Enneagram Twos, let me take care of you for a moment. I know it will be uncomfortable. This conversation about Christian Twos in therapy will acknowledge you in all the love and service that you pour out. I had a special conversation with a friend to help me write this. She is a Two, is currently in therapy, and graduated from seminary with me. I hope you feel seen.
You’ll want to catch the introduction to this series on the Enneagram so you will understand my thoughts about its use in Christian circles. You’ll also want to check out the descriptions of Twos, known as the Helper, the Giver, or the Supportive Adviser. You can find them at the Enneagram Institute and Your Enneagram Coach. As you can tell by the nicknames for Twos, they are very relational and find their sense of self in what they offer other people.
Why Do Twos Go to Therapy?
Twos make it a priority to have everyone else in their lives doing well and having their needs met. Their own needs are sort of an afterthought. At the same time, Twos can start to feel resentful when they are constantly pouring out without anyone else noticing their needs. Since they care so deeply for other people, it’s hard for them to understand that others might not even notice their needs. Twos may enter therapy when they perceive it to be better for their loved ones if they go. For example, if a child or spouse can’t start healing and changing without the Two taking a look at some issues, he or she will go to therapy in order to serve the other person.
Another reason a Two might enter therapy is because she is so frazzled by taking care of everyone but herself. Her lack of self-care has become a real issue, and might even present in physical complaints. Therapy is a luxury for many people, and a Two might sacrifice this opportunity in order for someone else in the family to have it.
Designing Therapy for Twos
My helpful Two friend gave me lots of insight about what is working for her and what she is thinking about during therapy. Twos may be worried about burdening the therapist. Even though they know that therapy is more of a one-sided relationship, Twos want the therapist to have a good experience, too. They want the therapist to get something out of their time together and also to like them as a person. This is the same problem that may have brought them into therapy. It is difficult to receive help, especially when they have an internal set of scales that is constantly calculating the indebtedness of one party or the other. Therapists will need to find a delicate balance of allowing the client to express their care for the therapist while reassuring and redirecting the client towards their own goals for therapy.
Twos, like other over-functioning Enneagram types, need to know that their value does not come from what they do or in their relationship to others. From a humanist perspective, clients can use self-love approaches and other self-exploration techniques to find a stronger sense of identity. Even more valuable is the Christian’s ability to find identity in Christ, His finished work on the cross, and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. My friend told me that she really appreciates all the validation that her therapist gives her. “It makes sense that you would want to disengage after a thirteen hour day with the kids and no breaks.” Therapists can normalize this human experience and point clients to the sufficiency of God’s grace.
Twos and the Gospel
Type 2 clients who are also Christians have an additional layer of weight added from their interpretation of Scripture. Passages in the Bible that talk about putting others first and dying to yourself can validate their tendencies. At the same time, they offer an excuse not to set boundaries. Sometimes Twos pour out when they really would rather not. This makes their sacrifices dishonest in a way and leads to resentment. Christian clients can benefit from capable Christian therapists expanding their view of these Scriptures. We can balance them with other passages that show God’s use of boundaries and limits for His children. I think of passages in the Gospels where we see Jesus retreating to be alone with His Father. Twos need to be given permission to take care of their personal and spiritual needs. The oxygen mask metaphor is useful here: you can be more helpful to your child if you put on your own mask first. Another saying, you can’t pour from an empty cup, is similar.
The core longing that drives Twos is to be loved, appreciated, and wanted. They get caught up in doing so much for other people to prove that they are worthy of these things. Jesus as the Good Shepherd and as the Lamb is the answer to this core longing. Jesus takes care of our every need. He also showed us how wanted we are when He died so that we could be with Him forever. The more Twos start to internalize this truth, the less they need external affirmation. Then they no longer have to over-function for other people.
Tell Me about Twos
There are some things I definitely see in myself when I read about Twos. But I’m noticing that there aren’t a whole lot of Twos on my caseload. This reminds me of something my friend said, that therapy is really good for lots of other peoples’ problems. They are so concerned about other people getting help that they might not see their own need for therapy. So how about you? What are your experiences as a Two or with loved ones and clients that are Twos? I hope you’ll join the conversation here in the comments, or hit me up on the socials @soulgritresources.