Jul 14, 2023

What to Do With Disappointment for Each Enneagram Type

“Hi, this is the nurse at HoneyRock…”

No one wants this phone call. It’s never good. (Poor school and camp nurses, they never get to call with good news unexpectedly!)

Adventures in the camp van to the local ER an hour away and an X-ray revealed a broken foot for our youngest daughter. And a serious enough injury, she needed to leave camp just half-way through her two weeks session. No going on special wilderness trip. No finishing her Masters in ceramics. No swimming in the lake. 

Also, me driving nine hours up to Wisconsin to get her and bring her nine hours home, missing a planned time of rest. Finding a pediatric orthopedic appointment to see if she needed surgery. Wrangling the insurance company about approving a location. All while dealing with several business frustrations (significant gigs falling through, clients changing the scope, podcast guests canceling).

All and all… disappointing.

Disappointment is the worst. Truly, I hate it the most. Expectations are shattered, and I feel the sting of heartbreak.

Many people think, well, don’t have expectations. And while I’m a big fan of “don’t get attached to results,” expectations are a part of being human. 

Leaders aren’t immune from disappointment. In fact, the way you deal with disappointment is amplified by your role as a leader. For good or for ill…and we’re choosing for the good, right?

Leaders aren’t immune from disappointment. In fact, the way you deal with disappointment is amplified by your role as a leader.

You have to deal with disappointment…and if you don’t choose healthy ways, your Enneagram personality is ready and waiting to take over for you. Spoiler alert: your personality copes with unsophisticated defense mechanisms that work to protect you but actually limit you.

Here’s how each Enneagram personality type will auto respond to disappointment and what you can try instead:

Keep reading for tips for each type (and what happened with this broken foot!)

Eights: DENIAL

Eights want to maintain a self-image of being strong and invulnerable. So denial works really well to avoid feeling out of control. As an Eight, you may pretend it’s not an issue, get busy getting stuff done, or just cut off the person or situation entirely. This lets you avoid feeling hurt, controlled, or vulnerable. And if you’re really honest, minimize your responsibility in the situation.

What to notice:

  • When your body gets going, and you’re revving up your engine. Your anger is on the surface. This is your clue to notice what other emotions under the anger. (Yes, there is more than anger and passion😉)
  • When you want to jump to blaming or cutting down others. This is your clue you want to externalize responsibility.

What to do:

  • Accurately name what’s happening without judgment. Think of the who, what, when, and where. Leave out the why for now. Just let yourself label it.
  • Explore the fear and other emotions you’re experiencing. For Eights, disappointment often feels like a loss of control. What are you afraid is going to happen because of this disappointment?
  • Practice breathwork and other physical exercises to let the emotions release. 


Nines need to keep a self-image of ease, balance, and harmony. So when the internal or external harmony feels unstable, Nines choose narcotization, just a big word for disengage and numb the pain. So it looks like literally leaving and slipping out the back door, choosing your favorite show to watch, or any other habit that keeps you disengaged from the situation and how you feel about it Then the disappointment is just repressed and comes back later, which leads to more numbing. 

What to notice:

  • When you head toward comfort activities to avoid feeling. What are those habits? When does it happen?
  • When you think, “I just want to sleep,” when you weren’t tired before.

What to do:

  • Start to lean into the idea of experiencing anger. As a Nine, your discomfort with anger is often what pushes you toward numbing out.
  • Develop of a practice of naming what you want, how you are feeling, and what you want to do. Imagine a cord that connects your head, your heart, and your gut, and walk down that cord to connect with yourself rather than cutting the cord and disengaging.


Ones want to keep the self-image of being good and right. Anger or even negativity feels bad or wrong. When disappointed as a One, you will use reaction formation, just a big word for forming the reaction you think is right but the opposite of what you feel or think. Usually, in an exaggerated way. You might be overly positive, overly accommodating, ignoring your boundaries, extremely polite, or dismissing it as no big deal. Basically, you are repressing how you feel because your internal critic has lied to you about what your response “should be” to disappointment. What happens is you eventually react and are usually even more critical and disappointed when it comes out.

What to notice:

  • How’s your body? Are you clenching, holding yourself rigid? Do you have a gnawing stomach or tension in your shoulders or even fingers and toes? 
  • Are you flip-flopping? Contradicting yourself and going back and forth between flattery and criticism?

What to do:

  • Get your thoughts out loud with a trusted thinking partner. Ask them to listen and repeat back what they hear. This lets you verbally process the disappointment and get to the root fears and pain (that are absolutely ok to experience. You’re still good.).
  • Give a name to your internal critic who is telling you to control your reactions so forcefully. Like the Ridiculous spell handles Harry Potter’s boggarts, the silly name helps you become the boss of your own thoughts again.


Twos keep that self-image of helper and supporter who doesn’t really need anything. So when disappointment strikes, you may further repress your needs and emotions. Because it’s a more extreme version of a personality habit, it can be really hard to recognize you’re even doing it. It may look like seeking appreciation and validation, ruminating on all the ways you help others so “why did this happen to me,” or jumping into obsessing over others to forget your own pain. But you will still hold it all and eventually will lash out at the very people you’re helping because they didn’t make the disappointment go away.

What to notice:

  • When you’re looking for the “well done” or permission more than typical, almost a compulsion to get an outside voice saying what you’re doing means something to me.
  • When you “chandelier” — you hit the chandelier with an anger response when something is actually fairly small. You short fuse is because you’ve not dealt with the unmet expectations.

What to do:

  • Develop a regular habit of asking yourself, “What do I need right now?” Connect with your own emotions and thoughts. Daily in the morning and/or mid-day is a great time for this. When disappointment comes, you will be better in tune yourself.
  • When disappointment happens, resist the urge to avoid your feelings or believe it’s automatically your fault.
  • Before jumping in to help someone else or solve the disappointment, ask yourself, “What is mine to do?”


Threes, you’re wanting to keep your self-image of success in tact. Disappointment feels like an attack on your success. As a Three, you will lean on identification, meaning you’ll integrate and absorb the characteristics of someone you believe is successful. Sort of in a copy-cat, inauthentic way so you can avoid feeling the pain of disappointment. It looks like a lot pretending it’s not as bad, not admitting failure or fault, hypersensitivity to criticism, or even joining a group that is who you want to be. All of this avoids dealing with feeling disappointment as a failure and a statement on your worth.

What to notice:

Notice when you are feeling the need to embellish a story to make yourself look good in the midst of disappointment.

Notice when you are unsure of your own feelings or putting how others perceive you as more important than understanding your emotions.

What to do:

  • Use SNAP. Pause to breath and identity your emotions before just jumping to the next thing that will feel successful.
  • Know your values. When disappointment comes, and you feel the need to identify as someone else, knowing your values brings you back to your authentic self.
  • Remind yourself you are a human being, not a human doing. Your worth is not dependent on what you do.


Fours, you’re special. You want to maintain that image of uniqueness and avoid ordinariness. With introjection, you as a four will internalize all the real and imagined pain that comes with dissapointment and add it to the envy story of your identity. It could look like a personal pity party, “why am I the only one,” or even adding to the pain of disappointment and rejecting positive information to make the feeling bigger. Yes, this seems counterintuitive, but for the Four, it’s easier to manage self-inflicted pain that deal with confronting rejection or see how you can manage pain and joy at the same time. 

What to notice:

  • When your internal dialogue blames your very being as damaged or never enough or too much and this is why this happens.
  • When you are adding and adding and adding to the disappointment, even attaching unrelated situations or ideas to make the pain more intense.

What to do:

  • Practice finding positives in the midst of the pain. Even better, find the next positive action you can take.
  • Remember that your emotions are your identity. They are meant to be experienced and released like a firefly, not stuffed in a jar to rot.
  • Get moving. Spend a moment or two to move your body and breathe deeply. Fours can get stuck in thinking and feeling; moving your body helps you get out of the spiral.


Fives want to maintain the self-image of competency and protect internal resources and energy. Disappointment feels both like incompetence and overwhelming energy, so you as a five may isolate to avoid that feeling of depletion and ignorance. This may looking like leaving the situation, going to an inner mind castle, emotionally withdrawing, or turning to analyzing what went wrong to avoid feeling the pain. This keeps you from the connection you need to yourself and others. Isolation keeps you trapped in a half-life and in the pain.

What to notice:

  • When you pull away. What’s happening when you leave physically or emotionally? 
  • The pattern of isolation. What are the triggers that spark your isolating behavior?

What to do:

  • Resist the urge to figure it out yourself. Tell someone what’s happening and talk about what you’re feeling. (I know this feels like it will take energy, but it will give you the resources you need to move through the disappointment — even if you need some along time after!)
  • Get out of your head. Move your body. Breathe work, walking, and yoga are great ways to reconnect with yourself and allow the pain to process through.


Sixes want to maintain the self-image of being loyal to stay safe. As a Six, you don’t want to be blamed, and disappointment can feel like it’s your fault and therefore not safe. So you go for projection to avoid the feeling that you’ll be abandoned for disloyalty. Projection looks like attributing or casting of your own negative thoughts, emotions, behaviors, insecurities, or motivations onto other people. It can look like storytelling and assumptions, accusation, or preparing so “this will never happen again.” You believe projection will alleviate your fear and anxiety, but it actually produces more because of the mind spiral and never dealing with the pain.

What to notice:

  • Check in with how anxiety shows up in your body and in your mind. What thoughts signal anxiety? Where in your body do you feel it?
  • When you blame or attack others. Shoulds, if you would have justs, etc.

What to do:

  • Resist the pessimistic urge of I should have been more prepared. Some disappointments are unavailable and your desire to prepare to avoid disappointment is not always possible.
  • Intentionally worry. I know, this seems weird. But set a timer for 15 minutes and write down all the things that happened and how you feel about it. Then worry about all the things this means or could create. Get it all out. A few weeks later, look back. Did those things happen? If they did, did you handle them. This builds your muscle of “I make good decisions.” 


Sevens want to maintain a self-image of the optimistic, fun-loving, it’s-all-ok person to avoid any pain. And disappointment is pain. To avoid feeling the pain, you as a Seven will reframe and rationalize away the situation to avoid the uncomfortable emotions. This looks like “well at least,” creating an even better idea than the original, or simply find another activity to avoid the feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, or discomfort. But it never works to avoid the pain, it will eventually come.

What to notice:

  • When you immediately jump to the silver lining.
  • When you want to run away to something positive by changing the subject or the activity.

What to do:

  • Resist the urge to escape. Stay present with the emotion. Stay with it long enough to Name, Rate, Find. Name the emotion, rate its intensity, and find it in your body. (I promise, you won’t stay trapped there. (It will start to dissipate after a few minutes.)
  • Name the negative and why it hurts. Name what you wanted and what happened. Then you can move to the positives. You’re holding both together rather than simply reframing to only the positive.

For every type, in the very first moments of disappointments, pause and breath for 6-8 seconds. This will give you time to stop your default reaction and make a healthier choice.

When I saw my daughter in her splint, scooting on the gravel road to the car, it hurt all over again. Ugh, I hate this. But your Seven here chose to simply feel the pain for a moment. And then, to my surprise, it hurt less. (Why am I always surprised!?)

We got in the car and started talking: the dramatic story of the fall, the golf cart getting stuck, the ATV ride off the activity course, the van getting lost on the way to the ER, the quirky doctor, the amazing counselor who stayed with her, and more. Suddenly three hours had passed, and she was naming all the good things she learned and expressing gratitude for the people who helped her. We were laughing and enjoying each other. 

She got a great purple cast and doesn’t need surgery (YEAH!). We traveled back to camp (yes, the full nine hours). She got to pick up her art and see friends, and we had a nice relaxing long weekend with all six of us.  

The impact of the disappointments still existed: lost income, missed time, more work, no Masters in ceramics, new plans needed. But, we had moved through the disappointment and found new hopes and new learnings for what’s to come.

Brené Brown says, “There are too many people in the world today who decide to live disappointed rather than risk feeling disappointment.” But it’s surviving life, not living a flourishing life.

Disappointment really is the worst. I really wish it didn’t exist. As a leader, disappointment doesn’t have to be wasted. You can use times of disappointment to connect with your team and find growth opportunities.

Want to know more about how to use the Enneagram in business? Looking to improve your employee retention and engagement? I’d love to help you with one of my keynotes or workshops. Go here to set up a time to talk


  1. I am a one, and this was extremely accurate!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a reply