The Enneagram Triads

SYNOPSIS OF ARTICLE: The Harmony Triads give each of us: (1) a type that leads with a different one of the three centers of intelligence – head, heart, and body; (2) a type that leads with a different one of the three great life energies – active, receptive, and balancing, and; (3) a type that leads with a different one of the three basic forms of emotional regulation and conflict resolution – refraining into positives, containing through logical analysis, and expressing deep concerns to get to the root of conflict. Thus the Harmony Triads provide all that is necessary for a satisfactory life and the understanding of self and others. This article is the first comprehensive paper that deals with and explores all three of these vital functions in depth.

Working with the Enneagram Harmony Triads

A Key to Development and Integration


What do I mean by the “Harmony Triads” being a key to development and integration?

What is “integration” and what is its relationship to transformation?

How might these triads provide keys to much of what is needed for our development?

I start with the questions of how we can provide the Epicure Type 7 with a Heart Center connection, and the Giver Type 2 with a Head Center connection. The lines of connection in the “Process Enneagram,” our familiar Enneagram, simply doesn’t make those connections — there’s no line from Type 2 to the Head Center, and there’s no line from Type 7 to the Heart Center.

We all know that each and every one of us has “some” of all three centers of intelligence operating. In the “Enneagram of Harmony,” all nine types have lines to all three centers. When this happens, we actually have three definitive equilateral triangles as our Enneagram symbol (as shown as this diagram.)

As we draw the line between Types 4 and 7, we have a new equilateral triangle comprised of Types 1-4-7 and our Epicure 7 now has a point in the Heart Center. Similarly, when we draw the line between Types 2 and 5, our Giver Type 2s now have a point in the Head Center. We now have three equilateral triangles, each of which have all three centers of intelligence represented – types 3-6-9, 1-4-7, and 2-5-8. These are referred to as the Harmony Triads. These three triangles are also the result of ancient astronomical observations of the planetary cycles of Jupiter and Saturn over time. How about that!

Figure 1: The Three Centers of Intelligence Rooted in the Harmony Triads

Over the years I spent teaching, I found that every Type 2 had a “secret” connection to Type 5. It shows up when Type 2s pull back, restore, conserve energy, and reflect mentally. And 5s can be incredibly giving, thanks to a heartfelt generosity. They just want to know for how long they need to give, essentially, that there is a beginning, middle, and ending to the emotional claims (in particular) being made upon them. Also, I have seen many 7s confused because they have times of very intense feelings, especially as they awaken in the morning, they’ve told me, when they allow in a range of feelings that include the “darker” feelings. Likewise, Type 4s have times of incredible lightness-of-being, especially as they awaken, they tell me, and when focused more on the positives, like the beauty in their lives, or the love  that has always been there.

Furthermore, the Harmony Triads shows us the structural organization that is our three-centered intelligence, it’s depicted in these equilateral triangles. Those of us who are types 3-6-9, the solid triangle in the center of both the Enneagram of Process AND the Enneagram of Harmony already know of our tree-centered intelligence and work with it freely and naturally — the three centers are resources and used in tandem across the lives of 3-6-9s.  When 1-4-7s and 2-8-5s tune into their Harmonic Triads, they too can become aware of their three-centered intelligence, and they too can experience this natural flow of cognitive-emotional resources, which brings on increased free-flowing energy and less hindrance. I have found the wisdom of the Harmony Triads to be critically important to the teachings of the Enneagram and to each of the nine types’ understanding of themselves and their development paths.


The Harmony Triads also present three ways of relating in the world.

  • Types 3-6-9 can be called the Pragmatists, as they relate to how we blend into, align with, and thrive alongside others in the world, avoiding separation from other. Don Riso and Russ Hudson call these types the “Attachment Triad,” as they tell us how we connect on a down-to-earth, people-to-people basis in our daily lives. Dr. Bill Schafer names these the “Earth Triad,” as these types govern our society’s basic existence by forming hands-on attachments in the world. Type 3s seek a practical and sustaining, ambitious and productive, success-driven role in the world. Enneagram 6s seek to assure a safe and secure, predictable and certain  existence in order to survive in an unpredictable world. And 9s seek a comfortable (undisturbed) and harmonious, do no harm, get-along and go-along place in the world.

    Enneagram 3s have “lost” or gone away from the higher quality of hope, of knowing that just being in the world is enough to manifest and succeed in the material day-to-day world. Sixes (6s) have “lost” or gone away from the higher quality of faith, of knowing that the quality of pure being can manifest enough security and safety in the practical, often hazardous, day-to-day world. And 9s have “lost” or gone away from the higher quality of unconditional love, from the “I matter too” unconditional love of self, which is equal to the love and alliance 9s readily offer others. The path for those of us with one of these three types is to release from the other-referencing and clinging to reassuring worldly attachments as the way of being in the world. Allow in emotional  discomfort (that challenges our relied-upon routines), locate one’s own self-directed agency, and ultimately, learn to allow and then integrate our higher qualities of being into our day-to-day material-world focuses of attention.

  • Types 2-5-8 can be called the Relationists, as they are core exemplars of the three great ways to move energy in all relationships. For instance, Type 2 moves toward others to meet needs and ensure care. Type 5s move away from others to deliver reason and perspective, and Type 8s get declarative with others, speaking out and asserting what is required at any given moment. Don Riso and Russ Hudson name these types the “Rejection Triad,” as they stave off rejection through providing necessary, important functions and by becoming “powerful” in their own right. Type 2s offer care and support, Type 5s offer thoughtful analysis and rational viewpoints, and Type 8s bring strength and protection. They each respectively assert power in a specific way. Dr. Bill Schafer names these the “Human Triad,” as they can speak from the heart.

    These three types have also “lost” or gone away from the integration of their higher qualities and instead, have moved into relying on personality function across daily life. Twos (2s) have “lost” or gone away from manifesting altruistic love and care and are disconnected from the natural flow of giving and receiving. Fives (5s) have “lost” or gone away from manifesting higher inner wisdom and understanding, and are disconnected  from the natural flow of life energy. And 8s have “lost” or gone away from coming to life with a fresh, innocent perspective and from being with natural, assertive action that does not include forcing a personal agenda or the need to control. The path for those of us leading with one of these these types is to release the deeply held concern of being rejected and disempowered, found useless and thus, annihilated.

  • Types 1-4-7 can be called the Idealists or Utopians, as they each hold a vision of the way the world could be in order for life and spirit to thrive. Don Riso and Russ Hudson call these types the “Frustration Triad,” as they tell us how life fails to reach idealized views and utopian possibilities. The world just doesn’t match the ideal. Dr. Bill Schafer names these the “Heaven Triad,” as they speak to the possibilities of the ultimate integration of personality and spirit. Thus, Type 1s seek a perfect world, according to the internal standards of the way things ought to be and, they are frustrated that this doesn’t happen. Fours (4s) seek the ultimate, ideal world in which nothing of importance or substance is missing, in ourselves or in the world, — but both are often felt as less than expected and hoped for; 4s suffer over this, often feeling frustrated and disappointed inside. And 7s seek an ideal, positive world that is free of suffering and pain and full of pleasant, free-flowing experiences. Sevens (7s) alternatively seek something new and positive when frustration occurs.

    Ones (1s) have “lost” or gone away from serenity as there’s always something that can be improved upon. Ones (1s) struggle to appreciate there’s more than one right way and plenty of variance — in life and in people, losing an appreciation for “differences” being other authentic expressions of the whole range of divine expression. “It’s got to be ‘this way’.” Fours (4s) have “lost” or gone away from appreciating the already-perfect wholeness in all there is, by instead  focusing on what is missing, lacking in themselves or others, and it’s all just disappointing. And 7s have seemingly “lost” or gone away from embracing the all of life — the good AND bad, ecstatic AND mundane in each moment, and the accompanying wholeness of being that both the lows with the highs being what makes life rich.  The path for those of us leading with one of the Idealistic types is to see into the frustration — it’s a construct — as an inherent part of the gift that also seeks ideals. Instead, allow ourselves to not allow that frustration to take us out of the beauty and the gifts “already here.” Stop fighting with reality as it actually is. Learn  to more acceptingly embrace the less-than-perfected, sometimes limiting, not-so-ideal spectrum of life, in each moment, as it really is. Living in a state of frustration “is not ideal,” and  is not what our idealism was intended for.


The Three Centers of Intelligence

Here are brief descriptions of the vital functions that these three centers contribute to our lives:

  • Types leading with the Head Center: Types 5, 6, and 7 tend to filter the world through the mental faculties. The goals of this center are to help us all minimize anxiety, manage potentially painful situations, and gain a sense of certainty and security through the mental processes of analyzing, figuring out, envisioning, imagining and planning. In addition, all of us depend upon the Head Center of intelligence to develop the higher qualities of wisdom, inner knowing, and thoughtfulness. Importantly, we all experience the basic aversive emotion of fear/anxiety, found in all mammals. Aversive emotions that we don’t want to feel. Those that surface when we experience threat and insecurity, which motivates us to pursue the basic need for security and safety. Ironically, this motivation can also inhibit our development as we need to question its validity in order to grow. 

Key Words: Security, Safety, Certainty, Assurance, Validity, Predictability, and Opportunity.

  • Types Leading with the Heart Center: Types 2, 3, and 4 tend to perceive the world through the filter of relational intelligence, which covers the range of emotions. The Heart Center tunes us to the mood and feeling state in others, and ourselves, so that we can meet the vital needs for connection, contact, and approval. We also seek and receive recognition from others, which helps support our self-esteem and fulfills our need for love and connection. To assure that we receive approval and recognition, we embody an image of ourselves at a very deep and relatively non-conscious level that gets others to accept and love us. Moreover, every type depends on relational intelligence to develop the higher qualities of the Heart Center, which include empathy, understanding, compassion, and loving-kindness. When are threatened with a loss of connection, we experience the basic aversive emotion of distress/sadness, which is found in all mammals, but, is an especially powerful emotion in humans because of our long years of early dependency. This motivates us to stay connected or do something to reconnect in order to get and sustain love and the vital bonds with others. Again, ironically avoidance of these feelings can inhibit or question their validity and hence inhibit our growth and development.

Key Words: Love, Connection, Affection, Bonding, Pride, Image, Authenticity, and Approval

  • Types Leading with the Body Center: Types 8, 9, and 1 tend to filter the world through a more kinesthetic intelligence, including physical sensations and gut instincts, which serves to empower us in our pursuit of our needs, assuring our well-being in all sorts of ways that include both physical and emotional survival. Yet, we all use personal position and personal power to make life be the way we believe it “needs to be.” We devise strategies to assure our place in the world and to minimize discomfort. All types depend upon the Body Center of intelligence to be in touch with its higher qualities – the right amount of energy needed for action, how much power to use in pursuing our needs and psychological-spiritual integrity, and being grounded in ourselves and in the world. We all experience the basic aversive emotion of anger/rage, which is found in all mammals. It’s a feeling that we don’t want to feel and it surfaces when our basic need for self-worth, position in the world, and getting what we want is threatened. In turn, this then drives our behavior for better and worse. Here also, avoidance of these feelings can restrict confronting them and determining their validity and relevance in our lives, thus restricting our development.

Key Words: Dignity, Congruence, Protection, Integrity, Vitality, Harmony or Appropriateness, and Autonomy


The Three Vital, Basic Aspects of Life Energy

But there is more to what the Harmony Triads provide. Each triad also provides a type that leads with one of the aspects of the three great life energies – active, receptive, and balancing forces. These three manifestations of Qi, or the flow of life force (energy), are embedded in the Harmony Triad structure (see Figure 2 below).

Figure 2: The Three Great Life Forces – Energies – Rooted in the Harmony Triads

David Daniels on the Enneagram's Three Great, Vital Life Energy Forces; Receptive, Active, Balancing; Harmony Triads

Each of the triads has a type that leads with one of the three basic energy aspects:

  • Active or yang energy, the lead aspect of types 3-7-8, flows outward into assertive, decisive action that is unrestricted and expansive. These are the types that most readily reach out to make things happen in the world. Active energy can even manifest as alert stillness. This energy is over valued in modern achievement and success-oriented cultures. When contracted, this aspect gets expressed outwardly as unrestrained, not unrestricted, action and aggression. For 3s, this manifests as a goal-focused, fast pace that excludes feelings, for 7s, as insisting on creating options and opportunities, and for Type 8s, as an all-or-nothing approach to life, an imposing of their own will on others. In the Don Riso and Russ Hudson call these the “Hornevian Triad,” I call these the Assertive types.
  • Receptive or yin energy, the lead aspect of types 4-5-9, flows inward as openness and receptivity and outwardly as flexibility of action. It too can show up as stillness, in this case, a readiness for action. This aspect of vital energy is under-developed in our busy, modern world, leading to endless preoccupation with expansion and acquisition. This is the form of vital energy manifested as openhearted grounded presence. It allows us to witness others and ourselves with empathy and understanding and to receive and then integrate all of which we are grateful for. Receptive energy also manifests as we move up the levels of development, through self-observation practice (also based on grounded presence and open heartedness), and through working with our type structure. When fully developed, it becomes the great emulsifier. It allows our essential, higher qualities to be integrated into our personality. When contracted, this aspect leads to inertia and withdrawal. For Type 4s, this manifests as inward preoccupation with feelings and self-referencing, for 5s, as contraction away from feelings and others’ impact, and for 9s, as a stubborn digging in and numbing out. Don Riso and Russ Hudson call these the “Withdrawing Triad” in the Hornevian approach. I call these the Receptive types.
  • Balancing or yin/yang energy, the lead aspect of types 1-2-6, represents a reconciling energy harmonizing both active and receptive aspects. It manifests as continuous adjustments that we make to the ever-changing circumstances where in reaction occurs if either receptive or active energy seems to dominate. This balancing function reminds me of a teeter-totter (remember those?), where there was just no fun if we couldn’t create movement, flow, and balance. This balancing aspect of energy allows us to thrive efficiently and effectively. When contracted, this energy collapses into a narrow and amplified rigidity, a teeter-totter stuck in non-motion. For Type 1s, this manifests as the one right way, for 2s as knowing best what others need, and for 6s it converts to a rigidity about potential harm and danger. Don Riso and Russ Hudson call these types the “Compliant or Dutiful Triad” in the Hornevian approach. I call these the Balancing types.


To me, these three vital aspects of life energy, when in flowing balance and when applied appropriately for any given situation, allow us to flourish. The Harmony Triad approach to the Enneagram gives each triad all three of these manifestations of life energy, of the life force. There is one exception here. An alternate and equally valid view is that while Type 3 provides the active/affirming aspect of this energy and Type 6 the balancing aspect, when either receptive or active energy get too dominate, Type 9 — because of its other-referencing quality with its ability to see all points of view and its desire to create harmony — may also represent balancing energy, not only receptive energy. Thus, the receptive force of Type 9 also has a balancing function. In unity, Type 9 even represents these energies with two aspects, assertive and receptive, and demonstrates how they get balanced.


The Three Vital Forms of Emotional Regulation

Yet, we get still more from embracing the power in the Harmony Triads. We get a triad of three basic forms of emotional regulation (the ERTs). This triad is about how we manage and cope in order to attain our three basic needs:
1. Security (related to the Head Center and fear), and;
2. Love (related to the Heart Center and distress), and;
3. Dignity/Self-worth (related to the Body Center and anger).

Research involving primates, especially human, helps substantiate the biological basis of these forms of regulation. Each of the Harmony Triads has all three of these coping styles within it (See Figure 3 blow). In Don Riso and Russ Hudson’s approach, this triad is named the Harmonic Triad, reflecting the coping or conflict-resolution strategies. Figure 3 shows these three forms of emotional regulation:

Figure 3: The Three Forms of Emotional Regulation Rooted in the Harmony Triads

David Daniels on the Enneagram's Three Vital Forms of Emotional Regulation and Conflict Resolution; Reframing, Containing, Expressing; Rooted in Harmony Triads

  • Sustaining and expressing represents the primary form of emotional regulation in types 4-6-8, which means they tend to over-use this strategy in order to obtain the three basic needs. These types cope by voicing their concerns, feelings, and positions; by intensifying and amplifying their positions in order to be understood and get what they believe is important; and by voicing their views about what is needed to resolve conflict. Difficulty arises from not hearing other points of view and when amplifying conflict situations. Don Riso and Russ Hudson call these the Reactive types in the Harmonic Triad, meaning they react emotionally to conflicts and problems. I call these the Expressing types.
  • Containing and Rationale represents the primary form of emotional regulation in types 1-3-5, which means they tend to over use this strategy in order to obtain the three basic needs. These types cope by becoming rational and analytical, subduing and suppressing feelings, distancing from emotion in order to stay “objective,” finding intellectual solutions and reasonable action steps, and by striving to solve conflict logically and reasonably. The difficulty arises from not addressing the depth and meaning of feelings and even in discounting these. In the Harmonic triad approach, Don Riso and Russ Hudson name these the “Competency” types, meaning they strive to be objective, effective, and competent as a way to deal with conflicts and by putting aside personal feelings.
  • Reframing and Shifting represents the primary form of emotional regulation in types 2-7-9, which again means they tend to over use this strategy in pursuit of the three basic needs. These types cope with conflict by shifting away from it, going to positives, reframing the situation, seeing the bright side of things, looking to ameliorate and for better alternatives, and by restructuring the situation. The difficulty can be the avoidance of necessary confrontation and the lack of exploration of the issues at hand. These are named the “Positive Outlook” types by Don Riso and Russ Hudson’s Harmony Triad, meaning the adoption of an optimistic attitude toward conflict and the reframing of problems into positive alternatives.


The Work of Development and Transformation Based on the Harmony Triads

This remarkable unearthing of all three intelligences, the dynamic flow among the three intelligences, all three facets of life energy/force and all three forms of emotional regulation intrinsic to the Harmony Triads, yet hidden from us until revealed, requires the work of integration in order to bring all these vital functions into balance and into healthy, joyful usage. Integration means the interlinking and balancing of differentiated parts. To me, balancing all the functions embedded in the HarmonyTriads, is fundamental to the process of transformation, of reclaiming our higher essential qualities, since balance gives us much freed-up energy. That energy then allows us to release into and integrate in our higher essential qualities.

Attaining integration requires applying the “5As” of the Universal Growth Process. We need to develop grounded and receptive presence (the 1st A of Awareness) and open-hearted, non-judgmentalness (the 2nd A of Acceptance). In this way, we can witness, with the inner observer, our behaviors and imbalances with kindness. We need to be grateful (the 3rd A of Appreciation) for the value given us in all the elements contained in the Harmony Triads.

Doing the Work of Integration
The actual work of integration is done by pausing, noticing, inquiring, and reflecting on how these elements inherent in the Harmony Triads are out of balance within ourselves or misapplied, resulting in upset and reactivity, and how we might best bring these elements into balance and assure their harmonious usage (the 4th A of Action). Here our Enneagram type comes in as it influences the way we approach and resolve conflict, what energy we most overuse and underuse, and how our centers of intelligence are out of balance. As cited earlier, this work is even a path to reclaiming our higher spiritual, essential qualities as we bring all the Harmony Triad functions into balance. This allows us to integrate these qualities into our daily lives. And, lastly, all this requires commitment and daily practice (the 5th A of Adherence).

When we see and deeply appreciate the multiple functions of the Harmony Triads, we can bring them into our relationships, which helps us open the door to more compassion for ourselves and others, and it helps us to manifest more and wiser options for dealing with the reactivity that naturally happens in our lives. It is my hope that we all can embrace this work of integrating all the functions the Harmony Triads give us (see Figure 4 below).


Figure 4: All Three Functions in the Harmony Triads

David Daniels on the Combination of All Three Harmony Triad Functions for Each Enneagram Personality Type



Toward the Neurobiology of the Enneagram by Jack Killen. TALK, Journal of the AET, 2008 & The Enneagram Journal, Volume 2, 2009).

Roaming Free Inside the Cage: A Daoist Approach to the Enneagram and Spiritual Transformation by Schafer, W. iUniverse, 2009, Bloomington, Indiana.

Hidden in Plain Sight: Observations on the Origins of the Enneagram by Virginia Wiltse and Helen Palmer. IEA Journal, Volume 4, 2011.

Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel Siegel. (Bantam Books, 2010.

Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions by Jaak Panksepp. Oxford University Press, 1998. New York, NY.

Handbook of Emotion Regulation by James Gross and Ross Thompson, eds. Guilford Press, 2007. New York, NY.

 The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are, by Daniel J. Siegel. The Guilford Press, 1999. New York, NY.



Considerable material on the three forms of Emotional Regulation and the three basic aversive emotions comes from the work of Dr. Jack Killen; considerable mention of the three energies referenced comes from the work of Dr. Bill Schafer and Helen Palmer.