An Overview of Twos

How Motivation Creates Personality

We are shaped by our environments, but we are not blank slates. The assumption behind the Enneagram is that we are born with a general motivation: a sense that some value would be particularly meaningful, and the absence of that value would be particularly devastating. We can’t explain why, but the assumption does seem to help people make sense of their lives in a way that other assumptions can’t. From that motivation, we start learning which behaviors bring that value closer to us, and which ones make our worst fears come true. From this we develop habits, and in time those habits become so automatic that we call them character traits.

This is why personalities can seem so rigid, but also change over time. We tend to stick with behaviors that have worked in the past, but what worked in one situation might not work in another. Over time we might make a conscious effort to change our personality, but what motivates one person to change might not motivate someone else. This is where those core values come in: we do the best job of changing our behaviors when those changes support our core values.

As a writer, understanding how each of your character’s traits ties back to their motivations will tell you which situations to place them in, to create compelling arcs and meaningful conflicts.

Motivations of Type Twos

Twos are closely attuned to the human need for connection. They long to give and receive love and this longing can make them incredibly thoughtful and supportive people. However, this does not mean that Twos are automatically better people than any other type. This motivation can be twisted, both against the Two and the people they want to connect with. Exploring how can be the source of incredible tension and drama.

Some people describe unhealthy Twos as manipulative: the problem with this characterization is that “manipulative” generally describes someone who uses displays of affection to earn something other than relationships and human connection: a spy using sex to get information, a con artist establishing rapport to steal money, a salesperson flirting to get a big commission. Twos are not inherently manipulative in this sense. On the contrary, they often neglect their own, more practical needs in order to please someone else. When they say, “I just want to be loved,” they mean it. The problem is that you can do everything right in a relationship, and you are still only responsible for fifty percent of the relationship’s success. This reality is hard on Twos.

People who cannot accept this fact might end up violating the boundaries, autonomy or consent of other people. If the other person does not have the power to say no, the Two cannot be abandoned, right? Well, no, the Two has simply entrapped themselves in a codependent situation that will ultimately hurt both themselves and the people whose affection they crave. As with all fixated versions of a type, unhealthy Twos start settling for distorted, unfulfilling counterfeits of what they truly crave.

When Twos open up to the reality that a relationship means an equal exchange, they might experience more rejection, but their healthy boundaries mean that the relationships they have are truly real. They can rest in the confidence that they are not just needed but are truly wanted, and can have their own needs met because it is safe to be open and vulnerable.

Backstory and Traits

Regardless of their backstory, Twos are likely to learn certain behaviors that are nearly always effective at getting people to like them.

  • Complimentary. Everyone likes to feel good about themselves, which means they like to be around people who make them feel good. Depending on the individual and their maturity, this might look like encouragement or flattery, building others up or simply stroking their egos. Regardless, Twos tend to pick up the fine art of making other people feel good.
  • Helpful. Twos have a tendency to try to earn affection by putting themselves out for their sake. They notice when other people need a hand and they immediately give it.
  • Accommodating. Twos are likely to minimize their own needs in the interest of making other people happy. This also can protect them from feeling vulnerable to rejection. If they don’t need much, then Twos can avoid giving anyone else a reason to leave them for as long as possible. At the same time, if they have given and given and given, then they are justified by reacting to rejection with anger and indignation.

Apart from these general trends, Twos can be one of the most varied types. This makes sense, because the desire to please and connect can make Twos very impressionable as children. Not only do different cultures value different behaviors, but two children in the same environment can get very different reactions from the same behavior, depending on their gender, socioeconomic status, or other traits outside their control.

  • For a perfect illustration of this, watch any episode of Scrubs. Both JD and Carla are Twos, but their different backgrounds completely change how people react to them. JD has a doctor’s education, and the privilege of a white, cis male identity. Carla is a black Hispanic female nurse. When JD says, “I’m a doctor, and these are my orders,” people take him at his word, which paradoxically means he can be much more gentle, eccentric and unguarded. He enjoys embracing his silly, gentle side in order to create deep bonds with his patients and coworkers. Carla is easily dismissed and stepped over. She knows how to use the image of a saucy Latina to push back in away that is a bit socially acceptable: she’s not a stereotype so much as a human being who knows how to use stereotypes as armor. Of course, as a Two, she has a much easier time using this image to advocate for her patients than for her own needs.
  • Michael Bluth from Arrested Development was raised to be a cutthroat real estate businessman, and he is also not particularly good at it. He is smart and understands the economics, but because he is sensitive to the idea of people disliking him, he is easily taken advantage of. And yet, he keeps trying to live up to this identity because it is the one that he thinks will earn the affection of his dysfunctional parents. In fact, his whole family knows that the less support and affection they give him, the harder he will try to rescue them. Beneath his nice guy image is someone who is deeply wounded by the selfishness of his family, but also completely dependent on their crumbs of approval.
  • In Firefly, Kaylee Frye is the cheerful mechanic for a spaceship of ne’er-do-wells-for-hire. She never had any formal training, but her father was a repairman on a backwater planet, and she loved spending time helping him in the shop. One of the most interesting things about Kaylee is the affectionate way she interacts with machines. Her natural talent is tied to the way she intuitively treats machines as living beings to tend to. She listens lovingly to machines, meaning she can pick up on subtle signs that something is about to go wrong, and her understanding of how the pieces fit together help her find creative workarounds. Her bubbly attitude and ability to connect with everyone she meets are part of what makes the dynamic between the whole cast so familial and cozy.
  • In The Umbrella Academy, Allison Hargreeves is a former child superhero with the power to control people’s minds with the phrase “I heard a rumor…” As an adult, she uses it to leave the crime fighting world and become a successful movie star. It is also implied that she has used it to control her relationships, and she ends up losing custody of her daughter when she is caught using it to make her daughter behave. However, Allison is not a bad person: she is clearly haunted by the times she has caved to the temptation to override people’s will in order to avoid rejection, and for most of the show she actively tries to avoid using it. This conflict makes for such an interesting character because of how personal and deep the temptation to abuse her power is, but also how personal the costs are.

Connected Types

Just as they emphasize traits that are likely to be people pleasing, Twos tend to push away traits that are more potentially off-putting. However, as they spend more and more time experiencing the costs of trying too hard to make everyone happy, Twos tend to discover those are the very traits they need to create authentic connections. This means that, under more difficult circumstances, Twos might learn to cultivate traits which are normally associated with Eights and Fours.

  • Vulnerability. Twos normally like to be the therapist, not the patient. Being the fixer puts them in the position of accepting or rejecting, while being open about their wounds and insecurities puts it on someone else to accept or reject them. However, the kind of intimate connection that Twos crave requires both people to share their inner selves, risk rejection, and be mutually accepted.
  • Boundary setting. Twos are often afraid to say “no.” They feel that if they do, maybe others will lose that dependence on them. However, that dependence does not truly satisfy them. Being needed is easier than being wanted, but it is also less fulfilling. Without testing other’s affection by asserting themselves, they cannot have the relationships they want.
  • Individualism. Twos are often afraid to have identities that set them apart from others. They want to build up connections and commonalities. However, if you want to be loved for who you are, you do need to figure out who that is.

Under stressful situations, Twos are more likely to lean into an assertive, Eight-ish headspace. When they feel supported, or alternatively, are stressed beyond what an Eight-ish mentality can cope with, they tap into the mentality of a Four. When they go into either of these mindsets with an open, growth oriented intention, they are likely to learn to balance their helpfulness with confident strength and genuine self-acceptance. They can then become the sort of person who is truly, deeply connected with others. Of course, they can also tap into these types while still stuck in an unhealthy, limited mindset. In that case, they are likely to flip from warm and accepting to rough and controlling. This pattern tends to invite extremely unhealthy relationships into their lives.

  • In The Queen’s Gambit, Alma Wheatley is a 50s housewife in a loveless marriage. She is in a time and place where she is encouraged to embody the archetypal Two, and despite how she embraces it, she fails to achieve her longing for connection by the simply tragedy that her husband happens to be a heartless bastard. When we meet her, she is deep in depressive Four-mode, drinking and sleeping the day away. However, this honest expression of her misery prompts her awful husband to get her an orphan, (with the same attitude that most people buy a pet fish) and then abandon her. Having a second chance at someone to love and care for wakes her out of her depression and she starts bonding with Beth, her new daughter. The two of them have a genuinely lovely relationship and her later scenes include some of the brightest and loveliest moments in the whole show.
  • On Brooklyn 99, Terry Jeffords is a Two who has learned to use his Eight side to put his foot down when necessary, which is especially good as he is a career cop. That said, you can always tell that he does not like doing it and he would rather be a cuddly Team Mom.
  • On Parks and Recreation, Ann Perkins goes through a string of relationships where she lets her partner of the moment temporarily take over her personality. She adopts the hobbies, opinions and clothes of her current boyfriend. However, through her supportive relationship with Leslie Knope, Ann realizes she needs to get in touch with herself. She does this by symbolically taking herself out on dates, until she has gotten a sense of what she wants. This break from relationships does not last forever: she ends up with an ex-boyfriend, but only because they have both taken time to work individually on the issues that made their relationship fail the first time around. It’s a satisfying ending for both of them because you can contrast who they were with who they end up being.

Distinguishing Between Twos and Other Types

The Enneagram symbol looks like a web because all types are ultimately connected. This is a more honest portrait of humanity, but of course the downside is that it can create confusion between the types. It takes more reflection and deep searching to determine an Enneagram type than most other personality typologies, whether you are talking about a fictional character or a real person. However, understanding how the types are connected can simplify the process.

  • Heart Triad – As Heart types, Twos, Threes and Fours all share some fundamental concerns. They are invested in understanding who they are, what people think of them, their emotional states, and whether or not they have fundamental value as people. Therefore, their core motivations share a similar flavor. They are often also called the Shame Triad because these concerns force all of them to grapple with that emotion in a crisis.
    • As the Dependent Heart type, Twos are the most obvious in how they look to others for approval. They actively check in with those around them and try to earn approval with their actions. In contrast, Threes glance around at their overall culture to learn the template for the ideal person, and try to live up to that, while Fours often push against social ideals in their efforts to be uniquely themselves.
    • As the Positive Heart type, Twos are, paradoxically, the least obviously affected by shame. Their Dependent stance has a low tolerance for actually experiencing shame. In order to get as far away from shame as possible, they build up a backlog of good deeds that they can point to defensively. Threes can also hide their shame behind a mask of idealized success, but it is often easier to see them shamed, and then pushing against that shame by trying to achieve more and more. A Two’s anger puts other people on the defensive, and it might take an outsider a long time to recognize that a Two is struggling with the shame at all. Fours, of course, come right out and talk about shame. They might not call it by name, but they will readily list their flaws and all the social reasons why a person might look down on them, as well as all the reasons they have for looking down on others. It is easy to see how shame drives them.
  • Dependent Stance – The Dependent types, One, Two and Six, all follow a pattern of trying to collaborate with others. When it comes to their essential questions, they try to earn the answer from others. As a result their behaviors can look similar, although their fundamental motivations look different.
    • Again, Twos are trying to answer that emotionally charged question of “what am I worth?” In contrast, both Ones and Sixes are trying to answer more practical questions about satisfaction and security. They both have a higher tolerance for being disliked, in the name of doing what is better for the group as a whole. Ones will risk being slightly disliked in the name of upholding a moral standard for everyone, while Sixes will risk coming across as annoying in the interest of warning everyone about some potential threat.
    • Culture and other parts of a person’s identity can be especially helpful when it comes to distinguishing Dependent types. Instead of trying to develop a single image of what each type will look like, look at their friends, family and larger social context. Now ask yourself, “what behaviors and choices earn labels like ‘moral’ and ‘person of integrity’ from these people? Which ones earn ‘dependable’ and ‘reliable in a crisis’? Which ones earn ‘likable’ and ‘person I want to spend all my time with’?” Then, look at situations where those traits come into conflict. A Two will be interested in being all those things, but when they have to choose, they want to protect their friendships and likability.
  • Positive Types – Twos, Sevens and Nines all try very hard to avoid the negative emotion associated with their core triad. As a result, they all come across as putting a sunny face on the world. They have negative emotions, but they tend to suppress them. They also all have a connection to the emotion of anger.
    • All positive types have a special connection to the emotion of anger. For Nines, this is the emotion they directly suppress. They are the best of the three positive types at completely suppressing that anger, unless they choose to work on themselves. They are easily the most positive of the positive types. However, when anger does come out, it is deeply honest. Anger is actually a sign of growth and maturity in Nines. In contrast, Twos and Sevens both often use anger as a sort of scapegoat emotion. They both stress to types in the Anger triad and have wings to anger types. This makes sense, strategically. Anger tends to put potential attackers on the defensive, while also burning through the situation quickly. It is a smokescreen emotion. Twos, of course, are avoiding potential shame while Sevens are avoiding potential anxiety.
    • All positive types can also develop reputations for generosity and uplifting people. This is especially a point of confusion between Nines and Twos. Sevens are more likely to seek their personal pleasure and invite others to be cheered up along the way, so they are harder to mistake for Nines or Twos unless there is some environmental influence that taught them to be exceptionally kind. Even then, they tend to not actively neglect their own happiness or needs in the same way that Nines and Twos tend to.
    • Self-sacrificing Nines and Twos can be distinguished by the way they handle conflict. Twos are more interested in personal, merging connection. They want to be liked, but they can also take a “the enemy of my friend is my enemy” approach. They don’t want to be rejected, so if rejection is inevitable, they might reject first. Nines are more motivated to smooth over conflicts and find common ground. They are interested on harmony and the kind of connection they seek is more gentle, yet boundless. They are afraid to set boundaries but actually quite like it when others set boundaries with them. In short, Twos tend to have intense friendships and possibly some enemies, while Nines have more relaxed friendships, and it takes a truly unusual circumstance for them to develop enemies at all.
  • Connected Types – Twos share wings with One and Three, meaning there is overlap between their goals. Being ethical and being successful can both contribute to a person’s popularity and success and connection. Twos also share stress lines with Eights and Fours, meaning that they normally push away traits associated with these types, but under certain types of pressure they might temporarily shift to an Eight-ish or Four-ish headspace where they reclaim those traits. If they have been under pressure for a long enough time, they might learn to work those traits into their daily personality. The key, with all these connections, is to look at the “why” of traits, rather than the “what.” What is their life story, what decisions have they made in forming their personality, and how have different traits been reinforced or discouraged? If your character is, for example, picking up traits of generosity and servitude because it is the best way for them to be a protector, they are likely an Eight who is leaning into that connection to Two, while if they are picking up traits of assertiveness because that helps them stay in a position of being the likable helper in the long run, they are a Two leaning into their connection to Eight.
  • Twos vs Fives – these types share no groups or direct connections, and are hard to mistake for each other, especially if you are paying attention to motivation rather than traits. The only cases where I have seen Twos mistaken for Fives are where a Two also happens to have a high IQ and often earns that group connection by solving intellectual problems for them. A perfect example is Willow Rosenberg on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who earns her place in the group by helping Buffy and Xander with homework, looking up demons on the internet for Giles, and eventually studying witchcraft to be of even more service to the Scoobie Gang. Fives are even less likely to be mistaken for Twos, though theoretically a Five who is working on their social skills, like Abed Nadir on Community, might be confused with a Two. Again, looking at Abed’s story in context makes it clear that he is a Five who is trying to grow by overcoming an area of incompetence, not a Two. Getting better at connecting with people is a goal, not a core motivation.

Examples of Twos

  • Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings is one of the best uses of a healthy Two’s motivation in all of fiction. The story’s conflict is driven by the One Ring, which is tied to the life force of the evil Sauron, and must be destroyed, and yet the ring is extremely skilled at seducing people with images of their desires. Some characters can resist its temptation better or worse than others, but when it tries to control Sam, the One Ring genuinely seems stumped. All Sam wants is to help his friends and tend his garden. Does he want a… a bigger garden? No, he does not. He likes the joy of tending something that tends to other people’s needs. A big garden would be impossible to take care of, and that would ruin it. Sam’s humility is the moral core of the whole story, and it’s beautiful.
  • Properly villainous Twos are rare in dramas, comedies and family stories, yet they often pop up in thrillers and horror. I suspect this is because of how uncomfortable it is to talk about the dark side of an obsessive need to connect. One of my favorite recent examples is Fresh, a half-satire-half-serious psychological horror which uses an… interesting metaphor for the seductively one-sided love that can threaten to consume the beloved. Lots of people say this film is worth seeing at least once spoiler free, so I won’t say more.
  • Another fantastic villainous Two is Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd, whose desire to accommodate and seduce her longterm crush causes her to be a willing accomplice to his violent crimes, covering up the evidence by baking his victims into pies. She’s delightfully dark and twisted, and despite how awful she is as a person it’s impossible not to love every moment she is on stage.
  • Twos can also be the perfect victim for someone who is willing to prey on their willingness to please. Nick Dunne from Gone Girl makes the mistake of marrying a sociopath, then seeking some comfort in the arms of another woman when their relationship becomes hollow. Not a great move, but then, knowing Amy, coming out and leaving her would not have ended any better. The thing that makes their mind games so interesting is that Amy is fully aware that Nick is a master at putting on whatever face pleases her, and he knows she knows that. They both end up playing games for the press, and it is mutually destructive… but let’s be honest, Nick gets the worst end of the bargain.
  • Going back to positive examples of Twos, Schitt’s Creek has both Jocelyn Schitt, the long-suffering mayor’s wife who shows a saint’s patience to the Rose family, and Ted Mullins, the sweet, almost impossibly attractive veterinarian boyfriend of Alexis Rose. Both teach the family valuable lessons about trusting in the good nature of others, and not taking good people’s kindness for granted.
  • Finally, one of my personal favorites, Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Unlike the stereotypical nerd who looks down on people who are unintelligent, her first scenes are of her using her intelligence to support her friend Xander, and bond with Buffy, the cool newcomer. Over the course of the series, she gains more and more skills in computers and magic, primarily to make herself indispensable to the team. She goes from being an awkward and unpopular high schooler to a cute and stylish college student, though a dream sequence in the season four finale, “Restless,” you see that she is still afraid of being rejected as uncool. In season six she succumbs to the temptation to abuse magic, mostly to keep people close to her. She recognizes this problem when it almost causes her to lose her girlfriend Tara, but is making real progress… until Tara is accidentally killed. Rage causes her to channel dark magic, lose control and turn into Dark Willow, the surprise villain of the series. What brings her out of it is, of course, love.

That’s all for now. Happy writing!

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