One of the most useful personality systems when it comes to character creation, the Enneagram delves into why people behave the way the do. What are they motivated by? What are they most afraid of? What makes them stressed and causes inner conflict? It’s important to know the answers to these questions where your own characters are concerned, and the Enneagram can help you get there.
In this blog series, I’ve been going through each number and pairing it with a Marvel hero. This post is all about Type Seven, known as the Enthusiast or the Adventurer. The most obvious Type Seven in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord.
“What should we do next? Something good? Something bad? Bit of both?
—Peter Quill, Guardians of the Galaxy
Motivations and Fears
Sevens are people who look at the bright side of every situation, who joyfully embrace life and all of its adventures. They are motivated by a desire for freedom and happiness, leaping at new experiences to keep themselves interested and excited.
Peter Quill models these characteristics from the first moment we meet him dancing to ’70s music at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy. He is fun-loving and light-hearted, just like the film itself. He doesn’t seem to take life very seriously, unaware of what it is he’s trying to steal, only knowing that it’s some kind of artifact.
A Seven’s deadly sin is gluttony, but food is not the target of their obsession. Rather, they crave stimulation. There’s a reason we don’t see Quill sitting around reflecting about life most of the time. Instead, he’s constantly moving and talking, avoiding unpleasant feelings by chasing new experiences.
A Seven’s biggest fear is pain, especially emotional pain. They may attempt to divert serious discussions by telling jokes or funny stories. They maintain optimism even in the direst of circumstances because the alternative is too awful to consider.
Obstacles and Desires
These are descriptors commonly used to describe Sevens:
Use these characteristics to create inner and outer conflict when a Seven tries to avoid a painful situation.
In Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Quill comes face-to-face with his father. Even though Gamora suspects something is not quite right, Quill refuses to believe it because he wants the positive experiences associated with family. With childlike delight, he plays catch with his father and angrily tells Gamora to back off when she attempts to reason with him.
“As a kid, I used to see all the other kids off playing catch with their dad. And I wanted that, more than anything in the world!”
—Peter Quill, Guardians of the Galaxy 2
It takes so long for Quill to see his father’s deception because he wants everything to be a positive experience. He wants a father who loves him, a father who didn’t abandon him as a child. But, when Quill finds out what Ego did to his mother, it is the serious emotions of anger and sadness that bring him out of the deception.
The best obstacles to put in front of a Seven are emotional issues they will eventually have to confront. A past they’d like to forget; people they refuse to forgive; trauma they’ve shoved down. Sevens are capable of swimming into intellectual and emotional depths, but they often have to be pushed to get there. They are also particularly vulnerable to addiction because of their tendency to avoid negative emotions; they may be tempted to abuse substances in order to escape.
Sevens also dislike being tied down, so putting opportunities for commitment in front of them can be a great source of tension. Why stick with one experience when it may make you miss out on others?
Stress and Security
When stressed, a Seven might look like an unhealthy One. They become obsessive about others’ behaviour instead of facing their own problems, becoming self-righteous and unwilling to listen to wisdom. They blame others for their own behaviour.
This tendency to focus on others humourously comes out in Avengers: Infinity War when Quill meets Thor. Quill becomes jealous of Thor and attempts to copy his mannerisms.
However, the most frustrating moment when Quill is unwilling to listen to wisdom or act reasonably is during the battle with Thanos when the villain admits he killed Gamora. The best way to defeat Thanos would have been to remain calm while letting Tony Stark and Peter Parker pull off the Infinity Gauntlet, but Quill is, understandably, filled with rage and can’t stop himself from pistol-whipping Thanos instead. Mantis is thrown off, Thanos awakens from the trance, and whole plan falls apart.
Sevens who are secure may behave like healthy Fives. They become open-minded and creative while discovering new ways of doing things. We see glimpses of this in Quill as his plans are often brilliant, surprising, and innovative. When he deals with his emotions and thinks before he acts, he is a perceptive person and has an easier time maintaining relationships.
The Enneagram includes descriptions of what a type looks like at healthy, average, and unhealthy levels. There are nine levels of development (not to be confused with the nine different types of personalities)—one to three being the most healthy, four to six being average, and seven to nine being unhealthy. This progression is useful for writing fiction because it can help you plan character arcs.
Quill’s healthiness levels fluctuate throughout his movies. He is often at an unhealthy level, often giving in to his impulses. He is also adventurous and unfocused, chasing the next exciting thing and ignoring serious problems or emotional issues. Yet, we see glimmers of the accomplished man he could become; he is creative and thoughtful when he wants to be, and can curb his unending optimism into gratefulness for what he has.
Sevens can be brought from unhealthy to healthy levels as they gain life experience and the courage to experience difficult emotions. They are uniquely equipped to inspire others and experience true joy in life. They will likely need to learn through experience how to curb their wild tendencies and channel their eagerness into something good.
If you decide your character is an Enthusiast, I hope my thoughts on Enneagram Sevens and Star-Lord help you in your character development. Use this tool to consider not just what they do, but why they do it. For further research, try reading The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile.