May 14, 2014

The Enneagram & Prayer: Type Two

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The Caring, Interpersonal Type:

Generous, Demonstrative, People-Pleasing, and Possessive

Type Two in Brief

Twos are empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted. They are friendly, generous, and self-sacrificing, but can also be sentimental, flattering, and people-pleasing. They are well-meaning and driven to be close to others, but can slip into doing things for others in order to be needed. They typically have problems with possessiveness and with acknowledging their own needs. At their Best: unselfish and altruistic, they have unconditional love for others.

  • Basic Fear: Of being unwanted, unworthy of being loved
  • Basic Desire: To feel loved
  • Enneagram Two with a One-Wing: “Servant”
  • Enneagram Two with a Three-Wing: “The Host/Hostess”

Key Motivations: Want to be loved, to express their feelings for others, to be needed and appreciated, to get others to respond to them, to vindicate their claims about themselves.

The Meaning of the Arrows (in brief)

When moving in their Direction of Disintegration (stress), needy Twos suddenly become aggressive and dominating at Eight. However, when moving in their Direction of Integration (growth), prideful, self-deceptive Twos become more self-nurturing and emotionally aware, like healthy Fours.

Source: The Enneagram Institute: Type Two

Type Two: The Helper

Unlike Type Ones, Type Twos, known as “The Helper” as a heart-centered Type. Motivated by need to be loved, needing to be valued, and needing to have an outlet to express their positive feelings toward others, Twos are one of the most other-centered of the Enneagram Types. They are genuinely loving and helpful (when healthy), finding energy and life from caring for others and meeting their needs. I like to think of Type Twos as the ones who arrange care for those in distress and are the first to offer to come over to clean the house when you’re feeling overwhelmed. At their best, Type Twos are the ones who see others clearly and find joy in appreciating the unique qualities and gifts of those around them. When they are in a less balanced place, Twos find their worth from how useful or connected they are to others, losing their sense of belovedness for who they are and replacing it with belovedness for what they do.

As a heart-centered Type, Twos often struggles with feelings of shame and worthlessness. They react strongly from their feelings, which leaves them often overwhelmed emotionally by their own needs in the face of the needs of others. Instead of stepping toward that shame, Type Twos tend to deal with that interior conflict by seeking positive affirmation from others—if they are liked and needed, then they are okay. As a result, Type Twos are apt to feel like martyrs, and cling to the idea of “needing to be needed.”

Type Twos have real difficulty connecting with their negative emotions—sadness, loneliness, anger, pain—which they often repress as a form of reverse pride (your needs are more important than my needs). They put others first in order to be needed and valuable, and as a result often feel misunderstood or taken for granted, sometimes scrambling for recognition for all that they are doing for others.

The glory of the Type Two in balance is their ability to be deeply unselfish, humble and altruistic. They see others well and delight in the beauty of those around them. They are compassionate and kind, just the type of people who draw others to them.

Type Twos & Prayer

Type Twos are much more apt to show up for spiritual direction than Type Ones—but most often because they’ve become burned out on helping others from an unbalanced ego place and need help in finding their truest self. Type Twos sometimes need guidance in identifying their own interior movements, because they are so deeply attuned to and affected by the feelings of others. In particular, Type Twos need assistance in seeing their needs as legitimate, and moving away from their predominant image of God as a rescuer. The kinds of prayer that are most beneficial for a Type Two are:

  • Physical Prayer
  • Compassionate Prayer
  • Focusing Prayer
  • Soaking Prayer
  • Centering Prayer

Physical Prayer: As an other-centered, emotion-driven Type, Twos can become disconnected from their bodies in unhealthy ways. Alternately, if they aren’t totally disassociated from or antagonistic to their bodies, they sometimes become overly focused on their hands and arms—body parts that are very important to Type Twos because they represent helping and holding. Hands and arms are often the way that Twos express their love into the world. Physical prayers—kneeling, prostrating themselves, even coming forward for Communion—are helpful for Twos because they assist in the integration of their whole selves into their relationship with God and others: heart, mind, soul and strength. Walking prayers (much like the Type Ones) are useful for Twos, but only if they walk alone to keep them from focusing on others. Their challenge is not being hyperfocused on their destination, like Ones, but being focused on those around them. I also suggest that Twos enact their prayers, using gestures and physical movement to embrace the totality of prayer (the best place to start with this is praying the Lord’s Prayer with whatever physical gestures feel most intuitive and right). I’ll often find that Twos on their growing edge gravitate towards meditative physical practices like yoga or massage.

Compassionate Prayer: One of the things I most commonly find myself saying to Type Twos is some version of, “Have compassion on yourself.” This is really difficult for a Type Two, as they sublimate their needs to those of others, especially when it comes to serving others on God’s “behalf.” Compassionate prayer is a practice of receiving God’s care and compassion in a meditative and simple way. The simplest practice of compassionate prayer can be undertaken by placing your hand over your heart and sitting quietly in this position, receiving the care and compassion of Christ for your deepest inner being. I also suggest that Twos meditate on Jesus’s words in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Twos can often come up with a list of other people for whom this would be a good prayer before they are able to settle in and receive God’s care and regard specifically for them. Imagistically, I suggest Twos meditate on Jesus’s healing miracles, imagining themselves as those receiving the tender compassion of God.

Focusing Prayer: As Twos struggle with differentiating their own emotions from those of their friends and associative groups, focusing prayer is an important practice for them. Focusing prayer is a led or directed prayer that allows the Holy Spirit to gently highlight or bring forward what is going on in the person praying, often in the form of colors or sensations in the body. This form of prayer is best undertaken by someone who has training in focusing, and is particularly useful because it helps Type Twos to notice their own inner world in a way that is separate from those around them, guided by God. Colors and shapes allow for a different sort of attention to the inner landscape, bypassing ways in which Twos self-sabotage by repressing “negative” emotions like sadness or anger. I find focusing prayer particularly helpful when a Two is stuck relationally or feeling like God is silent.

Soaking Prayer: Soaking prayer—prayer times spent resting in the presence of God without words needing to be spoken or intercessions needing to be made—is very helpful for Type Twos. As givers, Twos sometimes resist receiving, even from God, due to their need to find approval from others in what they give to them. Soaking prayer times, usually accompanied by soft worship music and some form of guided prayer, are times for Twos to simply receive from God, resting in His presence and letting His love wash over them. Soaking prayer times are often done in small groups of people, which can make it difficult for a Two to focus on his or her own experience, but can nonetheless be helpful in breaking down the compulsive need to check on others when God is inviting the Two to simply rest and be with Him.

Centering Prayer: Simple centering prayer, using a single word or phrase, is a very good resource for Type Twos. In general, silence is a difficult practice for a Two at the beginning of the spiritual journey, because so much of their emotions have been pushed under the surface that silence seems to bring them boiling up with undeniable fierceness. This can be very frightening and perplexing for a Two, and so I often suggest starting with a simple centering prayer, rather than stark silence as they move deeper into their walk with Jesus. Something like “Be still and know that I AM God” is a helpful short phrase for breathing in and out while resting with God. This phrase, or a prayer like the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”), can be an anchor point in the interior storm that may surface for the Two when their emotions and interior state begin to surface in the silence. Rather than trying to push the emotions away, I suggest that Twos simply return to their centering word or phrase, letting the waves wash over and buffet and resting, with Jesus, on a cushion in the back of the boat.

Another Note On Prayer:

Twos often find their worth in service, and sometimes even in service in prayer. While intercessory prayer is a good and important part of our lives with God, I find that for a time Type Twos sometimes need to give up intercessory prayer, trusting in God to meet the needs, spoken or unspoken, of those they love. I also sometimes suggest something that I call “The Discipline of Saying No” for Type Twos. In a way, this discipline is a form of fasting from performance, and I suggest that Type Twos say “no” to every request for help or support for a period of time, in order to bring greater awareness and attention to how they strive for love by performing or sacrificing themselves for others. This can be a very fruitful fast for a Two, but one that takes a lot of support and encouragement to engage in.


Type Two Playlist

(developed by Jennifer Brukiewa of Attending Grace Ministries)



Now it’s your turn.
Are you a Two?
What prayer forms have proven most helpful for you?
What ways do you struggle with prayer and your relationship with God?
Share with us in the comments.


Sources: The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, The Enneagram and Spiritual Direction: Nine Paths to Spiritual Guidance by James Empereur, The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele, and Using the Enneagram in Prayer by Suzanne Zuercher.



  1. Tanya Marlow
    May 15, 2014 at 1:09 am

    I totally struggle with prayer full stop, particularly silent prayer, just because I have such a loud ongoing inner monologue that is racing away (not particularly negative or positive, just very fast, jumping from one thing to another) that I need something to slow me down. This is a really helpful list as suggestions. The things that have helped me have been that focusing prayer thing (ironically, I need someone else for that!), and being alone in nature (even if I can’t walk), and music. (Something like Taize is really good for me because the chants help me to slow down.) this is really helpful!

    • Tara M. Owens
      May 15, 2014 at 10:59 am

      I like the Taize suggestion! I think it fits well in the category of contemplative prayer, and does so through repetitive, meditative music. So wise!

  2. fiona lynne
    July 4, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    I’m late reading and adding my comments here but this is so helpful. I continue to be surprised by how well the Enneagram seems to help me. Like Tanya, prayer has just been hard generally. In the last few years I’ve found a sense of freedom to practise a wider variety of prayer practices and found there some that seem to fit better. I was introduced to contemplative prayer in a group setting and so find it easier to be guided into that place of letting go. It’s harder to take myself there. The short prayers you mention – I’ve had some “success” there, but their not become habits for me. So much help here to come back to!