Enneagram & Music: Gene Simmons

Gene Simmons is one of those people you usually either love or hate. Since he first started enjoying some level of success as the bass player of Kiss — a band he co-founded over four decades ago with his friend Paul Stanley –, he’s been unapologetic in his never-ending search for sex, money and fame.

This can be seen not only in how he helped turning Kiss into a veritable money-making machine (selling everything one can imagine, from condoms to caskets), but also in his lavish lifestyle, colored by his many boastful remarks. (The most famous one being that he once claimed to have slept with over 4,000 women.)

For these and other reasons which will be discussed in today’s text, I believe Gene Simmons is a type Eight in the Enneagram.

hit top speed, but I’m still movin’ much too slow

Known by such names as “the Boss” and “the Maverick”, Eights are considered the most intense of the nine types. This makes a lot of sense when we consider their characteristic passion, which is lust.

Here, lust is not necessarily about sex (although this is obviously the case for Gene as well), but more about an overall attitude towards life, one that says that there can never be too much of a good thing. (It’s a “passion for excess”, as Claudio Naranjo says.)

Which helps to explain why Eights are often attracted to, and find themselves in, positions of power. This is seen as both a way to guarantee that they’ll have as few restrictions as possible when it comes to fulfilling their (often insatiable) desires and that no one will have control over them — which is their biggest fear.

With this knowledge in mind, let’s take our analysis a little further and try to understand Gene’s motivations according to what is probably his most predominant instinct in light of the Enneagram, which I believe is the Sexual one.

and I say “welcome to the show”

Gene Simmons live, 2013 (photograph by Paul Kane)

Once again, it’s important to be careful here. Just like when we talked about the passion of lust a few paragraphs ago, when we talk about the Sexual instinct we’re not necessarily emphasizing the enjoyment of sexual experiences.

Above all, this instinct is about doing whatever is felt to be necessary in order to connect with a significant other on an intimate level (which is one of the reasons why some people prefer to call this the One-to-One instinct).

Now, as we’ve seen, someone who has lust as their main passion tends to be very intense already. So, in a way, it should come as no surprise, when the Sexual instinct is running the show, to see such intensity taken to astronomic levels.

But it’s here that things get even more interesting. It’s true that the Sexual Eight tends to be more intense than the Self-Preservation or the Social Eight (the other main subtypes), but the direction that the Sexual instinct takes when mixed with lust is usually more about being constantly on the spotlight.

Another way to say this is that a man from this subtype is likely to be not only a womanizer, but also a showman. This can be seen in the following passage from Bea Chestnut’s The Complete Enneagram:

The name given to the Sexual Eight is “Possession,” which refers to a kind of charismatic taking over (or dominance) of the whole environment — an energetic capture of people’s attention. (…) They express the idea that “the world begins to run when they arrive.”

By the way, do you know who she considers an obvious example of this subtype? Donald Trump. What follows are some words she had to say about him in an interview from a few years ago to the (now-extinct) Wild Crazy Meaningful Enneagram podcast:

[There’s] not a lot of thought, not a lot of thinking. It’s more like an impulse. Whatever he says just comes right out there. The more audacious he is, the more rebellious, the more out there, the better in some ways. Because it’s all about getting the attention.

This makes me think of how Gene’s son, Nick Simmons, was incredibly insightful when he said that his father is the Donald Trump or rock!

you got to treat yourself like number one

Of course, there’s much more about Sexual Eights than that, such as when Bea observes that this subtype “likes to be seen as bad — or at least they don’t mind it”. In Gene’s case, this becomes obvious in his many disrespectful comments about fellow rock stars who fell victim to drug abuse. (Perhaps the only type of excess he never allowed himself to indulge in.)

And this is also, in my point of view, his most evident display of a very common tendency among Eights: the disregard for those one sees as being weak. (Although, truth be told, he’s made some efforts to be a little more understanding of those late rock musicians with the recent release of a book about the “27 club”.)

Being the “bad guy” can be somewhat liberating for another precious reason: it gives them a sense of freedom which helps them to be very forthcoming about what they really care about — whether other people like it or not.

This overall attitude would have a tremendous impact on how he and Paul Stanley would handle things with Kiss, as it became evident in an interview he gave to the Henry Rollins Show, when the former Black Flag lead singer asked Gene about his band’s legacy. And his answer was, as expected, straightforward:

Quite honestly, it doesn’t matter to me. There are more important things in life than whether or not [we’re in] the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, or if somebody else recognizes [us]. It really doesn’t matter. I get paid hideously well because I’m one of the four guys in Kiss. The rest doesn’t matter.

our house just ain’t a home

However, Sexual Eights are also known to express a counterpoint to such ruthlessness. As Bea says in her book: “the Sexual subtype displays a great deal of passion that may at times get expressed through emotions that may seem surprising to others and atypical for the other Eights”.

Which reminds me of a passage in Gene’s book Me, Inc. In it, he admitted that his refusal to put any limits to his own behavior, which for many years was broadcast publicly in the reality TV show Gene Simmons Family Jewels, put him at serious risk of losing his partner Shannon Tweed.

Gene’s misbehaviors being constantly exposed on national TV might have been the last straw for Shannon. Tired of his many escapades, she had basically decided that she had enough, and wanted to part ways with him. (Technically it wouldn’t be a divorce, because the two had never been officially married.)

Realizing what was happening, he made every effort not only to win her back, but also to regain the trust of their two children, Nick and Sophie. In order to do this, he knew that he’d have to open up and let his guard down. (Remember when I said that Eights’ biggest fear is having other people have control over them?)

And that’s what he did by officially proposing to Shannon, with a level of tenderness which for me is fascinating, and very much in line with what Bea said about the high emotionality of this subtype.

This even makes me wonder if such emotionality might be a necessary step for Sexual Eights to learn how to let their guards down and, from there, make some real effort to restrict themselves. (Of course, it may be argued that some never even care to learn this lesson.)

In Gene’s book it became evident that he had already developed enough self-awareness to recognize his unhealthier tendencies for himself, particularly because he knew that many of his issues with the whole concept of family came from him being abandoned by his father when he was just a kid.

Fortunately for him, he had people in his life who not only loved him in spite of everything, but who also would no longer let him off the hook as easily as before.

Indeed, if we come to think about it, is there anything more important than self-awareness and the support of close people as the first two steps in anyone’s journey, regardless of his/her type in the Enneagram? (Or any other system, for that matter.)