Chapter 3:     Triads

The final piece of the Enneagram puzzle is the concept of Triads.  The first two chapters looked at the other pieces: Types, Wings, Development, and Basic Fears.  This chapter covers Triads.

Triads are critical to the hypothesis of this book.  This book argues that the nine Enneagram types correspond to nine different patterns of default operation of our brains.  Triads lie at the heart of this argument.

In fact, this chapter on Triads introduces the “dirt road” turnoff mentioned in the Introduction.  The Introduction noted that the Enneagram books are like tourist road maps that don’t show the dirt roads. 

The point of this chapter is to reveal the dirt roads that the Enneagram authors didn’t talk about.  At least, they didn’t talk about these dirt roads explicitly.  But these dirt roads are critical because they are the ones that lead us to the brain.

So the game of this chapter is to carefully step through the Enneagram books, and piece together some information on Triads that will be useful in Part Three.  Accordingly, among all the chapters in Part One, this one is the most dense.

Although most dense, this chapter is also the most informative on the Enneagram.  Triads reveal the fundamental natures of the types.

So put on your thinking caps.  After this chapter, you should have an intimate understanding of the Enneagram.  You might even recognize yourself in here.

What is a Triad?

Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books all mention the concept of Triads.  A Triad consists of three of the personality types.  For example, Two, Three, and Four together comprise one Triad.  Since there are nine types, the Enneagram can be described as a collection of three Triads (three times three equals nine).

There are many different ways in which the nine types can be grouped into a collection of three Triads.  For example, three possible Triad collections A, B, and C are:

 

Triad 1

Triad 2

Triad 3

Triad Collection A

One, Two, Three

Four, Five, Six

Seven, Eight, Nine

Triad Collection B

Two, Three, Seven

Four, Five, Eight

Nine, One, Six

Triad Collection C

One, Three, Five

Two, Four, Six

Seven, Eight, Nine

 

Three Hypothetical Triad Collections

The preceding table depicts three possible Triad collections.  Each of these collections describes the Enneagram as three groups of three types.  Although this table depicts only three different collections, mathematically speaking, there are thousands of different possible Triad collections.[1] 

But although thousands of different Triad collections are mathematically possible, only two collections are relevant to the hypothesis of this book.  I will refer to these two relevant collections as the “Mood Triads” and the “Fear Triads”.  These two collections are relevant to this book because, as Part Three argues, they seem to map nicely to current neurological findings.

The Mood Triads and Fear Triads are as follows:

 

Triad 1

Triad 2

Triad 3

Mood Triads

Three, Seven, Eight

One, Two, Six

Four, Five, Nine

Fear Triads

Two, Three, Four

Five, Six, Seven

Eight, Nine, One

 

The Mood Triads and Fear Triads

At this point, you may be wondering: What’s the big deal with these two Triad collections?  The answer involves the substantive meanings of “Triad 1”, “Triad 2”, and “Triad 3”.

Consider Triad 1 of the Mood Triads: (Three, Seven, Eight).  This Triad is relevant because the Three, Seven, and Eight types all share a core, common attribute.  Moreover, this attribute is different from the attribute that the types of Triad 2 (One, Two, Six) share in common.  And both of those attributes are different from the attribute that the types of Triad 3 (Four, Five, and Nine) share.

What are those attributes?  For the Mood Triads, the three Mood Attributes are Aggression, Compliance, and Withdrawal.  For the Fear Triads, the three Fear Attributes are Flight, Anger, and Image.  The following two tables depict how these attributes relate to the two Triad collections and the nine types:

Mood Attributes

Aggression

Compliance

Withdrawal

Mood Triads

Three, Seven, Eight

One, Two, Six

Four, Five, Nine

 

The Mood Triads and Attributes

Fear Attributes

Image

Flight

Anger

Fear Triads

Two, Three, Four

Five, Six, Seven

Eight, Nine, One

 

The Fear Triads and Attributes

The following sections drill down on these two Triad collections.  Drilling down on these leads to the hidden “dirt roads” that take us to the brain.  The analysis begins with the Mood Triads.

The Mood Triads

The Mood Triads represent the first of the dirt roads that take us from the Enneagram to the brain.  They are a dirt road because Riso/Hudson barely skims over them while the Palmer books don’t even mention them.

Riso/Hudson draws its brief discussion of the Mood Triads from the work of psychoanalyst Karen Horney.  Ms. Horney lived well before the recent emergence of the Enneagram.  But her work dovetails rather nicely with the Enneagram, as Riso/Hudson shows.[2] 

Aggression Triad

Threes

“aggressive in the pursuit of their goals and in their competition with others”

Sevens

“aggressive about engaging the environment and satisfying their appetites”

Eights

“aggressive in asserting themselves against others and the environment”

Withdrawal Triad

Fours

“withdrawn to protect their feelings and their fragile self-image”

Fives

“withdrawn, away from action, into the world of thought”

Nines

“withdrawn so that others will not disturb their inner peacefulness”

Compliance Triad

Ones

“compliant to the ideals after which they strive”

Twos

“compliant to the superego’s dictate to be always selfless and loving”

Sixes

“compliant to the superego dictate to do what is expected of them”

 

Riso/Hudson Links Karen Horney with the Enneagram

What exactly do the Mood Attributes – “aggression”, “compliance”, and “withdrawal” – mean?  The preceding table gives some hints, but it falls short in providing crisp definitions.

This book proposes clear definitions for the Mood Attributes.  These clear definitions are based on the text of Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books.  But the definitions themselves do not come from these books.  These definitions come from my own close reading of these books.

In defining the Mood Attributes, this book relies on two mental states: optimism, and pessimism. In this book, these states have very specific and narrow definitions.  These definitions have to do with Basic Desires and Basic Fears.  

Chapter 2 explained that each of the personality types sees the world through the split-view illusion defined by Basic Desire and Basic Fear.  The split-view illusions for each type are:

 

Basic Desire

Basic Fear

Two

Loved

Unwanted

Three

Valuable

Worthless

Four

Significant

Insignificant

Five

Competent

Incapable

Six

Secure

Insecure

Seven

Satisfied

Pained

Eight

Strong

Weak

Nine

Peaceful

Lost

One

Good

Defective

 

“Optimism” refers to the tendency of a type to associate the Basic Desire with self.  A broader way to state this is that optimists are especially sensitive to receiving social reward.  The specific kind of social reward to which an optimist type is particularly sensitive is that type’s Basic Desire.  In the case of a Seven, for example, the Seven’s optimism keeps him awake to opportunities for receiving satisfaction.

“Pessimism” is the opposite of optimism.  With pessimism, the type associates the Basic Fear with self.  Stated another way, pessimists are especially sensitive to receiving social punishment, and in particular, to receiving the social punishment associated with the type’s Basic Fear.  For example, pessimism for a Six means that the Six is vulnerable to seeing herself as insecure.

One extra element in these definitions concerns the notion of apprehension.  In this book, “apprehension” refers to the ability to notice “down” moods, both in ourselves and in others.  Down moods include sadness, despair, and anxiety.  They do not include aggressive anger.

According to the Enneagram, apprehension tracks with pessimism. But apprehension does not come with optimism.  So apprehension can be seen as an attribute of pessimism.  For pure optimists, “ignorance is bliss”; pure pessimists tend the opposite way, toward “miserable apprehension”.

Now every personality type is capable of experiencing optimism and pessimism, from time to time.  But what the Enneagram says is that different types exhibit different patterns of persistent motivation and behavior.  For the Mood Triads, these patterns break down along the lines of optimism and pessimism.

It is my assertion that what makes each of the aggressive types (Three, Seven, Eight) “aggressive” is that each follows the same pattern with respect to optimism and pessimism.  The same holds true for the compliant types (One, Two, Six) and for the withdrawn types (Four, Five, Nine).  But the patterns for all three are different. 

The pattern of optimism and pessimism for each Mood Attribute defines that attribute.  Specifically, the definition of these attributes is as follows:

 

 

Definitions

 

 

Optimism

Pessimism

Mood Attributes

Aggression

yes

no

Compliance

no

yes

Withdrawal

yes

yes

 

Definitions of the Mood Attributes

At this point, we know enough about the Mood Triads to proceed to the brain research.  But since the above definitions of the Mood Attributes come from this book, rather than from the statements of the Enneagram experts, we must first pause.

Since I am proposing new definitions for the Mood Attributes, does this mean I claim to be an Enneagram expert?  No.  What I claim is that even though Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books do not explicitly present these definitions, the text of those books do support the definitions.  In other words, these definitions originate from the text of Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books.  When I said in the introduction I might be reading these books more closely than most, this is what I meant.

Delving into the books of the experts, we find that this book’s definitions of the Mood Attributes are indeed supported.  Starting with Palmer1, we see that, at their core, each of the aggressive types experiences optimism, and avoids pessimism and apprehension.

The Aggressive Triad

Optimism

Three

Valuable: “Life is high energy and happy ….” [136]  “A sense of inner optimism is often bolstered by paying selective attention to positive achievements.” [137]  “[Threes] live with a sense of confidence in their capacities … .” [145-46]  “There is a likelihood of exaggerated self-promotion … .” [151]

Seven

Satisfied: “They tend to be lighthearted and sunny … .” [275] “[Sevens] are convinced of their own excellence … .” [276]  “Sevens are buoyed by a belief that life is unlimited.  There are always interesting things to do.” [277]  “Seven hold the most optimistic of worldviews … .” [277]  “Sevens have a great deal of energy … .” [278]  “The skew of attention is toward positive memory.” [280]  “Sevens feel superior to others.” [289]

Eight

Strong: “[Eights] rarely question their own opinion.  Waffling on the merits of an opinion … would only serve to erode a strong personal stand.” [308]  “The preferred state of existence is highly amped, fully energized forward motion.  [Eights] have learned … to go toward what gives them pleasure, without being overly concerned about their motivations.” [312]  Eights are “relatively uninhibited and have a good deal of physical energy at their disposal … .” [312]  “Eights are particularly prone to the specific shift of attention that includes only safe information and blocks out the rest.” [321]

Non-Pessimism

Three

Not Worthless: “Failures are reframed by turning them into incomplete successes … .” [137]  “[Threes] forget their own feelings … .” [142] “[T]hey suspend their emotions while they work … .” [142]  “[I]f an objective failure does occur, Threes redefine the failure as a partial success, or pin the blame on others.” [146]  “There will be no feeling of failure if another promising opportunity can be mobilized quickly enough.” [146]

Seven

Not Pained:  “As a defensive strategy, planning for the future along the lines of contingency options is intended to enhance life’s pleasures by eliminating the problems of boredom and pain.” [277]  “Rationalized escapism from difficult or limiting tasks.” [278]  “If others do not recognize their inner merit, Sevens will turn to themselves for comfort, rationalizing the rejection as no fault of their own.” [279] 

Eight

Not Weak:  “Many Eights live out their lives without looking within themselves to rediscover the tender feelings that they have hidden … .” [307]  “[Eight] children … have learned to deny their personal limitations in order to appear strong.” [311]  “A grudge has a way of keeping the game going.  We haven’t lost yet, we are merely waiting it out until we meet  again.  An Eight [has the] habit of blaming others as the source of difficulty … .” [316]

Non-Apprehension

Three

Threes “are intolerant of underachievers and those who let their emotions pull them down.” [137]  “If sensitivity is required [in intimate relationships], then sensitivity is presented, but not necessarily felt.” [148]  “Attention narrows to those cues in the environment that will support forward motion toward the goal, and people start to look like automatons who are either blocking forward motion or who have something that will serve the work.” [155]

Seven

“If a problem surfaces [in intimate relationships], activities can be sandwiched so closely together that there is no time to talk over the issue.” [291] Sevens “often have difficulty with dependent or needy people.  The fact that a partner may not be able to shift attention from a painful pattern or to let an emotional grievance go seems like a severe limitation to the optimistic Seven.” [292]

Eight

“Under pressure, attention narrows to a measuring of [the Eight’s] power against the strength or weakness of an opponent.” [308]  When aroused, “the field of perception narrows to a fixed focus on the weak points of the opponent’s defense.” [311] When aroused, the Eight “becomes oblivious to other people’s reactions … .” [315]

 

The preceding table highlights the precise, narrow meanings of optimism, pessimism, and apprehension.  For example, optimism and pessimism here have nothing to do with positive or negative feelings about the world in general.  Instead of concerning the world in general, optimism and pessimism in this book concern only personal reward and punishment.  More accurately, they are about a subjective perception of personal reward and punishment.

For example, the less healthy Eight is fully awake to prospects for receiving personal reward. This means he remains ever ready to demonstrate his strength.  So blaming others, being oblivious to them, not budging from certainty in an argument, and denying personal weakness all seem to him like promoting strength, and contradicting weakness.  Of course such an Eight wouldn’t characterize his own behavior in such terms (e.g. “blaming others” etc.).  Instead, he would claim to be acting in accordance with truth, justice, and strength.  That he behaves in the former way, yet sees himself in the latter way, make him an “optimist” and a “non-pessimist” in this book.  To be sure, he may be a delusional sociopath.  But what matters in this book is that he’s an optimistic delusional sociopath.

The compliant types are the opposite of the aggressive types.  Where the aggressive types pursue optimism, the compliant types avoid it.  Where the aggressive types avoid pessimism, the compliant types identify with it.  And where the aggressive types do not apprehend, the compliant types are highly apprehensive.

The Compliant Triad

Pessimism

One

Defective: Ones “live with the kind of severe internal critic that most of us would experience only if we had committed a serious crime.” [73]  “Ones say that it is very painful to be criticized by others, because they are already burdened by self-judgment.” [81]  “Ones worry about not being perfect, about not deserving to survive, and particularly about making a mistake that would jeopardize survival.” [98]  “[Ones] live with an operating assumption that something about their mannerisms or habits is sure to repel [their intimate] partner.” [84]

Two

Unwanted: “If their efforts are not recognized, or approval is withheld, Twos feel punctured, as if their worth depended on how they stood in other people’s eyes.” [103]    Twos have “a feeling of self-importance that, because it is dependent upon the regard of others, can easily be deflated if attention is withheld.” [114]

Six

Insecure: “Habit of Assuming Worst Case Outcomes” [248] “Sixes are sensitive to the possibility of worst case outcomes, and so tend to imagine the worst, without realizing that they have not paid equal attention to imagining the best.” [248]

Non-Optimism

One

Not Good: “[T]hey deny themselves pleasure … .” [72]  “How can Ones find themselves right when their own minds measure their best effort against unattainable standards of perfection?” [82]  “A One’s anxiety mounts as pleasurable goals become possible.”

Two

Not Loved: “There is often a real fear of intimacy, because close contact exposes the fact that the self has been sold out to please others.” [111]  “Twos are often so repressed with respect to their own needs that they have a hard time knowing what they want … .” [116]  “[T]here is a systematic lack of attention to personal needs.” [125]  “Shifting attention inward produces a great deal of anxiety for Twos.” [125]

Six

Not Secure: “Anxiety tends to peak as goals materialize, which means that self-doubt and procrastination intensify as [Sixes] move toward exposure and success.” [238] Sixes “are convinced that an open success will draw the attention of hostile authorities … .” [238]  “Positive attention can spark doubtful thinking: This is a setup or What more do they expect?” [246]  “Sixes are clever about finding ways to circumvent success.” [256]

Apprehension

One

“When anxiety mounts, Ones are vulnerable to hearing implied criticism where none is really present.  Innocuous conversations seem laced with negative overtones … .” [84]

Two

“Twos develop an exquisite personal radar for the detection of moods and preferences [of others].” [101]  “Attention is by habit focused upon the emotional fluctuations of significant others … .” [124]

Six

“Their way of paying attention is to scan the environment for signs of anything harmful and to watch people closely for indications of what goes on in their minds.” [238]

 

A couple of observations on the preceding table merit mention.  The first observation concerns the nature of the Two’s pessimism.  The pessimism of the One and Six are unmistakable.  Ones are constantly reminded of their “defects” and Sixes of their “insecurity”.  But Twos seem to be chasing love.  How is chasing love pessimistic?  The answer lies in the nature of the Two’s Basic Fear.

The Two fears being unwanted.  If the Two already felt wanted, she wouldn’t need to chase love in the hopes of receiving some sign that she is wanted.  But the dynamic of the less healthy Two is the constant, desperate chase for love.  This indicates a persistent feeling of being unwanted.

The second observation about the preceding table concerns the difference between pessimism and non-optimism.  They sound like the same thing, but they’re not.  The pessimist expects his Basic Fear to be realized.  That doesn’t say anything about how he will react when his Basic Fear is not realized, and instead sees his Basic Desire approaching.  The latter case is where non-optimism comes in.

The non-optimistic nature of the three compliant types causes them to react the same way when they see their Basic Desires approaching: they don’t believe it.  They sabotage their own Basic Desires.  In their less healthy states, the One can’t see herself as “good”; the Six avoids seeing himself as “secure”; and the Two can’t believe she is unconditionally “loved”.

This second observation is poignant because it highlights the distinction between the compliant types and the withdrawn types.  Like the compliant types, the withdrawn types are pessimists.  But unlike the compliant types, the withdrawn types are also optimists.  The withdrawn types are simultaneously optimistic and pessimistic.  These strike me as particularly interesting types.

The Withdrawn Triad

Pessimism

Four

Insignificant:   “Depression is a frequent mood.” [168]  “[Fours] are likely to sabotage real gains.” [170]  Fours subject themselves to “an intense self-criticism for not being worthy enough to have merited love.” [174]  “There is a feeling of having lost in life because of some fatal flaw of personality that makes a Four less valuable than those who have been given love.” [188]  “There is plenty of energy to move forward until success begins to materialize.” [191]

Five

Incapable:  “They believe that desires and intense emotionality indicate a loss of control … .” [205]  “The defense tactic of not getting involved in emotional entanglement extends to positive as well as negative emotions.” [211]  “The central issue for Fives is the fear of feeling.” [217]  “They live with a sense of being easily exhausted by personal interactions.” [221]  “The underlying reason for avoiding contact is that Fives have practically no defenses against confrontation.” [222]

Nine

Lost:  “Nines report that they lose contact with what they want by merging with the wishes of others … .” [346]  “The most natural state of mind is to be on the fence, both committed and still not sure … .” [347]  “[T]hey have forgotten themselves … .” [348]  “[T]heir habits are designed to drain energy … .”. [352]

Optimism

Four

Significant: “Fours say that the highs and lows of their emotional life open up an intensified level of existence that is beyond ordinary happiness … . [T]here is the sense of being … unique and strangely different … .  To give up the suffering of a heightened emotional life would mean sacrificing the sense of being special that drama tends to generate.” [171]  “Melancholy is a mood that elevates the life of an abandoned outsider to a posture of unique temperamental sensitivity.” [175]

Five

Competent: “They can live happily alone … .” [205]  “[T]heir feelings are more available when no one is around to see.” [207]  “Their enjoyment of life comes most easily when they are alone … .” [207]  “They love the company of their own minds … .” [216]

Nine

At Peace: “Believing that their own position will be discounted, but still wanting to maintain connection, they have learned to incorporate other people’s enthusiasms as their own.” [346]  “The containment of energy guarantees a state of equilibrium … .” 357] Describing an extended period of depression, a Nine explains: “I was … feeling totally free.” [358]  “They say that merger is implicit in relationships where there is love and that with merger the sense of separation between people disappears.” [361]

Apprehension

Four

“[Fours] have unusual stamina for helping others go through intense emotional episodes … . Fours often say that by focusing on someone else’s needs, they are able to shift attention from their own.” [192]

Five

“Fives can relate to others in depth, and understand about emotional upheaval from a purely mental place … .” [217]  Fives have the “habit of disengaging from feelings in order to observe.” [225]

Nine

Nines are “people who are prone to taking on the feelings of others.” [346]  “Nines say that it is far easier to know the inner condition of others than it is to find a viewpoint of their own.” [347]

 

The withdrawn types are extraordinary because the very dynamic of their pessimism is the wellspring of their optimism.  To them, succumbing to their Basic Fears seems to realize their Basic Desires.  The Four fears insignificance.  Feeling insignificant, the pessimistic Four falls into dramatic depression.   But the circle is closed when the optimistic Four feels unique and significant precisely because of her dramatic depressions. 

Similarly, the Five who believes he is incapable of experiencing emotions in public, comes home and feels warm and competent in his ability to control his feelings long enough to release them in private.  The Nine who succumbs to her fear of being lost by merging with others and thus losing herself, feels optimistic about it all because merger seems to have bought her the peace and connection she seeks.

This isn’t to suggest that the withdrawn types have solved their Basic Fears through alchemy – i.e. through transforming the lead of their Basic Fear into the gold of their Basic Desire.  The withdrawn types have no more solved their Basic Fear through alchemy than the aggressive types have solved their Basic Fear through denying it out of existence.

What of the compliant types?  In their less healthy states, the compliant types don’t seem to enjoy even so much as the illusion of having overcome their Basic Fears.  They seem stuck with them.  What are the repercussions?

One possible repercussion involves psychosomatic physical ailments.  “Psychosomatic” does not mean the physical ailments don’t exist.  They do exist.  That term means only that the genesis of these ailments lies primarily in the way these types think and feel.

Riso/Hudson states that the unhealthy ego of a Two “inevitably leads to problems  with their physical health.  This often begins as hypochondria at Level 6.[3]  Getting sick allows Twos to take a break from wearing themselves out for everyone without feeling like a bad or selfish person.” [82]

About the less healthy Sixes, Riso/Hudson says that they are “frequently absent from work due to mysterious psychosomatic problems, little physical breakdowns which put them in bed for a day or two … .” [245]

These are the only references to psychosomatic illness I could find in Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books.  Notably, I found no reference to psychosomatic illness with respect to the One.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. 

What it may mean is that the connection, in a One, between mindset and illness is not so evident.  For example, instead of regular “smaller” mysterious illnesses of the sort that plague Twos and Sixes, perhaps Ones disproportionately suffer instead from “major” mysterious illnesses for which no proximate antecedent, other than persistent anxiety, is evident.

 

This concludes the discussion of the Mood Triads. The fundamental point here is that the three Mood Triads differ according to how they approach their Basic Fears and Basic Desires.  The aggressive types approach them with optimism; the compliant types, with pessimism; and the withdrawn types, with both.  Meanwhile, apprehension tracks pessimism: where there is pessimism, there is apprehension; where there is non-pessimism, there is non-apprehension.

We are now ready to drill down into the Fear Triads.

The Fear Triads

The Fear Triads are the second hidden dirt road leading to the brain.  Although both Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books mention the Fear Triads, each takes a rather different approach to them.  Most of the Enneagram community seems to have followed Riso/Hudson’s approach.  But this book follows the approach of the Palmer books.

The reason this book follows the Palmer approach is because that approach leads us to the brain.  Riso/Hudson’s approach does not.  For now, that’s all I’ll say on this difference.  Part Three will explain the shortcomings of the Riso/Hudson approach.

Although the approach of the Palmer books on the Fear Triads is the useful[4] one, these books are as skimpy on the Fear Triads as Riso/Hudson is on the Mood Triads. The following table supplements the sparse information in the Palmer books with quotes from an interview given by Ms. Palmer:

Anger Triad

Eight, Nine, One

“These types manifest anger in very different ways.  If you’re dealing with an Eight, Nine, or One person, anger is sitting in the room at some level.”

“Centered on the core point of Nine, the 8-9-1 triad is the Enneagram’s place of self-forgetting.  Eights lose priorities through excessive behavior and express anger to defend what they want.  Nines replace their own priorities by merging with many points of view and express their anger indirectly.  Ones replace priorities with ‘the correct thing to do’ and recognize their anger only when convinced that they are right.”

Flight Triad

Five, Six, Seven

“These are three very different [flight] types.  They all have a basis in paranoia.”

“The hallmarks of a [flight] type are ambivalence about authority and procrastination.”

Image Triad

Two, Three, Four

“The core point of this central triangle is 3, the Performer, and these are three image types.  Taking approval from others.”

 

Before we proceed further, it is important to note a small difference in terminology between this book and the Palmer books.  According to the Palmer books, the Fear Attributes are anger, fear, and image.  This book uses the term “flight” instead of “fear” to describe the middle Triad.  But the meaning is the same.  Just the labels are different.

The reason this book uses the term “flight” instead of “fear” is that “flight” refers to a particular type of fear response.  Anger and image are two different types of fear responses.  In other words, the Fear Attributes are three different ways of responding to fear.  So, logically speaking, any of the three Fear Triads could be called the “fear” Triad.  Not just the “flight” Triad. 

However, Palmer2’s choice of the term “fear” to refer to the flight Triad is not surprising.  Among all three Fear Triads (anger, flight, and image), the flight Triad stands out as the Triad of types that are most aware of their fear.  Being most aware of their fear, the flight types respond to fear in a way that more unambiguously resembles what we commonly recognize as a “fear” response.  This dynamic is explained below.  But for now, it suffices to note that Palmer2’s use of the term “fear” to refer to the flight Triad was quite natural.

In the previous section, we saw that the Mood Attributes are defined as three different patterns of two different mental states.  Those mental states are optimism and pessimism.  This section follows the same approach.  But in this section, the relevant mental states are aware fear and unaware fear.

This book defines anger, flight, and image as three different patterns of aware fear and unaware fear.  The definitions of these Fear Attributes are as follows:

 

 

Aware Fear

Unaware Fear

Fear Triads

Flight

yes

no

Anger

no

yes

Image

yes

yes

 

Definitions of the Fear Attributes

As with the definitions of the Mood Attributes, these definitions of the Fear Attributes are all we need for proceeding to the brain research.  But just as the Mood Attribute definitions are not explicitly stated in the books of the experts, neither are these definitions.  So it is important to demonstrate support in these books for these definitions.

Starting with the flight Triad, Riso/Hudson shows that, at their core, each of the three flight types experiences awareness of discomfort.  And in response to this awareness, each type responds in the same way: flight.

The Flight Triad

Awareness of discomfort

Five

Fives “fear that the environment is unpredictable and potentially threatening.” [175] This fear reaches consciousness typically as the feeling of lacking the “skills and knowledge they feel are necessary for them to be able to operate adequately in life.” [RH 175]

Six

Sixes “are the type which is most conscious of anxiety – ‘anxious that they are anxious – unlike other personality types who are either unaware of their anxiety or who unconsciously convert it into other symptoms.” [RH 220]

Seven

Sevens “are fearful and anxious about their ability to cope with their inner environment – their grief, loss, anxiety.” [RH 263]  This fear reaches consciousness typically as the feeling of boredom. [R275-76]

.. resulting in flight.

Five

“Fives deal with their fear of the environment by retreating from [the world] until they can develop the skill or knowledge to cope with it.” [38] 

Six

Sixes flee by “turning to things outside of themselves as sources of reassurance.” [39]  For Sixes, this takes the form of “try[ing] to establish support systems in the world that they hope will fend off real world dangers.” [39] 

Seven

“Sevens flee from the anxiety in their minds by finding security in the external world of activity.” [39] 

 

The preceding table shows that the fear experienced by each of the flight types is quite different, as is the nature of the flight that results from the fear.   For example, the inhibited Five “retreat[s] from the world,” whereas the exuberant, uninhibited Seven runs wild in the “external world of activity.” These responses seem diametrically opposite.  Nevertheless, each is doing the very same thing: fleeing as a result of aware fear.

For the anger types, the dynamic is quite different from that of the flight types.  Riso/Hudson and Palmer2 show that, at their core, each of the anger types tend toward unawareness of discomfort.  Because the type is unaware of the discomfort, the response is anger, rather than flight.  Moreover, the unawareness continues as these types are slow to recognize their own anger.

The Anger Triad

Unawareness of discomfort[5]

Eight

Eights “repress their own tenderness and vulnerability.” [303]  “[R]epression protects [Eights] from feeling anxiety about the consequences of their actions, so they are able to go about their lives relatively unencumbered by emotional conflicts or self-doubt.” [302]

Nine

Nines “repress[] the ability to assert the self so they can be more receptive to … other[s].” [342]

One

“Ones repress the more irrational side of their natures, their instinctual impulses and personal desires, attempting to sublimate them in a quest for perfection.”  [380]

... resulting in anger ...

Eight

For Eights, “Anger is the emotion of choice.  It flares up quickly and is easily expressed. … Anybody interesting enough to excite [the Eight] will be a target ….” [P 205]

Nine

“[The] anger [of Nines] is expressed in indirect and passive ways. Slowing down, sidetracking into other projects, tuning out, out waiting the enemy, and going stubborn are common tactics.” [P 231]

One

In repressing their instincts, Ones “becom[e] tense and angry from the resulting conflict.”  [41]  “Much of the aggression of Ones is directed at themselves in a steady stream of self-criticism and demands for better behavior.” [41]

... but the type is unaware of the anger.

Eight

After they’ve become angry, “[Eights] don’t see that [they’ve] become overbearing or demanding.” [P 202] .  “Most Eight are distressed to realize that they appear to be physically dangerous.  They look blank when people flinch just because they are yelling.  ‘Why?  I’ve never hit anybody!’” [P 206-207]

Nine

“The actual awareness of anger is usually delayed until long after the provocation took place.  Nines are famous for waking up to the fact that they’re angry days after the actual event.” [P 231]

One

Ones are often unaware of their anger, and almost always underestimate the degree of it.  When their anger is brought to their attention, Ones often respond with a disclaimer. (‘I’m not angry! I’m just trying to get this right.’)” [RH 379]

 

As with the different ways in which the flight types flee, the ways in which the anger types express their anger differ markedly.   For example, whereas the explosive and belligerent Eight directs “easily expressed” anger at a “target”, the self-reproaching One engages in a “steady stream of self-criticism”, and the calm, almost catatonic Nine “slows down” and “goes stubborn”.  Despite these radical differences, each is doing the very same thing: expressing anger.

For the image types, the situation is even more complex than it is for the flight and anger types.  With the image types, both aware and unaware fears come into play.

Riso/Hudson and Palmer2 show that, at their core, each of the image types clings to an idealized self-image that is constructed in reference to others. 

As with the flight types who are aware of their fears, the image types are all aware of when their self-image fails them.  But instead of fleeing in response to this awareness, the image types instead respond as the anger types do.  They respond with hostility.  And like the anger types, the image types are unaware of their own hostility, and thus slow to recognize it.

The Image Triad

An idealized self-image

Two

For Twos, it’s the “’selfless’ self image.” [36] 

Three

For Threes, it’s the “winner” self-image.  [99] 

Four

For Fours, it’s “a self-image which heightens their uniqueness.” [36]

... held in reference to others.

Two

“Twos look primarily outside of themselves to other people for validation of their ‘selfless’ self-image.” [36] 

Three

“Threes look outside themselves to determine what … qualities are valued by the people that matter to them … .” [36] 

Four

“Fours … derive a stronger sense of self by seeing how different they are from other people.” [36]

Awareness of the image failing …

Two

Palmer to the Two: “You don’t know that you have forgotten your owns needs and have altered self-presentation.  All you know is that rejection feels like annihilation ….” [P 63]

Three

Palmer to the Three: “You may not be aware of slipping into the role of a valued performer.    All you know is that it hurts to see someone else hold center stage. … It hurts to be nobody in the crowd.” [87]

Four

Palmer to the Four: “You don’t know that you selectively focus on the positive aspects of distant relationships.  All you know is that … it’s hateful to be surrounded by people who have less depth [i.e. “ordinary” people] but somehow manage to be happy.” [109]

... resulting in hostility ...

Two

Twos “becom[e] … resentful” toward the people they were trying to win over with their “selflessness.” [36]

Three

Threes ramp up their unhealthy competition with others. [99]  “[A]verage Threes are competitive with the very people from whom they want admiration.”  [RH 100]

Four

As with Ones who direct their anger primarily to themselves, Fours primarily “direct their hostility at themselves.”  Fours do this because they “are always becoming conscious of all of the ways in which they are not like their idealized self.” [142]

... but the type is unaware of the hostility.

Two

Twos “conceal[] their aggressions not only from others, but also from themselves.  … Unhealthy Twos become capable of acting both very selfishly and very aggressively, while, in their minds, they are neither selfish nor aggressive.” [63]

Three

“[T]he liability [of a competitive edge] is a faulty feedback system.  You see the cues that concern the goal, and everything else is irrelevant.  Competitors act on partial information.  They can’t stop to listen.” [P 89] 

Four

see discussion below

 

As for the Four, it is the only type among the three anger and three image types for which neither Riso/Hudson nor the Palmer books explicitly spells out the unaware genesis of the hostility.  All of the anger and image types become hostile as part of their core dynamic.  For all but the Four, Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books makes clear that this hostility starts out unawares.  Only after the hostility is well on its way do these types become aware of it – if at all.

But for the Four, both Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books are silent on this question.  That does not mean, however, that the Four does not also fit the pattern of these other types with respect to hostility.  I believe that the Four does follow the same pattern.  Moreover, I believe that the failures of Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books to mention it were mere oversight. The reasoning behind these beliefs follows.

The hostility of the Four, like the anger of the One, is primarily directed at self, rather than toward others.  It’s not that the hostility is never directed toward others.  Just that the most common direction is inward.

According to Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books, Ones and Fours are two of the three personality types that are prone to major depression.  Depression has long been understood as an expression of self-directed anger.  Both the self-directed anger of the One, and the self-directed hostility of the Four, serve as the root of depression.

It seems reasonable to assume that people, including Fours, do not, in general, choose with full awareness to become depressed.[6]  It seems instead that depression just creeps in apparently unannounced.  Palmer2 says that for Fours, depression “seems to run its course and lift of its own accord.” [114] If depression appears to lift of its own accord, then it seems safe to assume that it would also appear to arrive of its own accord.

If that is true, then it seems safe to assume that the Four’s self-directed hostility at least starts out as an unaware fear of the Four.  Because if it started with awareness, then Fours would soon be able to rationally tie the onset of their depressions to their self-directed hostility.  But that would contradict the apparently mysterious origin of their depressions.

Accordingly, for the purposes of this book, we will assume that the Four’s self-directed hostility at least starts out unawares.  So, as with all anger and all image types, the core dynamic of the Four includes unaware fears.

 

It bears noting at this point the relationships between the mental states and the Triad attributes.  With the Mood Triads, we saw that the definitions of aggression and compliance had an intuitive feel.  Under those definitions, aggression is the result of self-centered optimism, combined with self-centered non-pessimism.  Compliance results from self-centered pessimism, together with self-centered non-optimism.  Withdrawal was a more complex notion.  Withdrawal results from both optimism and pessimism.  Perhaps those two dynamics cancel each other, resulting in behavioral withdrawal.

With the Fear Triads, the same intuitive feel exists.  Flight is the result of aware fear; anger the result of unaware fear.  Image is more complex.  Image is the result of both aware and unaware fear.  Perhaps the intuition of this dynamic concerns the notion of negotiation. 

In biology, the classic fear responses are fight or flight.  Fight would seem to correspond to the anger attribute; flight to the flight attribute.  Some biology texts include a third fear response: negotiation.  That is, if one can’t fight the attacker, and one can’t outrun the attacker, then the only choice left may be to negotiate with the attacker.

These, of course, are only speculations.  The key point of these last two sections was to observe that the Mood Triads and the Fear Triads can be described as patterns of a small number of mental states.  That these triads can be defined this way is supported by the text of Riso/Hudson and the Palmer books.

3 x 3 = 9

Riso/Hudson explains that the Enneagram is, at bottom, a theory based on the intersection of two Triads sets:

The reason there are nine personality types in the Enneagram is that its structure is the result of a three-times-three arrangement, or two dialectically related groups of three.   … If there is a single explanation of why the Enneagram works as it does, and why it is such a comprehensive system, it is because the Enneagram is a dialectical system, and as such it can be used to analyze different aspects of human nature dialectically. [446]

Why does the Enneagram have nine fundamental types, and not twelve or sixteen?  Because nine is three times three.  This is a profound insight offering elegant parsimony to the theory.  And parsimony brings with it the distinct whiff of science.

Of course, once we know that nine is three times three, the next questions are: Which first three? Which second three?  These questions serve as the crossroads between the Enneagram and the brain.  Take a wrong turn here, and the brain is nowhere to be found.

The two Triad collections selected by Riso/Hudson to describe the Enneagram are the Fear Triads, and a new Triad collection that I’ll call the “Expression Triads”.  The Expression Triads are as follows:

Expression Attributes

Over-Expression

Under-Expression

Most Out of Touch With

Expression Triads

One, Four, Seven

Two, Five, Eight

Three, Six, Nine

 

The Expression Triads and Attributes

Accordingly, Riso/Hudson describes the Enneagram as the intersection of the Fear Triads with the Expression Triads:

 

 

Expression Triads

 

 

Over-Expression

Under-Expression

Most Out of Touch With

Fear Triads

Feeling

Two

Four

Three

Thinking

Five

Seven

Six

Instinct

Eight

One

Nine

 

Note in the above table that Riso/Hudson uses the attributes feeling, thinking, and instinct to describe the Fear Triads.  Recall from earlier that the Palmer books (and this book) instead use the attributes image, flight, and anger to describe the same Triads.

Without going in to detail at this point on Riso/Hudson’s approach, it suffices to note that that approach is passable for the purpose of describing the Enneagram.  In other words, Riso/Hudson does a decent job of showing how the above 3x3 matrix reasonably describes the nine types. 

But the problem is that there’s no apparent way to go from this matrix to the brain.  As we’ll see in Part Three, feeling, thinking, and instinct don’t lead to the brain.

As for “over-expression”, “under-expression”, and “most out of touch with”, nothing comes to my mind matching these attributes with anything coming out of current neuroscience.[7] Perhaps someone else can see the match.  Or perhaps there is no current match, but in the future, as neuroscientific techniques improve, these attributes may fall out of the research.  As of today, however, they don’t seem to.

The Riso/Hudson 3x3 matrix is not the only one proposed in the field.  Internet commentator Tom Chou has proposed a different one.  Like Riso/Hudson, Mr. Chou uses the Expression Triads.  But instead of intersecting these with the Fear Triads, Mr. Chou introduces an altogether new Triad collection:

(Two, Six, Seven) (Four, Five, Nine) (One, Three, Eight)

Let’s call this collection the “Chou Triads”.  Note that the Chou Triads are very close to the Mood Triads.  If one exchanges the One with the Seven, the Chou Triads become the Mood Triads.  In any event, Mr. Chou’s 3x3 framework is significantly different from that of Riso/Hudson.

I bring up Mr. Chou’s 3x3 not to comment on its usefulness.  Instead, the point here is to highlight the fact that the Enneagram is generally recognized as a 3x3 matrix.

But which 3x3 matrix is the relevant one that will take us to the brain?

Mood x Fear = Enneagram

To this point we have seen that the Enneagram experts have described the following:

1.     Mood Triads of Aggression, Withdrawal, and Compliance (Riso/Hudson via Karen Horney)

2.     Fear Triads of Anger, Flight, and Image (the Palmer books)

3.     The Enneagram is a 3x3 matrix (Riso/Hudson)

The logical conclusion to draw from these three expert statements is that the Enneagram can be described as a 3x3 matrix defined by the intersection of the Mood Triads and the Fear Triads.

Do the Enneagram experts explicitly state this conclusion?  Not to my knowledge.  At least I can find no indication that Ms. Palmer or Messrs. Riso or Hudson has stated this conclusion.[8]

Does this mean I must be an Enneagram expert to state this?  No.  As the Introduction to this book explains, I need only apply my abilities to read and to logically reason to arrive at this statement.  This conclusion logically follows from the statements of the experts. [9]

This step is the final dirt road to the brain.  In fact, if the definitions of the Mood Attributes and Fear Attributes are dirt roads, this step is probably a donkey path.  If I had to bet, I would bet that this is the step that the curious neuroscientist would most likely miss in her search for the road to the brain.  Hence the need for this book.

On with the analysis.  Putting together the Fear Triads and the Mood Triads, we arrive at an efficient and powerful description of the Enneagram.

The following table multiplies the three attributes of the Fear Triads with the three attributes of the Mood Triads.  It then cross-references each of the resulting nine combined attributes with information from Riso/Hudson and Palmer2.  Specifically, each combined attribute is associated with the type name[10], and the Basic Desire and a pair of typical attitudes in average heath[11].

 

Aggression

Withdrawal

Compliance

Anger

Eight

aggressive anger

·              Boss, Leader

·              “To convince themselves and others of their centrality and importance (to feel important)”

·              expansive, swaggering

Nine

withdrawn anger

·              Mediator, Peacemaker

·              “To maintain things as they are – to be undisturbed (out of the flux of life)”

·              selective attention, passive-aggression

One

compliant anger

·              Perfectionist, Reformer

·              “That everything in their life be consistent with their ideals”

·              impatient, irritable

Flight

Seven

aggressive flight

·              Epicure, Enthusiast

·              “To keep themselves excited and occupied – to stay ‘up’”

·              indiscriminate, thrill-seeking

Five

withdrawn flight

·              Observer, Investigator

·              “To shut out intrusions (by intensifying their mental activity).”

·              abstracting, intense

Six

compliant flight

·              Trooper, Loyalist

·              “To resist having any further demands or obligations placed on them (to assert themselves without appearing to do so).”

·              cautious, feel pressured

Image

Three

aggressive image

·              Performer, Motivator

·              “To create a favorable impression of themselves (to impress)”

·              “rehearsed”, premeditated

Four

withdrawn image

·              Romantic, Individualist

·              “To be reassured of others’ interest and concern for them (playing ‘hard to get’)”

·              self-referential, self-conscious

Two

compliant image

·              Giver, Helper

·              “To be needed – to make themselves necessary to others”

·              “self-sacrificing”, worrying

 

Enneagram = Mood x Fear

The preceding table shows how the combined attributes dovetail nicely with the brief descriptions of the types.  Particularly, the table illustrates well the three very different ways in which each Fear Attribute is expressed, as well as the three very different ways in which each Mood Attribute is expressed.

The Tasty Sausage

Drilling deeper, we can pull out the mental states that correspond to the Fear and Mood Triads:

 

Aggression

Withdrawal

Compliance

Anger

Eight

·              optimism

·              non-pessimism

·              unaware fear

Nine

·              optimism

·              pessimism

·              unaware fear

One

·              non-optimism

·              pessimism

·              unaware fear

Flight

Seven

·              optimism

·              non-pessimism

·              aware fear

Five

·              optimism

·              pessimism

·              aware fear

Six

·              non-optimism

·              pessimism

·              aware fear

Image

Three

·              optimism

·              non-pessimism

·              aware fear

·              unaware fear

Four

·              optimism

·              pessimism

·              aware fear

·              unaware fear

Two

·              non-optimism

·              pessimism

·              aware fear

·              unaware fear

 

Enneagram = Nine Patterns of Four Different Mental States

The preceding table is the fundamental purpose of this chapter.  That is, the entire lengthy and detailed discussion of this chapter is like the process for making sausages.  Few of us want to see it.  But the result of the nasty sausage-making process is one tasty sausage.  The above table is the tasty sausage of this chapter.

If this chapter seemed confusing to you, don’t worry.  Now that we have the sausage, we’re done with all that.  In fact, the primary purpose of the rest of the chapter was to explain the reasoning for the above table to Enneagram proponents interested in the genesis of the table.

The hypothesis of this book is that the Enneagram is reflected in the current findings of neuroscience.  Key to this hypothesis is the argument of this chapter that the Enneagram can be described as nine patterns of four different mental states.  These states are optimism, pessimism, aware fear, and unaware fear.

Undoubtedly, some Enneagram proponents will criticize this “boiling down” of the theory to these four mental states.  How can such an elaborate theory be described in such simple fashion?

This question is of the same nature as the core question posed to all theories of personality.  Namely: How can personality theories be true when each of us is a unique individual? The answer to this second question is the same as the answer to first one.  That common answer is the following: complex and elaborate bodies of information tend to reveal patterns.  If they didn’t, the information would tend toward incoherence.  But these patterns are, by definition, much simpler descriptions of the elaborate body.

This explains the “how”.  But what about the “why”?  The reason for reducing the Enneagram to these nines patterns of four mental states is to enable comparison between the Enneagram and the current findings of neuroscience. 

When two bodies of knowledge use very different language and employ very different approaches, as do the Enneagram and neuroscience, it helps to boil down the points of comparison to the minimal few that still aptly describe both bodies of knowledge.  With this small number of “moving parts,” comparison is made more readily.

This doesn’t mean the entire Enneagram theory can be described by nine different patterns of four mental states. These patterns of states are to the types what fingerprints are to humans.  Just as fingerprints don’t equate to the whole person, the mental state patterns don’t equate to the nine types.  However, just as fingerprints uniquely identify humans, these patterns uniquely identify the types.  So these patterns are useful for comparing the Enneagram with neuroscience.

Part Two looks into the neurological bases of these mental states.  Part Three circles back to above table, and to the other chapters of Part One, to draw connections to the brain.

As with wings and development, the popular Enneagram diagram does not capture the triads.  The following diagram attempts to do this.

 

Triads

A Complete Map

The popular Enneagram symbol is one example of how some experts in the field have taken the theory and driven it into an obscure cul-de-sac, at least as far as science is concerned.  The symbol appears on the cover of virtually every Enneagram book and on every Enneagram web site.  Great attention is paid to its mysterious origins and to its “living, moving” properties.

Enneagram Symbol

Yet even the experts in the field who promote the symbol recognize that it represents only one aspect of a much more elaborate theory.  The symbol depicts the Enneagram concept of security.  It reflects neither wings nor development nor triads.

If a neuroscientist tried to use the Enneagram symbol as a map to the brain, she would not get there.  It would be like trying to use a map of New England to get to Los Angeles.  The neuroscientist would need additional maps.

The full set of Enneagram maps would include maps of security, wings, development, and triads.

Security

               Wings

Development

               Triads

Of course, four maps may be cumbersome to carry with us.  The following map attempts to consolidate all four critical Enneagram concepts. 

A Comprehensive Enneagram Map


 



[1] 9!/3!  ##

[2] Riso/Hudson at 433-34.

[3] ## explain numbering system.

[4] “Usefulness” here is measured according to movement toward a unified truth.

[5] Note that if you don’t count either tenderness, self-assertion, or passion as a “discomfort”, that probably means you are neither an Eight, Nine, nor a One.

[6] Earlier in this chapter, we saw that Fours take pride in their depressions.  They see their depressions as evidence of their significance and uniqueness.  But this is an after-the-fact dynamic.  “Spinning” your depression positive after it has lifted is one thing.  Choosing to go into it is quite another.

[7] ## I tried thinking about “over” and “under” as glucose metabolism – but it doesn’t work.

[8] ## people on the web who are students of Riso/Hudson who mention this 3x3

[9] Riso/Hudson says that the Enneagram is a 3x3 matrix but makes clear that it doesn’t matter which 3x3 you use.  Once you select the Mood Triads as your first set that limits the possibilities for the second set to 36 (= 3! x 3!) possibilities.  Among those possibilities are the Fear Triads.  Hence, Mood x Fear logically follows as a valid representation of the Enneagram according to the experts.

[10] ## from both palmer and riso/hudson

[11] ## r/h 476-493 – level 5