Tom CondonIn the Enneagram’s organization, Twos, Threes and Fours form an ’emotional trio’ as do Fives, Sixes and Sevens and then Eights, Nines and Ones. The personality styles in each of these groups share childhood themes, emotional habits and general worldviews.


Twos, Threes and Fours – Confusion of Feeling

Twos, Threes and Fours share an ongoing confusion about their identities, mistaking who they are with how they appear to others. All personality styles do this to a degree, but Twos, Threes and Fours are the most prone to confuse seeming with being. People in this trio tend to reject how they actually feel in favor of how they’re supposed to feel, according to the roles that they play.

Twos, Threes and Fours are sometimes called ‘heart’ or ‘feeling’ types which would seem to indicate that they are well-versed in realms of emotion. Actually, they have the most difficulty with matters of the heart. One key to understanding this contradiction is in what NLP calls direct feelings versus derived feelings – whether your feelings are directly experienced or derived through your other senses.

Imagine skiing down a mountain. As you concentrate on the descent, you grow immersed and involved in the experience, feeling the immediate pleasure of the wind on your face, the snow rushing past you, the sound of your speeding skis, the vibrant sensations in your legs and arms, the building excitement and vitality in your chest and, deeper inside, a mounting sense of joy and fulfillment…

Now imagine skiing down the same mountain with a different mentality. This time as you begin to descend, you are wondering how you look in your new ski clothes and evaluating your performance on the slopes – the perfect form you’re demonstrating, your impressive speed, what the onlookers below are probably saying about you, what your friends would think if they could see you now, how proud your first ski teacher would be…

In the first experience, you feel your body and emotions directly. In the second experience, your feelings are ‘once removed,’ derived from inner pictures and words, from an image of what you are doing.

The difference between direct and derived feeling is like the difference between drama and melodrama or love versus sentimentality. Direct feelings are generally deeper than derived feelings and too many of the latter can lead to fraudulence – trying to feel the way you ‘should’ according to your images. In Enneagram books, the tendency of Twos, Threes and Fours to play roles is typically described as vanity, but another name might be image identification. Another term for derived feeling is pseudofeeling.

As children, Twos, Threes, and Fours often felt misidentified, that is, either too strongly praised or criticized for their outer behavior or function to others. The child’s deeper emotional needs were rejected and who they appeared to be was more important than who they were, rather like a case of mistaken identity.

To varying degrees, people with these Enneagram styles experienced their early world as socially conditional. The price of family and social acceptance was performing or playing a role, singing for their supper. A Two might have been rewarded for the helpful roles he played, a Three for her outer accomplishments, while a Four might have been rewarded for seeming different, talented or unique.

Carried forward in time, adults with these backgrounds can habitually reject their true feelings in favor of outer validation, resulting in their playing roles that are disconnected from who they really are. Adult Twos repress their personal needs and play roles of helpfulness. Threes reject an imperfect, insecure inner self and play the role of a successful, confident person – the precise opposite of how they really feel. Adult Fours reject themselves for being flawed or ordinary and then play a compensatory role of someone who is unique and special.

Unconsciously, Twos, Threes, and Fours are often asking themselves ‘Who am I now?’ Their central wound is to their sense of identity and daily life can be experienced as a kind of ongoing identity crisis. What might be called the ruling paradox of these styles is ‘To be loved for who I am, I must pretend to be who I am not.’

The area of greatest confusion offers the most potential for growth. The general challenge for Twos, Threes, and Fours is to learn to distinguish their direct feelings from their derived ones, to become real to themselves and others. As they grow and change, people in this trio reclaim and accept the self who often hides behind roles.


Excerpted from The Dynamic Enneagram by Tom Condon

Copyright 2009, 2013 by Thomas Condon

Available as an ebook serial at Tom’s website


Tom Condon has worked with the Enneagram since 1980 and with Ericksonian hypnosis and NLP since 1977. These three models are combined in his trainings to offer a useful collection of tools for changing and growing, to apply the Enneagram dynamically, as a springboard to positive change. Tom has taught over 800 workshops in the US, Europe and Asia and is the author of 50 CDs, DVDs and books on the Enneagram, NLP and Ericksonian methods. He is founder and director of The Changeworks in Bend, Oregon.

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