The first in Subhuti’s new series ‘Enneagram Famous Figures’.
You need only listen to a minute of Adele’s massive hit ‘Hello’ to feel the pain of longing and regret, so typical of many of her songs. “I must have called 1000 times…” she laments, wishing desperately to reconnect with her old flame, but nobody picks up to answer.
This theme of heartbreak and lost love is not so different from ‘Rolling in the Deep’, released in 2010, the song that created Adele’s international breakthrough and propelled her to stardom.
“We could have had it all…” Adele lamented on that memorable track, conjuring images of how beautiful the love relationship might have been, if only they had stayed together.
Longing is a key quality of Enneagram type Number Four, the so-called Tragic Romantic. Having experienced a deep sense of loss in their early, formative years – perhaps one of the parents died, or there was separation, or divorce – Fours are preoccupied with the unattainable, the unavailable and with what might have been.
When you factor-in the historical detail that Adele’s father walked out on her when she was two years old, creating a deep wound of abandonment, this looks like convincing evidence that the singer fits into this Enneagram category.
So it’s an open-and-shut case for the Number Four – right?
Well, maybe not.
Adele’s big body type is more like that of an Eight, The Boss, whose key quality is a determination to rely on her own strength and to show others she cannot be pushed around.
For example, the singer’s refusal to slim down is portrayed by Adele as a way of championing ordinary women – a typical ‘fighting-for-justice’ attitude of this type.
“I’m not going to lose weight because someone tells me to,” she snapped. “I make music to be a musician, not to be on the cover of Playboy.”
In the same spirit, she told reporters defiantly, “I make music for ears, not for eyes!”
When questioned about her insecurities, she made it clear that she doesn’t allow people close to her who make her feel weak.
“I have insecurities, of course,” she explained, “but I don’t hang out with anyone who points them out to me.”
Adele could have adopted the Eight strategy precisely because of her father’s walk-out, realizing, even as a child, that she needed to be the strong one in the family.
As a grown woman, she can talk tough to the point of rudeness. On her current tour of Australia, when Brisbane’s city council panicked about the logistics of safely getting people to her concerts, she told the crowd:
“I think they should shut up with their bloody moaning, fucking hell. Shut up! I come from fucking London. I’m happy to be in Brisbane.”
Adele has another big Eight characteristic: she is LOUD! She may sing about pain and loss, but she doesn’t croak and whisper like Leonard Cohen, who was a classic Four.
When Adele opens her mouth wide and lets rip, the sheer volume and power of her sound blows you away. That’s typical Eight, to fill the whole space with your energy.
So, how to decide: Four or Eight? One of the fascinating and also perplexing aspects of the Enneagram system is that you can never prove, with 100% certainty, a person’s type.
Not even the person himself, or herself, can do that!
So there will always be a degree of doubt. Having worked with the Enneagram for many years, teaching people in North America, India and Europe, I have learned to live with this lack of conclusive proof, and even enjoy it.
In any case, as unique, individual human beings, we are bigger than our personality type. In fact, the phrase ‘personality type’ is misleading. We all have different personalities.
The correct term is “chief defence strategy” because this fixed pattern of behaviour was developed in childhood as a way of coping with whatever challenges were presented by the family environment.
The value of the Enneagram system is to reveal the behaviour pattern we chose to rely upon, all those years ago, which has been buried in the unconscious part of our minds and which has been influencing our current behaviour without our knowledge.
By bringing more awareness to this hidden pattern, we can free ourselves from robot-like responses.
Coming back to Adele, one of the key statements the singer made which makes me fairly convinced that she is an Eight, not a Four, occurred when a reporter asked her how she would react if she came face-to-face with her missing father.
“I would spit in his face!” Adele is widely reported to have said.
That is an Eight speaking. In real life, it seems that the two did meet, outside public view, and their connection was more forgiving and affectionate.
But Adele’s first reaction is, for me, indicative. This girl is a tough cookie, ready to take on the world, ready to do her own thing and always ready to speak her mind.
She is the Boss.
Then what about her songs? Why so sad?
Even Adele confesses, “I know when I’ve written a good song because I start to cry.”
For me the answer is that her natural talent as a singer gave Adele the safe outlet she needed to release her pain, while keeping it separate from her daily life, where she needed to be strong.
An intelligent decision for survival and one that has made her a star.
Subhuti gives workshops about the Enneagram all over the world and also gives individual online Enneagram sessions. Contact: anandsubhuti (at) yahoo.com
Related articles on the Enneagram by Subhuti
The Enneagram – a journey with the Enneagram from Oscar Ichazo’s original school to Osho’s Multiversity
The Enneagram: Types – Enneagram type descriptions, childhood environments, problem areas and sentences which characterize each type