The Enneagram and Theresa May

Sep 11th, 2016 | By | Category: Articles, Eric Foggitt, O Books, Psychology, Spirituality

by Eric Foggit

It’s not looking good for Theresa May. On the face of it she’s a perfect rather faceless politician who, apart from one very serious blunder when she got a nasty van driving around warning illegals to go home, has got where she’s got by not getting up anyone’s nose and not being noticed. You might think she would make a fine diplomat – except… she wouldn’t really.


I think she is a Type 5 in Enneagram terms. This means she is a deeply thoughtful person who wants to understand things. She has a good focus and span of attention. She has probably also got a tendency to be somewhat isolated and secretive. A walking holiday in the Swiss Alps fits perfectly. The brilliant insights of Don Riso and Russ Hudson in “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” * about type 5s suggest that they are often “Independent, innovative, and inventive, [but] they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs.” They become detached, yet highly-strung and intense. The little we know about Mrs May suggests this is about right.


But, as I say, it’s not looking good for Theresa May. Her first major policy change, bringing back Grammar Schools, is symptomatic. Her predecessor (who was hardly a wishy-washy liberal), the Chief Inspector of Schools, the vast majority of educators, the previous education Minister and (in all likelihood) the current Education Minister herself are all very doubtful if not totally against the idea. Those of us who live in parts of the country where the 11+ exam is still used to select children will know how divisive and plain stupid Grammar Schools are: whatever the selection method, better-off parents can better afford the strategies to get their kids in, be they tutors, moving house, elocution lessons, more books, smarter clothes or whatever. There is no selection method yet devised which overcomes this basic fact: middle class parents are better-placed to get their children through. Even the simple fact of the culture of the school puts off bright children who quite rightly feel that they don’t fit in.


(I confess to having harsh experience of this: back in 1966 the 11+ had been abolished in the part of Hertfordshire I lived but by some stealthy means that was then and remains hidden from me, I was told I could go to Watford Grammar School – whilst most of my peers would go to Rickmansworth Grammar. So I was packed off to Watford Grammar. I knew no-one, but most of my classmates had known each other for years. They had money for the ice-cream van at lunchtime; I didn’t. They had school lunches; I brought sandwiches. They lived in Watford; I lived on a boat near Ricky. It was a disaster: not only was I very unhappy, but academically it was awful – even in French (which is my native language) I was well into the bottom half of my class. Only when we moved (after 1st year) and I went to a Comprehensive in Derbyshire did my grades improve.)


So why does this spell curtains for Theresa? Well, as Riso and Hudson observe, it’s about how Fives handle stress, or rather fail to handle it: “increasingly detached… they become involved with complicated ideas or imaginary worlds.” Fives tend to become “preoccupied with their visions and interpretations rather than reality.” They are highly-strung and intense. Theresa has a lot in common with Gordon Brown, also probably a Five, whose record shows all of these characteristics. As the stress gets greater (and being PM is a great deal more stressful than being Home Secretary) Fives begin to “take an antagonistic stance toward anything which would interfere with their inner world and personal vision.” They end up becoming “provocative and abrasive, with intentionally extreme and radical views.”


My conviction is that Theresa is a very private and isolated person at the best of times. She is fundamentally old-fashioned and this is the perverse source of her radicalism. The pressure of the premiership will bring out some of these rather unpleasant and unattractive qualities, which no amount of the smooth politeness for which she is currently known will be able to hide, because even that politeness is just an aspect of her old-fashionedness. With David Cameron it was different: you very rarely felt that a moral or intellectual conviction ever got in the way of a difficult decision. Theresa May is quite the opposite: in the Grammar School issue we see the front edges of her detachment from reality: why embark on such a contrary and unnecessary policy when even the House of Lords is likely to veto it? The answer? Because she’s already preoccupied with her vision rather than reality. As the Brexit negotiations move forward (or more likely, don’t) she will encounter even more inner psychological problems, because she can’t deal with the very intractable and overly complex issues; she’s likely to “do a Gordon” and stamp her feet and shout (even if she doesn’t raise her voice). She is actually the very last person to oversee such difficult discussions: she is far too dogmatic, inflexible and cut off from reality and the people around her. Anyone who could make Boris Johnson Foreign Secretary either has a very good sense of humour (which this week’s PMQs disproves totally) or is indeed one step removed from the daily routine humdrum which the rest of us call reality.



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2 Comments to “The Enneagram and Theresa May”

  1. Robert Good says:

    I was interested to read you thought Theresa May was a 5. I had put her as a 1, but you have given me pause think.
    There are a number of features which resonate with a five
    1. Her size/stature
    2. Her keeping her thoughts under her hat
    3. Fives have a five voice, which is slightly strangled – think the Queen, John Major – But they can cover it up. They also have a fairly unique laugh brought about by the same vocals – they are quite unable to give a really good belly laugh – they can try but it comes out as fake. So maybe.
    4. I must look more closely at her smile and teeth – ones have a spontaneous natural winning smile – at least mature ones do – (I don’t use healthy/unhealthy terminology) – and, almost universally, beautiful teeth.
    5. I had put her down as a one because of her ostensibly decisive manner – it is also true that stressed fives take on off-the-wall ideas (from the immature 7) about how to solve the problem.
    6. Also fives hate bright clothes – ones, remember, display good taste – “A touch of cut glass” about them observable with most.
    7. My last thought – ones like to change everything (because nothing’s perfect) – the problem being that they can waste a lot of effort bringing about change which is no better than before – think that former Tory nutball and his futile and fruitless reorganisation of the NHS.
    PS. I am an eight who has known the enneagram since before the first books, and usually pride myself on good judgement! Happily I long-tamed the bully aspect, but still strong, and fair.

    • Liz says:

      I’m an eight – and my ex was a five and my best friend is a one. I agree with your analysis and I think May is a five. Rather worrying for the country to say the least!

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