The circle of the Enneagram symbol contains two linear figures, the triangle linking points 3–6–9 and the hexad linking points 1–4–2–8–5–7. (See the diagram to the right.)
The direction of the lines of the hexad pertains to what is known as the process Enneagram. Although I’ve been aware of the process Enneagram for years, I haven’t studied it, so I’m not a reliable source for defining it or explaining how it works. [Both John G. Bennett and Anthony G.E. Blake have written about the process Enneagram.]
In the psychological Enneagram, the three Centers of Intelligence organize the nine types into groups of three: Doing (8, 9, 1), Feeling (2, 3, 4), and Thinking (5, 6, 7). And within the psychological Enneagram, there are three triads—three equal triangles—each with a “foot” in one of the centers:
3 (Feeling) / 6 (Thinking) / 9 (Doing)
2 (Feeling) / 5 (Thinking) / 8 (Doing)
1 (Doing) / 4 (Feeling) / 7 (Thinking)
Our psyche contains elements of all three of the types within our triad, so rather than being a single type (e.g., a 2), we are actually triadic, (a 2–5–8). We move around within our triad based on the situations we’re in and where we are on the continuum from asleep-at-the-wheel to awake-and-aware. Learning how to access the other two types (and centers and stances) is the great balancing act of the Enneagram.
BALANCE POINTS: Home, Stress, and Security
The term I use for the base type in the triad (in the above example, 2) is home point. The center it’s in is the home center.
The point we move toward—either unconsciously, under stress, or consciously, to bring the three centers into balance—is the stress point. The center in which the stress point is located is the stress center. For type 2, the stress point is 8, in the Doing center.
The point we move toward when we’re feeling comfortable and “secure” in our compulsion is the security point. The center in which the security point is located is the security center. For Type 2, the security point is 5 in the Thinking center.
My Mystery Solved
When I was introduced to the Enneagram nearly two decades ago, I easily identified myself as a Type 8, but that was a bit of a so what? It was discovering Type 8’s connections to Type 5—and especially to Type 2—that got me permanently hooked on the Enneagram, both personally and professionally. I was working as a substance abuse counselor and being reasonably good at it, but I’d never set out to do that, and I’d been wondering where the counselor part of myself was coming from. Although “counselor” is unlikely to show up on any list of ideal occupations for Type 8s, the mystery was solved for me when I saw how Type 8 connects with Type 2, the Helper. Type 2, my security point, is in the Feeling center, which is the center I tend to access least effectively. The more I read, the more I recognized aspects of my often-hidden inner Helper that had shown up from time to time, but which always seemed out of character.
Not only does each type have a connection with, and a specific relationship to, each center, each type also has a relationship with all three stances, since the three types in a triad each take a different one.
3 (Aggressive) / 6 (Compliant) / 9 (Withdrawing)
2 (Compliant) / 5 (Withdrawing) / 8 (Aggressive)
1 (Compliant) / 4 (Withdrawing) / 7 (Aggressive)
Over-relying on one center and one stance to the exclusion of the others may feel comfortable, and even make our brains happy (per David DiSalvo in “What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite”), but it’s also limiting. To expand the range of possible thoughts, feelings, and behaviors—to really be free to make authentic choices—we need to be able to access all three centers and all three stances. Since we’re actually triadic beings, we already have a point of access in the other two centers and with the other two stances. It turns out they’re not quite the foreign territory they may initially seem to be.
Next: Two different kinds of types and how they access their stress and security points.