Synflow and Contraflow

The Enneagram instinct stackings can be seen as moving in two opposing directions as shown below. These two directions result in drastically different dynamics which make the distinctions between instinctual stackings more clear.

2 Instinctual Flows

The nature of Contraflow stackings in some way create a barrier between themselves and others. The form this barrier takes varies depending on the stacking and is elaborated on further below. However, these stackings all have an aspect of being hard to reach and like something is kept inaccessible. A metaphorical or literal turning away from others. A lock with a hidden key quality of masking the ability to see into what is going on clearly behind closed doors. Closeness to others is seen as an impediment or disruption to managing the primary instinctual driver.

Contraflow
sp—> sx —> so —> sp
Compelled away from people
sp/sx
sx/so
so/sp

Synflow
sp —> so —> sx —> sp
Compelled toward people
sp/so
so/sx
sx/sp

The nature of Synflow stackings pulls one towards others, opening doors rather than locking them. These stackings all share in an aspect of moving towards something less restrained and developing closeness. The interaction between self and others is enhanced by the nature of the secondary instinct drawing people in or moving towards them. Moving towards a state of unrestricted sharing while not necessarily starting there. Closeness with others is seen as an enhancement to the primary instinctual driver.

Further Reading

As far as I’m aware, this is an idea from the mind of David Gray. You can read more about Synflow and Contraflow on Enneasite. There is also an interesting article on Typevolution about the way in which these flows influence cultural dynamics.

The Instincts as Elemental Forces

Social (so) – represented by air, the instinctual need for space and connection, an expanding and elevating force which draws us towards others.

Social air as a cloud

Self-Preservation (sp) – represented by earth, the instinctual need for safety and resources, a grounding and sheltering force which shields us

Self-Preservation as Earth

Sexual (sx) – represented by a lightning bolt, the instinctual need for intensity and depth, a disruptive and penetrating force which may attract or repulse others.

Sexual as lightning

SP + SO: Air meets Earth

Contraflow: The earth is raised into the air away from others.

so/sp results from introducing the earth to the air. The earth’s resources are used as a means to connect more with the air. Pulling the earth upward creates distance between self and others on the ground. Think creating a tower, climbing a tree, flying above in some way. These literal climbing examples give way to other less concrete examples like climbing the social ladder and taking on some kind of social role which isolates them as in some way above, for instance management.

Air elevates the earth above

Synflow: The earth’s resources are opened to the air.

sp/so results from introducing the air to the earth. The air opens up the earth and the resources are shared freely among the people. The containment of the cave releases into worldly exploration. Friends and resources are gathered and brought back to the cave. This is an expansive, outwardly moving flow, broadening the access to resources while simultaneously moving one towards others along the same path.

Earth expanded by the air

SO + SX: Air meets Lightning

Contraflow: The lightning is elevated into the air at a distance.

sx/so results from introducing the air to the lightning. The flashy spectacle of lightning is elevated upwards and away from others. This elevation makes the lightning more visible, but it also puts it further away. Like a fireworks display, we are only able to interact with it from a distance, but we can still feel its power and explosions from a mile away. The separation between the viewer and the spectacle allows others to be inspired by the beauty and power of the lightning without interacting with it directly or being put in harms way.

Lightning elevated by the air

Synflow: The air is infused with lightning all around us.

so/sx results from introducing lightning to the air. The pure sky of the air becomes infused with lightning and a storm is brewing. Unlike sx/so, this lightning feels closer, more intimate, like it could strike you at any moment. The air is all encompassing around you and the lightning has infused with this to create a chaotic and stimulating display wherever you look. This flow moves towards others, pulling them in to keep the momentum going, igniting sparks together and creating something new.

Lightning shared freely from the air

SX + SP: Lightning meets Earth

Contraflow: The lightning burrows into the depths of the earth.

sp/sx results from introducing lightning to the earth. The earth surrounds and contains the lightning, giving it no air to breath in. The excitement and penetrating nature of the lightning redirected back into the interests of earth, a passion contained to the darkness of the cave and used to enhance the specific interests within. If sp/so is a broadened love of the earth’s pleasures, then sp/sx is a deepened love. The fire enhances the meat and we have all we need here to survive right here.

Lightning directed back at the earth

Synflow: The lightning explores the earth freely.

sx/sp results from introducing earth to the lightning. The lightning explores the earth on the hunt for whatever stimulates and excites it. Without need for air or space, the lightning comes in close, penetrating the caves and opening them up. A lightning strike splits the wood open, setting it on fire, leaving the forest forever changed. If sx/so is an elevated spectacle, then sx/sp is the destructive force no longer at a safe distance, but instead moving swiftly along the ground and leaving an impact wherever it goes.

Lightning roams the earth

Video Explanation

Alright, I get it, you are sick of reading. I made this video discussing these concepts as well. Check it out below.

Contraflow vs Synflow on YouTube

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