Personality Drive: A Holistic View

By Metta Sweet Edge, LCSW

It’s becoming increasingly well known and accepted that thoughts, feelings, and physical experiences are interrelated and deeply inform and impact one’s daily life.  For example, a single thought (“I’m running late”) almost instantaneously causes a feeling (such as fear or worry) which triggers a physiological response such as rapid pulse rate and sweaty palms.  A holistic perspective—holding head, heart, and body as equal and interconnected aspects of the human experience—can also add to a deeper discovery and understanding of one’s personality drive.

The teachings of the Enneagram (please refer to the first and second articles on the Enneagram for more information) include distinctions between what are called the “Triads” or “Centers”: Feeling (heart), Thinking (head), Instinctual (gut/physical).  The personality drives fall into each of these as follows:

Heart/Feeling Triad:

  • 2 (Helper/Be Loved)
  • 3 (Achiever/Performer)
  • 4 (Individualist/Be Special)

Head/Thinking Triad:

  • 5 (Thinker/Researcher)
  • 6 (Loyal Skeptic/ Safety/Security)
  • 7 (Enthusiast/Adventurer)

Gut/Instinctual Triad

  • 8 (Challenger/Self-Reliant)
  • 9 (Peacemaker)
  • 1 (Reformer/Be Right)

The three personality drives in each triad/center have a shared “root” emotion/issue that each drive responds to and defends against either by over expression (2s, 5s, 8s), under expression (4s, 7s, 1s), or denied existence (3s, 6s, 9s).



For the Feeling triad (2s, 3s, and 4s): their power lies in ability to feel emotions (2 feel too much of only positive emotions, 4 feel too little positive emotion, and 3s deny their authentic emotions all together).  The root issue of the Feeling triad is shame and hostility:

Root: SHAME and HOSTILITY

  • 2s deny hostility and act as an idealized person to compensate for the shame
  • 3s deny shame and then try to fill the gap by being what they achieve
  • 4s try to fix the shame by shoving hostility down deep never finding it

For the Thinking and Doing triad (5s, 6s, and 7s): their power lies in ability to think and take action (5s think too much and therefore act too little, 7s act too much and think too little, and 6s deny their thoughts and actions value all together).  The root issue of the Thinking and Doing triad is anxiety and dread:

Root: ANXIETY and DREAD

  • 5s dread/are afraid of the world and overwhelmed by people, go inside their heads to knowledge/thoughts (source of all power to 5s) so can be free of the anxiety and dread.
  • 6s don’t trust their own thinking and doing, so they look outside themselves to the world to handle the anxiety and dread for them so they won’t have to deal with it, to make safe from the anxiety/dread
  • 7s run away from the anxiety/dread to lose self in the excitement and adventure of the world

For the Instinctual/Physical triad (8s, 9s, and 1s): their power lies in ability to instinctually, from the gut, take impulsive action (8s are overcome with aggressive “animal” instinct to quickly and blindingly, 1s repress their animal instinct, and 9s deny their gut’s very existence).  The root issue of the Instinctual triad is aggression and resentment:

Root: AGRESSION and RESENTMENT

  • 8s express aggression and say “deal with it”
  • 9s deny aggression and resentment not wanting to rock the boat
  • 1s sublimate aggression into idealism and perfection.  Try to make aggression sublime (not just repressing it, shoving it down and having it come up as righteousness and doing the right thing)
Knowing your personality drive’s place within the triads can be very helpful in discovering not only the root issue that needs healing, but also where the key to your power lies for optimal personal growth.

Resources

There are many resources on the Enneagram, but the ones I work with most are from Riso & Hudson’s Enneagram Institute (www.enneagraminstitute.com) and The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Daniels & Price’s The Essential Enneagram, and Concept Synergy’s Harnessing Your Personality Drive Through Exploring the Enneagram as well as PPV Enneagram: Forging the New Self.

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