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  • Leanette Pokuwaah

The Mask We Wear: The Enneagram 3 Archetype and The Movie "US"

From Jordan Peele's Movie "US"

MAJOR SPOILERS! If you have not watched the movie please go watch!

Less than two weeks ago Jordan Peele delivered to us another thought provoking movie hit called “US.” Jordan Peele has created another movie that not only makes you think but makes you feel in the most visceral way because his film speaks so eerily to our humanity.

Immediately, we see the duality laced through this film. In the opening, Peele explains the thousands of miles of underground tunnels that are built across our country, with the ground being the barrier between the "sunken place" and the above ground. This is where the "tethered" reside, caged and bound (resembling the rabbits placed in cages in the beginning of the movie). The tethered represent our most marginalized people. The voiceless and the unheard.Then there is their other half, the people that are above ground enjoying the privilege of their circumstance.

During the opening scene of the movie, Adelaide is shown as a little girl in the year of 1986. The duality shown in the numerical symbol of 11 is found in most scenes throughout the film. 11 symbolizing a portal between two different worlds and the perpetual mirroring between two numbers. Which leads us to the scene were little Adelaide enters a conspicuous house of mirrors fittingly prompting an onlooker to enter in with the inscription "find yourself." Dual realities even shown between Adelaide's all-black family and the white family, she is acquainted with as an adult. Then we are brought to a stand still in the face of the Red family, suddenly appearing, busting a hole into the mask Adelaide has worn for most of her life. She has hid behind the mask concealing the truth of who she really is. It is not until the end of the film do we discover Adelaide's true identity.

 this mirror, translucent,underneath this veil, this mask, this shadow self. Is the real me perpetually "tethered" to the self that I push so deep underground?   fabricated all along
Adelaide and Red confront each other during the last scenes in the film

How does this relate to the Enneagram? And in particular to the Enneagram 3?

The Enneagram reveals to us among many other things the ways in which we believe the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we believe about ourselves. In particular, the Enneagram 3 believes the lie that they are their mask--that is their true selves. Ultimately, the people around them believe that lie too.

In this film, Peele reminds us that we can best deceive ourselves into thinking we are not our own worst enemies. The monster could not possibly be inside of us. That evil does not abide deep within us. That we could not possibly be capable of any harm. It is somewhere over there or out there. However, US reminds us of the masks we hide behind to keep from getting found out--that indeed we are both good and evil, good and evil reside within us--that beneath oneself is also a shadow self, "tethered" to us. (As we follow through the film, we begin to question whether Red is even the villain in this movie because of the pain that her and the rest of the tethered people have had to endure. The lines of who is good and who is evil is muddled).

Lupita Nyong'o said it best:

"When our shadow self and that darkness within is left unattended to it can well out of control, rear its ugly head and cause a lot of destruction in the world. Oftentimes our fear is what we project onto the ‘other’--and in this film, Jordan makes a monster out of that darkness and shows what it would look like if that darkness came for us.”

The Enneagram in many ways reveals that shadow self to us. It calls it by name and helps us recognize it before it seeps out and "rears its ugly little head" The Enneagram helps us say it for what it is and invites us to understand our shadow. The Enneagram challenges us to integrate and develop our shadow. Which is a hard task when our ego structure seeks so earnestly to separate and suppress our shadow selves. To pretend it does not exist.

The task is difficult for all Enneagram types but for Enneagram 3s what makes it so difficult is the confusion between what is the real them and their fabricated self. Which is really them versus the crafted and projected image they want us to see on the surface? Which are their true selves away from the role they perform? It does not help that we live in an Enneagram three culture dominated by a white patriarchal and capitalist society.

The film points to this tension that black folks especially encounter. Themes of this tension appears with the character Gabe. For instance, we see him in his elite collegiate Howard University sweatshirt worn throughout the movie. His needing to compare himself with the white family, they vacationed with. The pointless bartering of his wallet, house and boat (which also reflects his class privilege and how out of touch he is with reality). These emblematic scenes are portraits portraying the "Double Consciousness" and the illusion of the "American Dream".

The American Dream says that you are able to obtain the Dream if you work hard and pull your boot by your bootstraps. But no matter how hard Gabe tries to compete, to work and live up to the white's definition of success there will always be a barrier that keeps him from attaining it. We see that Josh and his family still end up having the bigger car, the bigger house, and the bigger boat.

Gabe struggles between two identities, two faces-- between the mask and his true self . You even see a moment where he code switches back into the stereotypical "rough, strong and big black man" to fend off the Red family. Then he switches back into the "proper", privileged middle class educated man as if to prove the Red family the value in the things he could offer.

Du Bois in his concept of "Double Consciousness" articulates this best in his writings from The Souls of Black FolkIt is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness, an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."

There is a deep pain black folks face in having to keep up with the facade, this fabricated self, this mask. The ache of having to watch for the white gaze and to compare oneself to them as a standard for one to emulate.

In light of the concepts of the "American Dream" and "Double Consciousness", the biggest deception an Enneagram three of color especially must confront is the lie that they are the mask they wear.

The movie US reveals this to us so well.

This is the Enneagram 3's battle and an even worse feat for a person of color who leads with the Enneagram 3 archetype.

What struck me was at the end of the film, after Jason saw his mom reveal her true identity, he gave a disappointed look and placed his mask right back down to cover his true face. That scene was the ultimate symbol of the Enneagram 3's tendency (and in parts of all us) to want to continue to believe we are the we wear. The desire to continue on believing the mask is who we are despite being awaken to the reality that is a lie.

This leaves us with questions of what motivates the Enneagram 3? What are the various coping mechanisms they use to alleviate the anxiety and shame around having to wear a mask that is not truly them? What does freedom and healing really look like for the Enneagram 3?

Keep an eye out on my next blog post for those answers!

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