most types and might try harder than most to be one. The Perfectionist, the Achiever, the Questioner, and the Adventurer would be heroes if given the opportunity. The Helper would love to be a hero. So would the Romantic and even the Observer could be a hero, not to mention the Peace Seeker. We’d all like to be a hero but have different fantasies of our favorite context for our heroism.

New book: “The Enneagram of Death”


When people ask me how I got the idea to write about death, I tell them I wanted to explore the differences in the ways the 9 Enneagram personality types feel and express their deep emotions. I was interested in the intensity of our feelings when we’re confronted with our own fear of death or when we’re  grieving or dying ourself, or close to someone who is dying.

Probably the first time I really understood the word death was when I was 5 or 6 and tried to save a tiny baby bird that had fallen out of a nest. I loved this little bird. I nursed it, hoping it would grow big and strong enough to release. But it died and I was devastated.

Death became a mystery to ponder, to fear, and to grapple with. My father and I discussed it together. My mother hated the subject. I couldn’t talk about it with her. How could she not be curious about death?

So early on, I found out death affects people in different ways. When the stories, essay, and poems for my book started coming in, some of the contributors had successfully healed great fear or grief and they did so by plunging themselves deeply into their feelings and coming out the other side. Some at first had taken refuge in defense mechanisms, but with the help of the Enneagram were able to perceive these defenses and change course. I found out the key to being less frightened is to let yourself feel deeply.

Many of us are afraid of our own demise and the loss of loved ones, though some of us may not realize it because we avoid thinking about the end of life. But neither fear nor avoidance changes death’s reality. A third relationship to death, however, exemplified in many of the contributions in this book, is to engage with it to the extent we overcome the fear. Then a precious new beginning is possible and we can release the energy previously held back by fear.

Some of the signs of resisting true feelings are:

• spacing out (taking drugs, excessive drinking, eating, TV, etc., so as to not feel anything),

• restlessness of the mind (distracting oneself by excessive worrying, fretting, pessimism, or inner torment), and

• excessive doing (keeping busy to avoid pain).

In a few cases, the subjects of the stories never do recognize they are avoiding feeling their true feelings; these stories are helpful, too.

This press release tells about the International Enneagram Association publishing The Enneagram of Death and includes some short reviews of the book. There’s also more information to the left of this blog.