Category Archives: Centers of Intelligence

Ennea-Journaling our Non-Dominant Centers

Our dominant center is the center where our home point is located. Our non-dominant centers are the centers where our stress and security points are located. As an example, the home point for a 7 is in the Thinking center, the stress point (1) is in the Doing center, and the security point (4) is in the Feeling center.

3 Centers

For a list of the center relationships for all types, click here.

One of the ways to get more comfortable with your two non-dominant Centers of Intelligence is to spend some time with them. When you get to know them better, they won’t seem as alien. You’ll be able to rely on and trust them more often and more easily.

Get Acquainted

If you don’t know much about your stress or security point, check out a description of it in a book or online. Notice your reactions to what you read. Do you recognize yourself in any parts of the description? What do you like or not like about? What could you use more of from that type? Write out how you feel and what you’ve noticed about this type.


Sit quietly for a few minutes with your eyes closed. Visualize your stress or security point. What does it look like? (What color is it? How large or small? Does it have a texture?) Does it remind you of anyone or anything? Does it have an attitude? How do you feel about it? How would you describe it to someone else? What is its name?

Once you have a visual and visceral sense of this point, write a brief description of it.

Write a Letter

Write a letter to this point, addressing it by its number or your name for it. Pour out your questions, concerns, thoughts, feelings, and desires. In terms of your relationship with it, let it know exactly what you want—and don’t want—from it. Don’t think too much about this while you’re writing. Just let your pen flow across the page.

Have a Dialogue

In addition to, or instead of, writing a letter to this point, have a dialogue with it. A journaling dialogue is like having a conversation between two people, but on paper. It’s usually easiest to begin a dialogue by asking a question, so think of something you’d like to ask this point, then allow the point to respond. Identify who is speaking each time you change voices. Allow yourself to write whatever comes to you.


Mind map

Mind map (Photo credit: Squallwc)

Another way to get acquainted with your stress or security point is to create a mindmap of it. Mindmapping is form of free association in which you use key words and phrases rather than flow writing. You’ll need a piece of unlined paper and a pen (a set of colored pens is useful but optional). Write the number or name of the point in the middle of the page and draw a circle around it. Click here for more directions on mindmapping if you’re not familiar with the process. When you finish your mindmap, review it and then do a quick flow-writing exercise to summarize it.

These journaling exercises can be used individually or in any combination and can be repeated as often as you like.

Layers of the Self

Here’s a visual diagram of the layers of the “self.” Each center has lower level and higher level concerns. The attributes listed in the top triangle refer to the lower (outer) and higher (inner) concerns of the Doing center. Those listed in the triangle on the left refer to the Thinking center. And those in the triangle on the right all refer to the Feeling Center.

For example, physical/material stability is a concern of the lower (compulsive) level of the Doing center, while creativity and right livelihood are expressions of the higher level of that center. The closer you get to the center (ESSENCE), the less you are operating on autopilot.


Behavior is automatic/compulsive

Beginning awareness; ability to observe and detach from compulsions

Increasing awareness and autonomy; ability to access higher functions of the Centers

Unified consciousness; dis-identified with the centers

We can continue to go around and around within the first circle from our HOME point to our STRESS point to our SECURITY point in whatever sequence we choose. But we won’t be doing anything more than spinning; we’ll still be stuck in our compulsions.

It takes a commitment to SELF-OBSERVATION to stop spinning.

Meditation: Move, Sit, Chant


Breathe (Photo credit: PhotoLab XL)

Unless we have the capacity to be still and listen, we can’t tune in to our own inner guidance, in which case we’re more or less doomed to remain stuck in the vicious cycle of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Acting out the same compulsions. Repeating the same stories about ourselves over and over again.

Meditating is a great way to learn to be still and to develop self-observation skills.

Meditation expands the space between each thing you notice and each action you take.

Ram Dass

There are many different ways to meditate. The best way to begin is by finding a method that isn’t overly difficult. Expecting to be able to sit or kneel in meditation and immediately clear your mind is unrealistic—and it isn’t even the point of meditation. You can’t stop the stream of thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations that come and go. But you can learn to observe how they arise and fall away. You can stop getting hooked by them. Or, as Jon Kabat-Zinn puts it, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

Meditation Sticker

Meditation Sticker (Photo credit: Sanne Schijn)

One approach to finding a way to meditate that works for you is to look to the Center of Intelligence that is your Home center: Doing, Thinking, or Feeling.

Doing center types may find one of these active practices more appealing:

  • Aikido
  • T’ai chi
  • Walking
  • Kung Fu
  • Hatha Yoga

Thinking center types may prefer some type of insight meditation:

  • Vipassana
  • Mindfulness
  • Visualization
  • Contemplation
  • One-pointedness of mind

Feeling center types may appreciate a practice that includes an emotional aspect:

  • Sufi dancing
  • Singing
  • Chanting
  • Prayer

This is just meant to suggest a starting point. In addition to helping develop self-observation skills, meditation has many health benefits, so no matter how you go about it, meditating is a good habit to cultivate.

Something for Everyone

Here are two meditation practices anyone can do:

  • Choose a mantra (a word or phrase that has meaning for you) and repeat it over and over while you are working driving, talking, etc. Say it out loud if you like—and are alone—or repeat it silently.
  • Focus on following your breath in and out, in and out. If you lose track, just refocus on your breathing.

You can do either of these practices no matter where you are. They can help you stay grounded, centered, and present instead of carried away by whatever is going on in the moment.

Meditation…A Thoughtless Act

And here is a tongue-in-cheek piece from the October 1999 issue of Enneagram Monthly on tips to improve each type’s meditation. The author is anonymous.

  1. Close your eyes. Go inside. Take a breath. Take a better breath than that.
  2. Close your eyes. Go inside. Take a breath. Help your neighbor take a breath.
  3. Close your eyes. Straighten your hair. Adjust your collar. Smooth the creases in your dress.
  4. Close your eyes. Go inside. Take a sigh.
  5. Close your eyes. Go inside. Stay inside.
  6. Close your eyes. It’s OK; close your eyes. Close both eyes.
  7. Close your eyes. Go inside. Imagine you are at the beach. Now in the mountains. Now in the desert. Now at a party.
  8. Close your eyes. Go inside. Take a goddamn breath!
  9. Close your eyes. Go inside. Take a breath. Take your neighbor’s breath.

It’s best to approach meditation lightly, rather than with dogged determination.

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.

Continue reading

Patterns of Motion

All types are not created equal—at least in terms of how they relate to the three Centers of Intelligence and, therefore, how they are out of balance. The way we move around our triad can be described as a particular pattern of motion. Some of the types have one pattern of motion and some of the types have a different pattern of motion.

I call the types connected by the lines of the hexad (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 8) Exterior types because they’re located at either end (the exterior) of their respective centers:

8 and 1 in the Doing center
2 and 4 in the Feeling center
5 and 7 in the Thinking center

I refer to the types connected by the lines of the triangle (3, 6, and 9) as Interior types because they’re located in the middle (interior) of their respective centers.

Exterior Types

Exterior types are pretty straightforward. A Type 2, for example, could have a 1 wing or a 3 wing (meaning it could be strongly influenced by one of the types on either side). Or it could be a straight-up 2 with no wing. And as is true with all types, a 2 can be high-functioning, low-functioning, or somewhere in between. What is true for all Exterior types—but not true for Interior types—is that each Exterior type always has the same stress point and the same security point. All 2s, for example have 8 as their stress point and 5 as their security point. Continue reading

Three Types in One!

The circle of the Enneagram symbol contains two linear figures, the triangle linking points 369 and the hexad linking points 142857. (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)

Continue reading

Something from Nothing: The Creative Process

Lots of people have identified the three steps of the creative process, and they’ve used various terms to describe them. I call them conceptualization, visualization, and manifestation. These three steps map remarkably closely onto the three Centers of Intelligence of the Enneagram: Thinking, Feeling, and Doing.

To use the creative process effectively, we need to fully engage with and complete each step in the appropriate sequence. But since none of us accesses all three centers equally, we tend to give insufficient attention to one or more of the steps, combine or confuse steps, or try to complete them out of sequence. I’ve seen–and experienced–how we tend to get stuck at the step of the creative process that relates to the Center of Intelligence we’re least comfortable with. But if creating were easy, I guess we’d all be masters of the process already.

The Three Steps and the Three Centers

Here’s how the steps of the creative process correlate with the Centers of Intelligence.

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Hat-Railings & Other Habits

The Power of Habit

Sometime in the 1890s, William James wrote The Laws of Habit. He could easily have been talking about the Enneagram:

Ninety-nine hundredths or, possibly, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths of our activity is purely automatic and habitual, from our rising in the morning to our lying down each night. Our dressing and undressing, our eating and drinking, our greetings and partings, our hat-railings and giving way for ladies to precede, nay, even most of the forms of our common speech, are things of a type so fixed by repetition as almost to be classed as reflex actions. To each sort of impression we have an automatic, ready-made response.

Not too long ago, I caught the end of an interview on NPR with Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit. He was summarizing what scientists refer to as the habit loop, a three-part process that consists of a cue, a routine, and a reward.

Throughout my life, I’ve made countless failed attempts to develop a morning exercise routine. I’ve never had any trouble exercising in the afternoon–or even fairly late in the evening (it never kept me from sleeping). But, no matter how hard and how many times I tried to exercise in the morning, I’ve never been able to do it. Until now, anyway. All of a sudden, and without any pain or resistance, I seem to have developed a morning exercise routine. In fact, I now prefer doing it at that time of day. I thought maybe I could look through the lens of the habit loop to try to understand what’s going on. Continue reading

Ennea-Journaling Daily Check-In

Journal writing takes all kinds of forms, from lengthy multi-part flow-writing exercises, to making lists, to using springboards and sentence prompts, to just splatting out whatever occurs to you. If you’re not in the habit of keeping a journal—or if you don’t think you have time or don’t know how to do it—the idea of starting one can seem daunting.

The Ennea-Journaling Daily Check-In is a great place to start. It’s structured in that it provides several prompts for each of the three centers. If you fill it out daily or a few days a week, over time you’ll likely begin to notice some patterns. Maybe you often have trouble coming up with something to write about one center, for example. Even though the Check-in doesn’t require a huge commitment of time, it still helps increase self-observation and self-awareness. And there’s a section at the bottom where you can declare your intentions for the following day.

You may decide you want to explore something from your Check-in at greater length, so it’s always good to have a notebook, pad of paper, or journal handy. The easiest way to expand your journaling is to write a topic sentence at the top of a page and flow-write for a page or two or set a timer for a certain amount of time (five or ten minutes is a good place to start).  Flow-writing requires only that you keep your pen or pencil moving across the paper. If you feel stuck, write that you’re stuck or write nonsense words. Eventually you’ll pick up the “flow” again. And you may be surprised to find out what comes out from the end of your pen.

Feel free to print and make as many copies of the Daily Check-in as you’d like.

The Centers: Doing, Feeling & Thinking

Maybe you know someone who tends to:

  • Jump in head first
  • Take the bull by the horns
  • Shoot first and ask questions later

Or someone else who’s more likely to:

  • Wear his heart on his sleeve
  • Have a heart of gold
  • Pour his heart out

Or another person who:

  • Has her head in the clouds
  • Lives in a world of her own
  • Suffers from “analysis paralysis”

Some people are quick to act or speak without thinking or taking other people’s feelings into consideration. Doing comes naturally to them. Some people feel things deeply themselves and are able to sense how others feel. Feeling comes naturally to them. And some people seem to spend the majority of time in their heads rather than in the so-called real world. Thinking comes naturally to them.

In Enneagram lingo, Doing, Feeling, and Thinking refer to different kinds of intelligence—different ways of absorbing, processing, and reacting to stimuli from our internal and external worlds. The idea of three different kinds of intelligence appeared to be supported by neuroscientist Paul MacLean’s theory that each of these types of intelligence is associated with a different part of our brain.  Continue reading