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Understanding the Triads

Updated: Apr 2

Each of the nine personality types of the Enneagram is part of one of three "Triads": the Feeling Triad (2, 3, 4), the Thinking Triad (5, 6, 7), and the Instinctive Triad (8, 9, 1). In a way, you can think of each triad as a broad personality type, and the three component types as subtypes. That is because each type fills a specific role, and in every Triad one type over-expresses the Triad's features, one under-expresses the features, and one is out of touch with the features.


The three Instinctive Triad types have strengths and weaknesses primarily related to their "gut" or instinctual drive, with how they relate to the world and take action within it. Each type learns to repress some part of their instinctual drive in order to survive, and the result is that they become over-developed in other areas. At average to unhealthy levels, these types feel unsafe when the instinctual drives they aim to repress fight to be acknowledged, and so they fight back and try to repress them more strongly. In order to do this they have to remain self-focused and ego-driven, which makes it impossible for them to be engaged and responsive in the present moment because they are too busy being engaged within themselves. As they grow into the healthy levels, they relax out of their self-created tensions and engage in the world safely and happily.


Type 8 is the type within the Instinctive Triad that over-expresses the Triad's features. This means that 8s are driven by ego to over-rely on their gut impulses in order to feel safe in their environments. To accomplish this, they have to repress their "Yin" or receptive side, the side which would read the environment, be open to input from others, and listen to its own feelings. As they grow to healthy levels, they re-integrate their receptive side, which brings back an element of depth, consideration, and personal power that was missing at lower levels.


Type 9 is the type within the Instinctive Triad that is out of touch with the Triad's features. Regardless of wing type, 9s inherently deal with lessons from both 8 (gut feelings related to the external world) and 1 (gut feelings related to the internal world) simultaneously, and hence is called the "primary" type within the triad. This means that 9s are driven by ego to detach from their instinctive drive in order to feel safe in their environments. They repress their "Yang" or assertive side, the side which would proactively get the 9's needs met and make their true selves known to others. As they grow to healthy levels, they re-integrate their assertive side, allowing them to set themselves on the path they are meant to follow and to truly connect with the people they care about by allowing themselves to take part in the relationship.


Type 1 is the type within the Instinctive Triad that under-expresses the Triad's features. This means that 1s are driven by ego to repress and avoid developing their gut impulses in order to maintain self-control and feel safe in their environments. They attempt the impossible task of repressing their gut drives entirely, but because this can't be accomplished, they simply deny the impulses' existence, following them while remaining convinced they are being objective. As they grow to healthy levels, they re-integrate their self-awareness, bringing a depth of insight they could not achieve otherwise.


The three Feeling Triad types have strengths and weaknesses primarily related to their emotions, with how they they relate and connect to others. Each type prioritizes their own feelings over other areas, believing that how others see them is the key to their survival. At average to unhealthy levels, these types remain preoccupied with how they feel vis-a-vis how others feel about them, neglecting other aspects of life that hold importance. They feel unsafe when they are deprived of emotional validation and put their time and energy towards getting their emotional needs met, as if their life depended on it. As they grow into the healthy levels, they learn to accept themselves emotionally and engaging with others on equal plane.


Type 2 is the type within the Feeling Triad that over-expresses the Triad's features. This means that 2s rely on emotional expression for survival, expressing positive emotions and repressing negative ones in order to show others they are emotionally "good" and to create an emotionally "safe" environment. When their emotionally defined reality is threatened, they use emotional expression to "counter-attack", achieving safety through emotional dominance of their world. As they grow into the healthy levels, they learn to accept all aspects of reality, including others' feelings, allowing them to engage in the present moment safely.


Type 3 is the type within the feeling triad most out of touch with the Triad's features. Regardless of wing type, 3s inherently deal with lessons from both 2 (emotions related to the external world) and 4 (emotions related to the internal world) simultaneously, and hence is called the "primary" type within the triad. This means that 3s repress their own emotions in order to show others what they want to see as a means of survival. At average to unhealthy levels, their feelings pose a threat - they have to maintain their image to survive, but their image inherently contradicts who they would be if they were open to their feelings. They aggressively defend their emotional selves and reject anything from their environment that doesn't reinforce their image. As they grow into healthy levels, they connect with their feelings and discover who they want to be, enabling them to share their talents with others.


Type 4 is the type within the feeling triad that under-expresses the Triad's features. This means that 4s repress their capacity to express their emotions, intellectualizing their feelings and only expressing them indirectly (such as through the arts or by crafting an outward image). At average to unhealthy levels, 4s dwell on their feelings, paradoxically consumed by them while never letting themselves access them fully. As they grow into healthy levels, they allow themselves to feel their feelings in real time, enabling them to engage actively in the world.


The three Thinking Triad types have strengths and weaknesses primarily related to their thoughts, with how they use their capacities to perceive and process information. Each type learns to engage their mental landscape in a certain way in order to survive. At average to unhealthy levels, these types attempt to engage in their lives mentally rather than holistically, creating anxiety as they engage their mental constructs further rather than taking substantive action. As they grow into the healthy levels, they learn to use their head, heart, and body in conjunction and engage in the world safely and happily.


Type 5 is the type within the Thinking Triad that over-expresses the Triad's features. This means that 5s are driven to over-rely on their mental capacities, shying away from action and using thought in its place. They become anxious and fearful of the physical world as they spend more and more time in their heads, focusing on complex systems of thought to distract themselves from reality. As they become healthy, they get back in touch with their environments, grounding their highly developed mental capacities and channeling them towards useful ends.


Type 6 is the type within the Thinking Triad that is out of touch with the Triad's features. Regardless of wing type, 6s inherently deal with lessons from both 5 (fear related to the external world) and 7 (fear related to the internal world) simultaneously, and hence is called the "primary" type within the triad. This means that 6s are out of touch with their own thoughts, not trusting their own minds. As a result, they either look to others for confirmation of what they could confirm themselves, or they remain stuck in repeating patterns of thought while refusing to integrate their own perceptions as reliable conclusions. As they grow into the healthy levels, they learn to trust themselves and use their focus, diligence, and organizational abilities productively.


Type 7 is the type within the Thinking Triad that under-expresses the Triad's features. This means that 7s center themselves around mental excitement, but tend to leave their mental capacities under-utilized, juggling many thoughts but not completing many of them. They delight in new and stimulating thoughts, but cut them short in favor seeking experience without understanding and reflection. As they grow to healthy levels, they learn to slow their thoughts and seek fulfillment rather than excitement, utilizing their mental prowess productively.

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