Balancing Act in Two Parts

The three Centers of Intelligence of the Enneagram have often been described as a three-legged stool. To keep the stool level and upright, all three legs need to be in balance. Our tendency is to be out of balance, each according to our compulsions and fixations. Most of our attention goes to the drives of our Home center/point. It’s the Stress point and Stress center that play a pivotal role in reining in those compulsions and bringing our core personality into balance.

The two kinds of types, Exterior and Interior, access their Stress centers differently. [See the Center Relationships chart for details on each type.]


When Exterior types (the six types connected by the lines of the hexad, 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 8) are functioning on autopilot, their Stress center supports and fuels their compulsions.

 Energy flows ONE-WAY.
The Stress Center drives the Home Center.
The Security Center is least effectively accessed.


When Interior types are functioning on autopilot, their Stress center is underutilized. Rather than supporting the compulsion of the Home center, the Stress center is outside the loop. So it’s usually the unhealthy aspects of the Stress center that are accessed.

Energy flows BACK and FORTH
between the Home Center and the Security Center.
(Home Center and Security Center functions are entangled.)
The Stress Center is least effectively accessed.

Stressing the Stress Point

The word “stress” is usually associated with mental, physical, and/or emotional distress, so moving to the Stress point has often been viewed as moving in the wrong direction. It’s seen as the place we go when we’re “disintegrating.” But the situation isn’t that simple or that linear.

Yes, we can and do move toward our Stress point unconsciously or when we’re under pressure and not functioning in a healthy manner. When we do that, we tend to take on the unhealthy aspects of our Stress point.

But there is another meaning to the word “stress,” which is, “importance, significance, or emphasis placed upon something” [American Heritage Dictionary]. For all types, the Stress point/center is pivotal; it’s really the fulcrum position in the machine that determines whether we stay stuck in our compulsion or move out of it by bringing all three centers (and stances) into balance. When we move to our Stress point consciously, with intention, we’re better able to access its healthy aspects (as well as the perspective of the Stance it takes). In turn, that helps us balance the dominant characteristics of our Home type and allows us to move toward and develop the healthy aspects of our Security point. How we access the Stress point makes all the difference.

a false sense of security

The Security point has generally been viewed as the point we move to when we are healthy and high functioning. Moving to that point is viewed as desirable and positive. Yet the word security, which means “freedom from risk or danger; safety,” should give us a clue that this, too, isn’t quite as simple as it seems. Safety and freedom from risk or danger don’t stimulate the growth process. In fact, they’re almost the antithesis of growth.

From all that I’ve observed—and experienced myself—it’s when we’re feeling most comfortable and secure within our compulsions that we’re likeliest to move toward our Security point. It feels good and provides us with a false sense of security. But if we’re still grounded in our compulsions, we can’t access the best qualities of the Security point. Instead, we usually access the average qualities or characteristics. It’s only after we’ve moved to the healthy side of the Stress point that we’re able to move to the healthy side of the Security point.

The Razor’s Edge

Traversing the pathways of the balance points has three possible outcomes:

  • A vicious cycle that maintains the status quo (stuck in compulsation/fixation)
  • A deteriorating downward spiral
  • An upward spiral of expansion, integration, balance, growth, and—ultimately—transcendence

Our intentions determine how we move about and what we discover and gain from our travels. Do we treat the inevitable trials and tribulations we encounter as barriers (providing us with evidence and closing us off) or as openings (providing us with information and opportunities)?

Related posts: Three Types in One! and Patterns of Motion.


2 responses to “Balancing Act in Two Parts

  1. Like your graphics. Of course, I like the content, too. But that goes without saying. But the graphics, now…they require comment.

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