The Enneagram


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.These patterns help us understand ourselves and others.

In the Enneagram, there are 3 centers or “domains”:


  • 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 at the loss of connection.
  • The BODY is associated with the physical, kinesthetic or sensate 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.

More on each center:

The Head Center:
Type 5/6/7

The Head Center is associated with “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 in order 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.


Here are some common themes for People Who Lead from the Head Center:

1. 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 info to confirm my worldview. I may try to learn more so I can make sense of things. 

2. 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.

3. 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). 

4.  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.

Core NEEDS for the Head Center:

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

Life needs to be figured out. 

Recurring Questions for the Head Center:

Why did this happen?  What is the meaning of that?  How do things fit? 

Recurring Emotion: FEAR…of the unknown, of chaos, of being unprepared to handle a situation

The Needs of Each of the Types in the Head Center:

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. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON 5s

Type 6: I need to feel secure with a person, a group, an authority figure, a philosophy, a tradition. I may test, challenge and question so I can see who and what to trust. This is why I am loyal and skeptical. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON 6s

Type 7: I need to feel stimulated and curious as the darker side of life overwhelms me. I’m afraid I will be bored and trapped forever. This is why I keep things positive with many balls in the air. I look the least afraid of the fear types but it is fear that drives all my planning and  CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON 7s


The Heart Center:
Type 2/3/4

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 in order 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. Much energy and attention goes to attuning to the moods and feelings of significant people or groups.

Approval, connecting, acceptance and contact are important for this triad.

Here are some common themes for People Who Lead from the Heart Center:

  1. 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. 

  2. 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).

  3. I mirror, imitate and respond to the environment. I 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.

  4. 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. 

Core NEEDS for the Heart Center:

Connection. Approval. Love and Affection. Appreciation (even thought 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.

Recurring Questions for the Heart Center:

Who am I with? What people am I hanging with?  How do I look?  What do you think of me?  How am I DOING?

Recurring Emotion: SADNESS/ANXIETY when I feel that panic of loss of connection. This propels further activity. I lose who I really am.

The Needs of Each of the Types in the Heart Center:

Type 2: I need to be needed and indispensable to significant people to maintain connection. I forget my own needs and resent when I don’t feel appreciated for all I DO. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON 2s

Type 3: I need to be successful and seen as ahead of the game. I work hard to be the best and confuse my image as a winner with who I really am. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON 3s

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.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON 4s

The Body Center:
Types 8/9/1

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 and our life force energy. Our body holds our life story. Research is not 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.” They tend 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. 


Here are some common themes for People Who Lead from the Body Center:

  1. 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. 

  2. Most of my less comfortable emotions are fairly quickly converted to anger which is far more familiar than vulnerability of other emotions.

  3. I tend to forget big emotions/battles/hassles of the past and bury earlier issues. Yet, these issues tend to get carried over to present. I suddenly have surprisingly strong emotional reaction in the present moment which is often “residue” from past, unprocessed emotions.

  4. My energy is reserved for things I think are important.  If I think it’s “stupid” or not worth my while, I will discount it.  I’m energized by something they care about.

Core NEEDS for the Body Center:

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

Recurring Questions for the Body Center:

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).

Recurring Emotion: ANGER. 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.

The Needs of Each of the Types in the Body Center:

Type 8:  I need to feel powerful, strong and have control. I control by avoiding my vulnerability, making an impact and overcomeing inevitable obstacles that stand in my way. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON 8s

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.CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON 9s

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. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON 1s

My Own Story:

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).

I learned that I needed to face my own patterns and dive into my own stories so I could be open to theirs.

It created an entire new way of parenting and I saw my kids in ways I’d missed when I was blindly trying to create Mini-Me’s. Understanding my patterns and theirs was a revolutionary awareness that changed our ways of relating to one another.

Now that they’re adults, I have an honest relationship with three wonderful, unique human beings who continually forge their own distinct trails.

Honesty at work and at home takes courage and will. It means we don’t hide from the hard stuff and pretend things are okay when they’re not. It means we turn towards the truth and face it even when it’s uncomfortable, sad or annoying.

As parents, honesty means we don’t jam one another into a family box so we can hide from the pain of relating or convey an image where we’re safe, comfortable and impressive to the neighbors.

Authentic Leadership

As a leader, honesty means we look in the mirror and face what we’re putting out there to the people who are counting on us for direction and vision.

The paradox of honesty and facing our vulnerability is that we free up all sorts of energy for the good stuff because we’re not wasting so much energy pushing the hard stuff down.

Honesty takes courage and the willingness to engage. It CAN be taught and it’s never too late.

We can no longer afford to “off-load our feelings” onto our kids, partners, clients and employees as we’re dying from the stress it takes to numb our feelings, harden them and shove them out of the way.

Any emotionally intelligent leader will also tell you it’s a bad business plan to off load your feelings as it eventually gets dumped onto your team and your clients.

I use the Enneagram as one portal of entry into seeing how we can use awareness of patterns as a way of engaging and working with more courage and connection.

Yet, that’s only part of it. There’s more to you than your Enneagram patterns. As you relax the patterns and become more willing to show up with courage and honesty, there’s a sweet spot where you discover something more that may surprise you as a parent, partner and leader.

So start here. Click on the 9 types and read the descriptions, listen to the video on each page and begin the process of discovering the natural gifts and liabilities your patterns. You can also find more of my videos on YouTube.

Type One: The Perfectionist (The Standard Bearer)

Type Two: The Giver

Type Three: The Performer

Type Four: The Individualist

Type Five: The Observer

Type Six: The Loyal Skeptic

Type Seven: The Epicure

Type Eight: The Protector

Type Nine: The Mediator


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