The world is full of opposites: light or dark, good or bad, wet or dry. These categories are simple and easy to understand – but they aren’t the whole story. What about all those shades of gray? The neutral? The moist? Seeing the world as either/or means we often get ourselves trapped between a rock and a hard place, when to an outside observer, it looks like we should be able to climb out pretty easily. The power of threes is like a mental rope we can use to haul ourselves to a more expansive viewpoint. But first, you have to know what obstacle you’re facing. Enter the Enneagram.
The Enneagram divides people into nine archtypes. Each type also has a wing (one of the adjacent numbers on the Enneagram circle). For many people (me!), this explains an inner conflict or confusion since the pattern of the dominant type is often very different than that of the wing. For example, I am a 9w8. Nines are all about going with the flow and avoiding conflict – but Eights like to take charge and challenge the status quo. I have often felt trapped between my two habits – either I ignore my feelings so I can avoid upsetting anyone, or my Eight wing takes over, and I am too forceful in asserting myself. Friendly or fierce. It feels like I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. But thankfully, that false dichotomy isn’t the whole picture. The power of threes, as I’m calling it, means there is a third choice.
What’s behind door #3
As a Nine, that third option is to really pay close attention to how I feel. Sounds simple, and it is, but it isn’t always easy. I’d rather not be bothered by uncomfortable feelings. It takes a conscious effort to stay present to my own experience and not get swept away by other people’s (often louder, or more insistent) needs. Anger scares me – I had some pretty amazing “what not to do” role models in my life. But anger is my friend, now. I finally see that anger is just an invitation to pay attention, and when I do, I get to solve the puzzle. How do I stay true to myself and allow other people that same freedom?
Harness the power of threes
The real wisdom of the Enneagram is when you are able to see the patterns within yourself – your typical type response, the wing you turn to when needed AND – the hard part – your third and least developed type of intelligence. The part of you that might as well not exist, for all the attention you’ve paid it. When you start to see that third option, it can feel miraculous. It isn’t. It is just how we are meant to live, as fully functional humans, with our heads, hearts and bodies all communicating within ourselves.
When we learn to use all three, magic happens. You can call it whatever you like: thinking, feeling, doing. Mind, body, spirit. Mental, emotional, instinctual. Head, heart, gut. If you look into the Enneagram in any detail, and I hope you will, you’ll find that each teacher uses a slightly different framework. In this blog, I’ll explore different perspectives – not to decide which one is “right” – but to make connections and expand my own understanding of myself and the world.
If you don’t know your Enneagram number, reading over the type descriptions on Enneagram Institute website is a good place to start.