The Enneagram is a powerful portal into understanding yourself and others. It maps out the mental structure, the patterns of emotional energy and the distinct dynamics of 9 personality patterns.

The Enneagram transcends gender, religion, nationality and culture. Each of us is unique and we also share a common humanity. 


The HEAD is associated with the mental center.

If our basic, mammalian security needs are not met, this is the center where we react with FEAR.

The HEART is associated with the emotional center.

If our basic mammalian needs for connection and approval are not met, this is the center where we react with PANIC.

The BODY is associated with the physical, kinesthetic or feeling center.

If our basic mammalian needs for control, power and fairness are not met, this center is where we react with ANGER which propels us to take action.

It’s fascinating because each of these three centers correspond with what we are learning in modern neuroscience through MRI’s, body scans and other technological advances. Because these are core human, mammalian needs, we have all three of these centers available to us. We all feel fear, panic and anger. Yet, we tend to lead with one of these centers.



Who’s in control?

Who has power in this situation?

Are you trying to control me?

Who am I?

(Concern about losing control to another).

The Body Center is associated with the “Instinctual Triad,” but it’s more than that. The body is our first language. It is our mother tongue. It is how we speak before we even have words!

The body holds our aliveness, our life force energy, and our life story. Research is now showing that emotions are “housed” in the body. It speaks our mind whether we know it or not. Even if the head lies, the language of the body tells the truth of how we are feeling in any given moment.

While we all have access to our body intelligence, people who lead from the Body Center FEEL life strongly. One Body Type said, “Life is a body slam.” This triad tends to have strong first impressions and get stuck in them. They try to manage this strong hit by controlling and using their power to get what they want. 


When I feel my worth, power, comfort and sense of belonging is disrespected, I feel anger that things aren’t the way I feel they should be.  This elicits a need to control to maintain a sense of myself and to bring things back to congruence.


Boundaries. Strength. Invulnerability. Where I stand. Where you stand.

Common themes for People Who Lead from the Body Center:

  • I feel intense emotional responses, and usually, before they are in my conscious awareness, I instinctively attempt to control my FEELING response through a rational defense or by numbing/stuffing feelings out of awareness.
  • Most of my less comfortable emotions are fairly quickly converted to anger which is more familiar than vulnerability of other emotions.
  • I tend to forget big emotions/battles/hassles of the past and bury earlier issues. Yet, these issues tend to get carried over to the now. I suddenly have surprisingly strong emotional reactions in the present moment which is often “residue” from past, unprocessed emotions.
  • My energy is reserved for what is important to me. If I think it’s not worth my while, I will discount it. I’m energized by what I care about.

Type 8:

I need to feel powerful, strong and have control. I control by avoiding my vulnerability, making an impact and overcoming inevitable obstacles that stand in my way.

Type 9:

I need to feel comfortable and peaceful. I control by going along to get along and minimizing my own needs in order to maintain harmony and peace.

Type 1:

I need to be correct and good. I control by holding high standards for myself and others and avoiding risks in order to maintain order and responsibility.



Who am I with?

What people am I hanging with?

How do I look? What do you think of me?

How am I DOING?

The Heart Center is also called the “Emotional Triad” or “Doing Triad.”

As humans, we have a core need to bond and connect with others. When we feel a possible loss of connection with someone important to us, we might DO something to reestablish that connection.

People who lead with the Heart Center have a strong need to maintain an image of desirability to people or groups who matter to them. Energy and attention goes to attuning to the moods and feelings of significant people or groups. Acceptance and contact are important for this triad.


When I feel that panic of loss of connection, this propels further activity. I lose who I really am.


Connection. Approval. Love and Affection. Appreciation (even though it’s hard for me to take it in because I’m often disconnected from my own experience).

Life is a production that is in service of approval. I tend to “DO” in relationship.

Common themes for People Who Lead from the Heart Center:

  • I may look feeling-centered to others, but I’m often out touch with my own feelings because so much of my energy is on others’ perception of me. My image of who I am gets confused with the reality of who I am. 
  • I can give a  “show” of feelings in a desire for attention and connection. I want to be seen as helpful (Type 2), successful (Type 3), special (Type 4).
  • I mirror, imitate and respond to the environment. look to others to get a sense of who I am. While all humans have “mirror neurons” in the brain which help us relate to others, I have a strong habit of looking for others’ verbal, facial and body cues. I listen to what they say. This helps me get feedback on how I’m DOING. I tend to compare myself to others and lose a sense of myself.
  • Connecting to others is important to me but I can lose a truer sense of the other person as I am often DOING connection. It can be hard for me to be still and present to the other and to myself. 

Type 2:

I need to be needed to significant people to maintain connection. I forget my own needs and resent when I don’t feel appreciated for all I DO.

Type 3:

I need to be seen as successful and ahead of the game. I work hard to be the best and confuse my image as a winner with who I really am.

Type 4:

I need to be unique and seen as special. I put my own distinct and uncommon touch into what I say and do. I resist being ordinary.



Why did this happen?

What is the meaning of that?

How do things fit?

The Head Center is associated with the “Mental Triad” or “Perceiving Triad.”

As part of our human mammalian response, when we feel a threat to our safety and security, we try to plan and figure things out to feel safe and minimize potentially difficult or painful situations. 

People who lead with the Head Center have a lot of mental energy. They think, analyze, imagine and plan in order to minimize perceived threats.


 Of the unknown. Of chaos. Of being unprepared to handle a situation.


To seek answers and meaning in order to feel safe and secure.

Life needs to be figured out. 

Common themes for People Who Lead from the Head Center:

  • I need to collect and sort data. I tend to disregard what doesn’t “fit.” I am drawn to ideas and can feel slightly anxious when life doesn’t meet my mental schema. When I feel anxious, I may try to get more information to confirm my worldview. I may try to learn more so I can make sense of things.
  • It feels like there’s more to life than meets the eye. I plan, imagine, analyze, figure out and question. This makes the world feel more manageable.
  • Life can feel like an overcrowded mall in my head. There’s so much to take in. I sometimes get stuck in my thinking about ideas, plans, possibilities, possible dangers and reactions from others and delay taking action. (THINKING replaces DOING). 
  • My mind is like a sponge filled with information.  I sort through the information to make sense of it all. Much of my energy goes to anticipating future scenarios in order to be prepared for what life might throw at me. I can easily feel overwhelmed by too much emotion. In fact, sometimes my fear manifests as anger/irritation/judgment if there is too much emotional energy in a given situation.

Type 5:

I need to detach in order to get more data and figure things out so I can KNOW. I am easily overwhelmed by too much emotion and feeling.

This is why I step back in order to observe and analyze.

Type 6:

I need to feel secure with a person, group, authority figure, a tradition, a philosophy. I may test, challenge and question so I can see who and what to trust.

This is why I am loyal and skeptical.

Type 7:

I need to feel stimulated as the darker side of life overwhelms me. I’m afraid I’ll be bored and trapped forever, so I stay positive with many ongoing tasks and plans.

I look the least afraid of the fear types but it is fear that drives my planning.

“I got into the Enneagram to understand my kids who made their way through the world differently from me. I thought if I could understand them, I could change them so they could see things MY way. (If you’re a parent, you know where that goes)…”

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