The 9 Enneagram Personality Types as Children’s Books Series: Type 2 as The Giving Tree

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Enneagram Type 2: The Helper = The Giving Tree

Type 2: “The Caring, Interpersonal Type: Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive,” as defined by the Enneagram Institute.

Shel Silverstein’s timelessly moving The Giving Tree is the children’s classic I would most associate with “The Helper”. As a Two myself, this was especially endearing to re-read  through the Enneagram lens. The simple story chronicles the lifelong love of a tree  for a child,  as he grows from boy to old man. As the pages turn, the tree finds new ways to give to the prodigal boy, who loves the tree so much at first, but as time goes by returns only sporadically, and when he is in need of something. With each reunion the tree is more excited to see the boy and eager to please him, as she sees him as hers to provide for and help.

Some, including myself, see The Giving Tree as a metaphor for a parent’s love. Some readers see it as a fable to interpret unconditional love, friendship; there are many ways this story can be understood. I have read it to my nannying charges over the years and the reactions from them are varied. Some are happy that the tree is happy, others become sad thinking of the ways the tree has been left alone and reduced to a stump. All agree that it is one that makes them feel, and they love re-reading.

“When Twos are healthy and in balance, they really are loving, helpful, generous, and considerate… They enliven others with their appreciation and attention, helping people to see positive qualities in themselves that they had not previously recognized. In short, healthy Twos are the embodiment of “the good parent” that everyone wishes they had: someone who sees them as they are, understands them with immense compassion, helps and encourages with infinite patience, and is always willing to lend a hand—while knowing precisely how and when to let go. Healthy Twos open our hearts because theirs are already so open and they show us the way to be more deeply and richly human.” -the Enneagram Institute

Enneagram Twos are very much the giving trees. Now for The Giving Tree character, the selfless giving and ceaseless sacrificing is a means to a happy and joyful end. Her leaves, apples, branches, and trunk are incrementally given to the boy, and with each gift the tree is left happy. We, the readers do not see her smile, but we know it is there. Healthy Twos also give with less expectation and thrive in the giving, not necessarily receiving gratitude or recognition. However, for the average Two, the burdens of expectations and lack of reciprocity can lead to resentments and anger. Which is why, in order for a relationship to be healthy, Twos setting boundaries, and recognizing their own motivations and expectations is important. Though The Giving Tree certainly has a problem setting healthy boundaries, I admit I get teary reading this one, even after so many times, because it does ring true in my experience. There is joy and reward in sacrifice, as a nanny and mother especially, and in many relationships where another person’s happiness is my own.


For more information about Type 2 head to the Enneagram Institute and pick up a curbside copy of The Giving Tree from Book People !

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