Category Archives: Enneagram Basics

More on the Gut Center

The Instinctual Triad

The Instinctual, or Anger, Triad is made up of Enneagram personality types 8, 9, and 1.

Enneagram Type 9 is the center type of the triad and considered to be the most out of touch with their own anger of the three types in this triad.  Enneatype 8, has the most read-access to their anger, and is considered to be the “over-expressed” type in this triad.  Enneagram Type 1 is the most “under-expressed” type in the Anger triad.

gut triad 8-9-1

Type 9 (the center of the Anger triad):

The type 9 is the most “out of touch” with their anger.  Most type 9 people, if they haven’t done much self development work, will deny that they even experience anger.  The problem is that they actually do…they just don’t acknowledge it until it has built up to the point of explosion.  Then, it’s much like a volcano blowing…and it can be scary for them and those around when it happens.  The work of the type 9 person is to be present for themselves, in the moment, as much as possible, and become aware of their own point of view.  Nines definitely have a point of view, it’s just common for them to “go along to get along,” and when they don’t monitor that tendency, they can become passive-aggressive in how they get their own needs met.  Their anger really is hidden to the world (except in the passive aggressive instances, but even then the Type 9 may not admit it to themselves),  until it becomes atomic…then there is no denying it (although its specific cause may still be a mystery to the 9).


Type 8:

Type 8 people have ready access to their anger, and can be quick to express it.  They can have an aggressive style, but in many instances, society has given them the message that their natural style is unacceptable, and so the Type 8 person has learned to control their style.  Because of this, they can tend to have very big energy, which will be felt as a large energetic presence when they enter a room. 8’s have a direct style which can be intimidating. Often it looks like they create a lot of conflict with others, and can come across as bullies.  Most 8’s would probably tell you that they really don’t like conflict…and don’t like “getting mad.”  What they do crave, though, is intensity, and when their own intense energy isn’t matched by the other person in a way they want it to be, 8’s can escalate a situation to get the response they are looking for.  That can lead to an angry response from an 8, which then makes them look like the angriest type, hands down.


Type 1:

People who identify as Type 1’s will often times say they don’t get angry, they are just “frustrated.”  Usually it’s frustration about other people not doing things the way that the Type 1 would do it.  Whether it’s how (or if) the dishwasher is loaded, or the way a document is formatted, or how something is said to them, the Type 1 will typically prefer it be done differently.  They really believe that they are right…and that can apply to moral values as well, an their personal integrity.  Type 1 is considered the “under-expressed” type of the Anger triad, typically considered “repressed” in psychological terms.  Although the Type 1 may not be fully aware of how their anger comes across, it is readily apparent to others.  They can appear to be very uptight, tight-lipped (in appearance), have a very determined, clipped/choppy gait, etc., when they are sub-consciously expressing their anger/frustration.
This is just an overview of the Anger Triad types, and the differences between the way their anger expresses itself.  In future posts, we’ll look at each type more in depth.  Please do not use the overview to type others.  If it resonates with you, personally, you may want to investigate the type further for your own benefit in self growth.

There is an Enneagram Depot Resource Guide available to you when you subscribe in the box to the right side of this post, at the top of the page.  It also comes with a mini-course, sent right to your mailbox over the course of several days, so you can get a jump start on the material.



The Intelligence Centers (or Triads)

The Triads and the Law of Threes

The basic foundation of the Enneagram is built around a Triad (or, group of three) of three centers of intelligence:  the Gut center, the Heart center, and the Head center.  Each of these has a main Enneagram type associated with it as shown below. They are the 3, 6, and 9, representing the core Enneagram energies of each Triad (which is another term for Intelligence Center).  The Enneagram uses building blocks based on the Law of Three…in this case, there are three triads, each with three personality types associated with them.

The other numbers (which are not shown here) make up the other six types, and represent variations on these three main types.  Incidentally, these three main types are the three most common types found in our culture.


The Three Centers of Intelligencetriangle 3-6-9 

The Gut center (or “triad”) is at the top of the symbol, represented by Point 9. The central type in the Heart triad is the 3, and the 6 represents the center type of the Head triad.  Each of these triads is characterized by an expression of energy focused in the area of the body shown.

The Gut (or Anger) Triad

The gut triad is very instinctual energy, with an emphasis on Vitality and Life Force.  Instinctual energy has more readily available access to anger, and its core issues are around managing aggression and repression.  Enneagram types 8, 9, and 1 are part of this triad, and their key focus needs to be on bringing awareness to this anger, and how they personally manage it when in reaction mode.  Each type will experience and express anger in a unique way.

The Heart (or Shame) Triad

The types within the Heart Triad, types 2, 3, and 4, have a focus that is on their own Value and Identity. Their concern is their own image, or how other people see them, which creates problems associated with their identities.  Shame is an emotion common to most of the 9 Enneagram types, based on our most basic human experience, but the types in the Heart triad can experience a more chronic sense of it, which expresses in their behavior and inner experience of their own right to “be” without having to “do” anything else to prove it.  Until they become aware of how they are affected by this concern for their own image, hostility can become an issue for them.  Each type will channel it differently, as part of the expression of their type.  Becoming aware of how they direct the hostility can be transformative in their lives.

The Head (or Thinking) Triad

Types 5, 6, and 7 make up the Head Triad, and each of these types focuses on the theme of Inner Guidance and Support.  This translates to issues around Anxiety and Insecurity for them, and like the other triads, each of these three types will have a slightly different strategy to handle those issues.  The Thinking types are also known as the Fear triad.  They have more difficulty (relative to the types in the other two triads) with making decisions and making plans for their future.  The Head types tend to focus on some, unique aspect of “worst case scenario” thinking, which, in turn, can develop their creativity.


The Law of Three

The Enneagram and its symbol are full of examples of the Law of Three:

  • Three Centers (Gut/Heart/Head) made up of 3 Enneagram Types each
  • Three Instinctual variants (or, subtypes):  Self Preservation, Social, and Sexual (or, One-on-One) for each of the 9 EnneaTypes (=27 different subtype variations)
  • 3 Points on the Central Triangle in the Symbol are the 3 main Types (the other types are variations of the same theme of the main types.

triangle 3-6-9


The Symbol of the Enneagram

Know Thyself

                                   ~Inscription on the
                                                Temple of Apollo at Delphi

The history of the Enneagram is an interesting read for another time, but for now, we’re just going to explore one aspect of it in this post:  the Enneagram Symbol.

The symbol used now is a combination of three concepts:

symbol component circleA Circle, representing the Oneness of life, and the container within which we as humans live out the context of our lives. It represents the Wholeness of a humans, before we were seemingly fragmented by ego and after we have become aware that we have never lost that Wholeness.


symbol component triangleA Triangle, representing what is known as the Law of Threes, which states that every whole phenomenon is composed of three separate sources: the Active, the Passive and the Neutral.  It’s easy to find examples of the Law of Threes: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one.  Another is the concept of The Perceiver, the Act of Perceiving, and The Perceived.  In his Fourth Way teachings, George Gurdjieff applied the Law of Three in a process of transformation which required, as he saw it,   affirmation, denial, and reconciliation.


And lastly, the Hexad, a six pointed figure that follows seven points from beginning through symbol component hexadsix changes in momentum, and then back to its origin, which is the seventh point. The Hexad represents the Law of Seven, which considers the path of movement toward and away from anything in our world as not a straight line, but rather periods along the journey of striving, failing, and striving again…a rising and falling of energies along the path.  The Hexad has its origins in Sufi tradition.


The Enneagram symbol overlays the three elements onto each other in a way that, symbolizes a path to a fuller, richer life for anyone willing to step back from the triggers of personality and into self observation.  The lines on the Enneagram symbol show that path.








As the numbers get added onto the symbol, representing the 9 personality types, the relationship between the numbers are indicated by the lines that connect them (the numbers are connected to only two other numbers, for reasons we’ll explore later).  The symbol below shows the 9 personality types of the Enneagram. It also illustrates a basic use of the Law of Three, showing the three triads with three personality types in each,

complete symbol