Enneagram: Triads and Primary Emotions

• February 26, 2012 • Comments (3)

This article is part of a series. Read part 1, part 3 and part 4.
This article is also available in Italian and Spanish.

Enneagram - Triads

The nine main character types described by the Enneagram can be grouped into triads, which correspond to three main centres:

– Belly (Instinct)
– Heart (Emotion)
– Head (Reason)

Each centre is characterized by a fundamental emotion, which deeply influences one’s way of being and the way one experiences relationships.

Raising awareness about these dynamics and learning to consciously manage them are the foundation for an effective process of self-knowledge.

The ‘Belly’ types, which are enneatypes 8, 9 and 1, are characterized by the predominance of the instinct. Whoever belongs to these types tends to act impulsively, be oriented towards action and seeks in the body and within him- or herself the resolution to any relationship issue.

The predominant emotion is Anger, which is processed differently by each of the three belly types: it can be openly expressed, it can be denied or it can remain unconscious without the need to be either expressed or denied.

For example, an enneatype 8 processes anger consciously to respond to a felt need to appear the strongest.  An enneatype 9 instead processes anger unconsciously, rarely manifesting it, being mainly driven by the need to pacify his or her environment and relationships.  The final modality is that of the enneatype 1, who tends to internalize anger, denying it consciously but still expressing it through the body: those who belong to this type are motivated by the desire to prove themselves to be perfect, and the impossibility of achieving this goal triggers anger which they tend to deny.

The ‘Heart’ types, which are enneatypes 2, 3 and 4, tend to establish a strong bond with their own feelings.  The predominant emotion can best be expressed as the Need for Affirmation From Others (especially from those they consider close to them) to the extent of marginalizing their own most profound needs.  Reliance on validation from others can result in low self-esteem or self-perception heavily influenced by a variable outside world.

Here too, the predominant emotion is expressed in different modalities.  In an enneatype 2, for example, it manifests itself in the need for recognition by others of one’s own affection, generating what is defined as ‘possessive affectivity’.  For the enneatype 3, in contrast, one’s own success becomes of great importance, especially professionally speaking.  The need for recognition is in this case processed as a ‘functional affectivity’.  The enneatype 4, meanwhile, wishes for recognition of his own originality; he or she has a need to be considered unique and special.

The ‘Head’ types, to which enneatypes 5, 6 and 7 belong, favour rationality.  They tend to approach relationships through reasoning.  They seek reassurance in unambiguous answers through reasoning and logic, but this kind of approach can often generate conflict since the same option can have both positive and negative implications, making the choice difficult.

It is in this phase that the predominant emotion of Fear, which characterizes this triad, emerges.  It manifests itself in different modalities according to enneatype: it could be fear of failure, of not doing the right thing, of missing good opportunities and especially of not comprehending.  Unlike the ‘Heart’ types, the ‘Head’ types – for different reasons – do not give too much emphasis to the outside world or to other peoples’ opinions, often appearing distrustful, superficial or uninterested.  In reality, this is mainly a defence mechanism against the fear that characterizes these personalities.

In people who are enneatype 5, the predominant emotion expresses itself as fear of intrusion from others: this leads to a need to adopt isolation as a strategy when approaching relationships.

In those who are enneatype 6, fear is instead linked to other people’s unpredictability: these people are constantly on their guard.

Enneatype 7’s, on the other hand, have yet another way of processing fear: in this case, the major concern is represented by boredom, which is balanced by a constant longing for new, exciting experiences and fun.

The strategies just described are developed during infancy and their origin lies in the relationship dynamics experienced in the family environment.  They are “adaptive” strategies, perceived by the child as character models (responses) effective for survival and obtaining affection and attention in the context of primary relationships.  This is the reason these models become deeply rooted in the individual’s psyche, affecting his or her behaviour during adulthood too.

Written by:
Claudio Del Piano

[English version]
Translated by:
Gennaro Ambrosino

Edited by:
Gennaro Ambrosino
Matthew Willis

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Category: Articles, Consciousness, The Fool's Corner

Claudio Del Piano

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Claudio Del Piano is a writer, music producer and traveller. He graduated in Modern Literature and Foreign Languages with a thesis entitled “From Bukowski to Eminem: the other side of America”. He has great interest and researched extensively into Enneagram, Sufism and Tarology. He is currently working as a web content editor/curator, 'Story Hunter' and translator. For further info: cdelpiano@libero.it

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Comments (3)

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  1. […] This article is part of a series. Read part 2. […]

  2. LeaT says:

    The article forgets to mention that the image triad deals with the emotion of Shame just like the body triad deals with Anger and the Head triad Fear/anxiety.

    I would also advice against making the correlation between type 3 and seeking recognition at one’s work which is implied when using such terminology as “professions”. I also reject that there is so much focus spent on head types but not image and gut. It would also be good to go over that the three main triads may be referred to different things such as gut/belly/body, image/heart/ and head/mind.

  3. […] Main approaches to categorizing the trios a. From Helen Palmer – the most popular approach : 234=Heart-based, Emotion 567=Head-based, Reason 891=Gut-based, […]

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