Enneagram & Music: Bono

Bono is a character that needs no introduction. Although, as the frontman of U2, he’s one of the most famous rock stars in the world, he may be as equally known for his involvement in a variety of social causes, especially those that are related to the betterment of health and economic conditions in Africa.

At the same time, I wonder if a student of the Enneagram who didn’t know who he is (of course, this is almost an impossibility for anyone who follows popular music), and were only told the key facts of his life and what he stands for, would agree with what I’m about to say: Bono is, most likely, a type Seven.

you miss too much these days if you stop to think

On the one hand, maybe it’s not that hard to think of him when we frequently see different authors saying that Sevens are “the Epicurean” of the Enneagram. After all, even when U2 was considered a very serious rock band, there was a very noticeable “joie de vivre” in Bono’s interviews and stage antics.

On the other hand, whenever we study a certain Enneagram type, there is something way more important than the name that is often given to it: namely, its predominant passion. Which, for Sevens, is called gluttony.

On that account, a lot of the enthusiasm Sevens display comes from wanting to do and experiment too many things (food being only one of them), frequently all at once. And this tendency, paradoxically, tends to negate them the very enjoyment they were looking for when they decided to engage in such experiences.

That’s because their main fixation is anticipation. In other words, because they are constantly thinking about what to do or where to go next, it can be incredibly difficult for them to be present to wherever they are — and whoever they’re with — right now.

Of course, being present is not an easy task for anyone, regardless of their type. (Fours, for example, tend to think a lot about the past.) But the thing is that, many Sevens, because of their fixation, are prone to develop a very low tolerance to boredom.

From there, it’s no wonder one of their main issues tends to be a generalized lack of commitment. All the creativity and excitement they usually exhibit during the initial stages of any project can be sabotaged by their disinterest in following things through — partially, due to a fear of feeling trapped.

one love, one life

With that in mind, it may sound unusual to hear a type Seven saying something like this:

I started to date my wife, Ali, on the same week that I joined U2, and that was a good week.

Out of context, this sentence may not sound so unusual per se, so let me reframe it like this: here’s a 50-something-year-old type Seven who met his future wife and his future bandmates when he was only 16, and they’ve all been together ever since. (Amazingly, U2 has never been through changes in its lineup.)

The oddity of this situation can be at least partially understood when we consider that Bono’s predominant instinct in the Enneagram is Social, and that puts him among those that are classified as countertypes in this system — people who express the passion of their type in the most unexpected ways.

As the name suggests, the Social instinct is related to how a person deals with group dynamics in general. So, I guess that the easiest way to understand the influence this instinct has on an individual is to consider the importance that he/she gives to any situation in which there are more than two persons involved.

As I said in my first text of this series, this doesn’t mean that a person who is Social dominant will be more socially involved than if his/her predominant instinct was Sexual or Self-Preservation. It basically means that, however he/she decides to behave in groups, it will seldom fail to take into account those dynamics.

This is easy to see not only in Bono’s increasing role as a social activist over the years, but also in his role in U2. During the eighties, they were seen as the saviors of rock by some people, and a casual observer wouldn’t think that carrying that flag was that much of a burden to Bono.

So, to once again bring the passion to this equation: the Social Seven is considered a countertype because they recognize that gluttony — that is, their tendency to think about their own satisfaction before even considering other people’s wants and needs — often doesn’t match well with what is socially expected.

As as result, this subtype goes against the typical Seven’s tendency to be opportunistic by deliberately avoiding taking something for themselves first, and by defending causes that are frequently much bigger than themselves.

That’s why this subtype is very appropriately called “Sacrifice”: they behave in very anti-opportunistic ways. As a result, as Bea Chestnut says in her book The Complete Enneagram, their gluttony can be hard to spot, “because they strive to hide it in altruistic behavior”.

in dreams begin responsibilities

If it all sounds too good to be true, that’s because, to a certain extent, it is. These Sevens act as do-gooders, but this often comes with an equally strong desire to be recognized by others. (Which is one of the reasons Social Sevens can be somehow similar to Twos.)

In her assessment of this subtype, Bea certainly pulls no punches, and says something that would sound like music to Bono’s haters (who seem to be many): “Their sacrifice and service is the price they pay for their neurotic need for admiration.”

Before I say anything else, I guess I should make it clear that I’m fan of both him and U2. Although this might make me biased, I truly believe that he has a high level of self-awareness, and the fact that he’s more than willing to take those punches seems to be a good hint that his heart is really in what he does.

In my opinion, a more delicate Achilles’s heel comes in his choices as probably the most influential member — some would say he is the de facto leader — of U2. Most obviously, in the band’s obsession with gaining accolades and being on the crest of the wave as if nothing else mattered.

I guess that a lot of this obsession comes from Bono’s insistence in equaling relevance with popularity. Which, by his turn, reminds me of how type Sevens are very susceptible to suffer from a refusal to grow old, almost as if “aging gracefully” were an oxymoron.

it’s no secret ambition bites the nails of success

In a way, I’m glad to hear Bono saying things like, “if we believe in our songs, we have to use any medium we can find to reach people”. I myself probably wouldn’t have become such a big fan if I hadn’t been exposed to their music at an early age, even when they were not that hip anymore.

And I’m definitely not here to say what Bono and U2 should or should not do about how to communicate the value of their work. But sometimes I wonder: aren’t they selling themselves too cheap? Wouldn’t it be nice, just for a change, to let younger people discover U2 for themselves?

Of course, as a fan of the band, I kind of already know what would be the answers to those questions. But I guess it doesn’t hurt to “dream out loud” just a little a bit, does it?