The Enneagram by 3’s


I first heard about the Enneagram when I was spending time at one of my favorite places in the world.  It’s a cabin on a remote island located on the north end of Rainy Lake in Canada.  There is so much about that place that is special to me.  Not only is it gorgeous with its rocky shoreline, tall pine trees and crystal clear water, but it holds more memories than I can count.  This location was the perfect place to be introduced to something that would change my life.  The quietness and beauty had always been a place to recharge and reflect. Little did I know I would never be the same after that encounter.  I found the Wisdom of the Enneagramon a shelf at the cabin.  I took the quick test at the beginning, and it all pointed to 7.  I read through the pages in that section.  I couldn’t put it down.  I felt like the pages contained the notes of a private investigator, who had been following me my whole life.  The information in those pages opened a door for me that I have not been able to shut.


From the moment I was introduced to the Enneagram, I knew I wanted to be a part of sharing it.  It pointed me toward my automatic pattern & highlighted those gifts that were part of the package.  But most important it began to teach me how to love my self.  It explained how I thought, synthesizing ideas and connecting dots.  It also helped me see that I had developed a pattern of running away from pain.


From that point on, I began connecting the dots – the triads.  I was fascinated by the dynamic connections between the lines and the Enneagram spaces. Those dynamics led me to unlocking the code of my pattern and moving toward change.  This has become my passion to share these simple connections with the Enneagram community.


I would like to use this article to:

  • Present a unique method of introducing the Enneagram using the connections and movements of the centers
  • Help you Identify with a center as a first step to finding an Space in the Enneagram
  • Use the dynamics of the centers to understand the motivations behind the patterns of the types
  • Start an inner conversation between your centers and create a new self-talk
  • Use this conversation and awareness to move you toward a deeper compassion for your self


The Simple Solution


Occam’s Razor is the problem solving principle which states that the simplest solution tends to be the right one.  So let’s start simple, before you dive in to the complexities of the 9 types.  In your most basic form, you consist of a tangible outside and and an intangible inside. You try to balance those outside and inside needs.  Every moment presents a challenge which requires more of your attention.  You use your inside control center to monitor and manage your self in each moment.  A simple way to describe this control center is in three parts, movement/body, heart, and mind.  These three parts work in some sort of combination to meet every moment of your experience, each day.


Juggling the pressures of work and love, the combination can become confusing and overwhelming. In the confusion, one of your three parts steps forward to take charge. Over time, this balancing act  becomes unmanageable.  Your footing can become unstable, you feel alone, and you imagine fears.  As one part moved in to take a bigger role, the other two parts shifted into the background.  This inner dynamic developed into a strategy to help you try to gain balance.  This weighted strategy led to less interaction between your parts as a whole.  To maintain this style, that leading part requires most of your attention.


Initially this provides some relief from the chaos, so you stay with it.  With time and repetition, your split attention creates an automatic pattern of reactions.  The longer you unconsciously rely on this pattern, the quicker your reactions happen and choice moves farther out of reach.  The pattern begins to separate you from your true potential.  You begin to rely on a false image (created identity) to meet the moment.  The unknown of the moment, presses in on this false identity, making it fail under pressure. You feel ungrounded, stay busy doing things, and try to plan to stay safe.  Your parts are unavailable to stay “live” and pay attention to the present experiences, in and around you.


“We are rested when we are a living exchange between what lies inside and what lies outside, when we are an intriguing conversation between the potential that lies in our imagination and the possibilities for making that internal image real in the world.”

David Whyte


3 Questions


If this strategy sounds faintly familiar, you have just opened a door.  A door that will be hard to close again.  You have looked behind the curtain and noticed your ego at the control panel.  This new awareness momentarily hits the pause button on your auto-pilot.  It creates a space to ask 3 questions.  The questions can begin a new conversation between our parts and what role each plays.  You can begin to form a new strategy, involving all of your 3 parts.  Focusing your attention on each part, invites them into this conversation.  You can move toward connection with your true potential as your 3 parts share the load of meeting each moment.


The 3 questions and inquiring part are:


How do I fit?             Body/Movement

Do I have value?     Heart/Feeling

What is my purpose?        Mind/Thinking


These three questions will invite you into a conversation about how your strategy has been working and if you would like to make any changes.


It will be your introduction into the Enneagram and eventually, identify you with one of the 9 types.  This initial conversation will help you build a foundation to understand the why and how of your automatic reactions.  Understanding these motivations will serve you well as you identify your individual type and try to decode and unlock your pattern.


How do I fit?


This is the question the body tries to answer.  It is your outside connection with the ground around you.  It senses, it moves, it reacts, it hurts, it experiences pleasure, it is the part of you that directly connects you with the tangible world.  The body is the buffer between inside and out, experiencing all these sensations, alerting the heart and mind to help interpret them.

Your body searches to find a fit and a place, a place where it can feel most alive and be at rest.  These are the potentials of the body:

Strength, Energy, Power, Weight, Stability, Action, Solidity, Steadfastness,

Flow, Connectedness, Autonomy, Groundedness

This the language of the body.  Any and all of these concepts can be lost or forgotten if the body is left out of the conversation.  The body is essential in our journey to being.  With too much attention the body can also disconnect us physically from finding a fit.  You can be unstable, dissatisfied, uneasy, tense and anxious.  In this reaction the body begins to try to separate you from the things that seem uncomfortable, awkward, and painful.  The strategy is to build and establish boundaries between you and these enemies.  Life becomes a struggle to fit in.  In this struggle mode, the body can begin to react in two extremes, gear up for a fight or avoid by disengaging. This struggle begins to color life in only black & white.  This can lead to more tension and less flexibility.  You become defensive, with a closed stance as a new moment approaches, preparing for disappointment.


Giving the body the appropriate attention can anchor us in a more open stance, withholding judgment.  The body can become a foundation to support, and open up space for conversation with the heart & mind.


Do I have value?


This is the question of the heart.  Am I enough to meet whoever and whatever is waiting outside? If the answer is yes, I have enough to meet every challenge in relationships, work, and play.  If the answer is no, then the heart becomes busy creating something that will be enough.


The heart is the emotional center.  It manages our feelings and directly ties those emotions to value and worth.  The heart is the seat of your identity.  You were created with inherent value and worth.  You will always be enough, you are everything you need to meet the challenge of the moment.  But the heart without the support of the body and mind, struggles with this question. With too much attention, the heart sets out to be enough, to be approved of, someone who can be accepted.  In the empty void of your missing true identity, a substitution needs to be propped up, something you hope will work.  Trying to fill up a space that is already full, will always fail and miss the mark.


The fullness of the connected world welcomed you into it.  With your first breath you became connected.  Without you, more life will not be created.  This is the foundation of your value.  You are valuable simply because you were brought alive.  There is absolutely nothing you could do to be more valuable than you already are, right now.


When the question of value is settled, these are the potentials of the heart:

Compassion, Self-preservation, Competence, Confidence, Approval, Ownership,

Emergence, Equanimity, Permanence

When value is a settled issue, the heart is free to love. With the identity confident and capable, feelings are available to create space to know your self and experience other people.  The heart can open up space for a conversation with our body and mind, to be compassionate in our actions.


What is my purpose?


Why am I here, this is the question of the mind.  There must be a reason that I exist.  This is the problem the mind uses its energy to solve. It recognizes the feelings and sensations and tries to interpret them.  It looks forward, perceives, and plans for the future.  To have a purpose safety is important, danger needs to be avoided, protection and security can be planned.


With too much attention the mind becomes a thinking machine that is driven by fears and imagining worst-case outcomes.  Fear feeds on itself, creating more fear.  The oncoming moment can’t be trusted. Instead of guiding your self, reactions jump back and forth to manage feelings and instincts with no real direction. The unknown of the future becomes overwhelming.


The mind, supported by a conversation with the heart and movement, can clear space for quiet responses to replace chaotic reactions. The mind can transform to a guidance center, instead an automatic fear-driven machine.  A calm mind clears space to contribute these possibilities:

Knowledge, Understanding, Guidance, Perception, Observation, Imagination,          Perspective, Objectivity, Subjectivity, Evaluation, Integration, Trust

A dynamic conversation between the body, heart and mind, allows the mind to help you to meet the unknown of the oncoming moment with open arms.  Instead of recalling past memories of unsafe experiences, you can hold a more “wait and see approach”. The mind can remain just as quick formulating a response, as it did reacting with a “worst case scenario”.  With the mind clear, it can connect with the support of the body and the confidence of the heart.


3 Hurdles


“Human beings are always and always will be, a frontier between what is known and what is not known.”

                                                                                    David Whyte


With a clearer understanding of the function, potential and challenges of our 3 parts, we can move to specific hurdles that steal attention and interrupt an inner conversation.  Each part faces a direct confrontation from one of these 3 affects, which impact the moment by moment struggle to be present.




affect which stands in the way of the body and movement is anger.  Your tangible exterior form is under constant siege from the outside, the environment and people around you.  Comfort, the need to provide, how you interact with people, the requirements of work, all can try to knock you off of your foundation.  Sometimes the only hope is to try to separate, wall off the demands of outside.  There is no better fuel to accomplish this defense than anger.  We would like every moment to go smoothly—to be in our control. When it doesn’t— we feel anger. From earlier than you can remember, you were angry when you didn’t get what you wanted, when you wanted it.


The effects of this strategy on your body can seem to go unnoticed, but slowly the body absorbs tension and contracts in this ongoing work of separation.  This disconnection makes it impossible to hold your ground.  You loose your footing and can actually disappear.  You start to see the world in black & white, good or bad, for you or against you.  Judgment diminishes the color-rich hues of reality.  Building walls and laying out boundaries, work to disconnect you from the ground under you.  Without the heart and mind to help bring balance, your instincts and movements aren’t there to support you.




Shame eats away at the very core of who you are.  It waits for you when you wake up, behind every door, and around every corner.  It challenges your very identity.  Are you enough?  Do you have enough value to meet all the demands of life and love.  Without a clear answer to this question, you set out to get evidence—to prove your worth.  The energy of the heart gets wasted and drained in this strategy.  You try to fill up something that feels empty. All of this effort–to get something you already have.  There is no greater deception.


Because this battle happens at your deepest core, where your heart beats, this lie seems to pose the biggest hurdle to being present to reality.  In these efforts to get attention and prove your worth, the body and mind try to plug the holes in this strategy.  Without realizing your true real value and worth, your identity can’t show up.  As a result, a false identity has to be imagined and propped up.  This created replacement never gives you the confidence your after, so you never get off the treadmill of proving your self.  The false identity sucks all of the available energy of the heart and diverts it in efforts to fill the vacuum.  It is impossible to love your self without the true energy of your heart and your feelings.




Reality is full of mystery and unknown.  Each moment is new, unpredictable.  Your mind, under the effect of fear, chooses to believe differently. It uses its energy to predict the future, avoid danger, and plan for your safety and security.  The answer to the question of what is my purpose, is answered in one way–keep safe.  With your thinking and imagination diverted to safety and security, there is no energy or ideas left to address what your real purpose is.  The real purpose of the mind is perception and guidance.  In it’s proper function, the mind scans the landscape, assesses the situation, recognizes sensations and feelings.   Then, interprets the information and formulates a response.  All of this happening in the blink of an eye.

With too much attention, our mind turns into a reactor rather than a processor.  You see fear as needing to be totally eliminated.  Reactions quickly build a protective wall to keep us safe.  This wall does provide some safety, but you are unaware of the cost to your potential and capacity to experience the richness of the moment.  Your essence and potential is activated when it meets up with unknown and adventure. This edge can never be a part of your experience if safety is the only outcome.  True, real guidance and perception can only happen in a space created to interact, converse with your heart and body.


3 Strategies


“Truth allows us to live in reality. . . Being with the truth of our condition    brings an ingredient that dissolves the structure we have been trapped in”.

                                                                                                                   Don Riso, Russ Hudson


Now that the door has been opened and the light turned on to what has been happening automatically, flying under your radar—here’s a few ideas.


Seeing Real


Keep on seeing your self and your circumstances as objectively as possible.  You are now armed with the truth of the real imprint of your identity.  This can replace the repeated history of your patterns of defending against anger, shame, and fear.  You are always paying attention to something.  You are not always choosing where or how your attention is placed.  Just noticing the direction and quality of your attention is the first step.  This step opens your awareness to the truth.  Awareness is simply choosing to direct your attention to who you are, where you are, and who is around you.  You can see your self and your life as it truly is, without being filtered or spun by your defenses.  When you catch your auto-pilot flipped back on, truth + awareness switch it back off. Your hands can grab hold of the controls, giving you a split second to respond, instead of react.  Repeating this can actually begin to give you a breath, you can hit the pause button to make more choices.  This is the first step to creating space.


Create Space


Everything about our automatic pattern and reactions shrinks your space.  One part over reaching in its function takes up too much space, pushes the other parts to the background.  Reactions include the body tensing and contracting, the mind being filled with fast, chaotic thinking, the heart feeling alone and empty, leaving behind a vacuum.


Attention to all 3, no matter how small— clears space, slows our reactions.  This space gives us a fraction of a second to check-in.  All this will translate to more awareness.  More awareness leads to less reactivity.  Less reactivity leads to more choices.  More choices leads to more presence.  This momentum and positive cycles create more freedom.


Start a Conversation


Start a conversation, balance your attention, giving all 3 parts a chance to weigh-in, be supportive, take the lead (when appropriate).  Balanced attention and space set the scene for ongoing conversation between our essential parts.  The reason you identified with an individual type is because one of your parts stepped forward to take the lead.  This started a dysfunctional dynamic between your parts.  This dynamic causes each part to react out of character, away from its proper gift.  The only way for you to reach balance is for these 3 parts to be in a conversation, encouraging each to work together to handle life—see anger, shame, fear for what they really are.  With space for conversation, you can begin to provide the real answers to the 3 questions—fit, value, and purpose.


Heartbeat of the Enneagram


At the very center of the Enneagram image, is the triangle. This is the core, 3 lines connecting 3 dots.  This is the heart of the wisdom.  The interaction of these 3 centers determines the life flow.  If they beat together, in synch, more life is created.  Out of synch, life is hijacked, moments are missed. You were created to be available, with all of your potential, ready to meet the unknown of each moment.


Understanding and identifying with this heartbeat will set a foundation for identifying and connecting your particular style in the circle of the Enneagram.  First identifying with a center, then noticing one of the 9 irregular rhythms, then turning your attention to each part of the beat— body, feeling, mind.  Learning the potential of your own inner dynamics, open up space for a new response, a regular rhythm.


The work of this attention, leads you to the real goal of the Enneagram, falling in love with who you are.  This is uncharted territory for everyone.  Loving your self does not come naturally.  Learning to love both who we are not and who we are, this is key to any transformation.    Paying attention to the beat of this heart opens you to loving whatever you find on this road to awareness.  Being compassionate to your self is essential to observe and transform to the you, you already are!  No part of you can change, without the help of all of you!


Inside everyone is a great shout of joy waiting to be born!    David Whyte


For more info about Enneagram by 3’s workshops contact


Visit the Apple App Store for my app SeeingReal.  It contains a quick test to start a conversation about which Enneagram triad you call home. It’s free!