Identifying & Embracing Who We Are – Part 2.


OK, my friends. Time to fess up.

Last time, we gave you an assignment. Your goal was read through and choose one or two (or at the most, three) paragraphs that best describe you and your personality. I certainly hope you’ve taken the time to prayerfully survey the paragraphs (see Chart #1) and match your life with those descriptions which seem to be the most consistent and persistent in your life.

So, in order to get us started…I’ll go first.

For me, paragraph D (see below) is the strongest one that describes me. I found that to a certain degree, paragraphs E and C also contain some consistencies for me as well.

So how about you? Did one or two paragraphs stand out for you?

So now, let’s take those identifying paragraphs and bring more clarity to our lives by comparing our answers with a time-tested tool of self-awareness called the Enneagram. If you’re not familiar with the Enneagram, let me give you a brief overview.

Birthed out of early church traditions, which originally identified the seven mortal sins (pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth) and the seven contrasting virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope, love), the Enneagram (which expands the basic personality types to nine) has become a wonderful tool for self-clarity and self-awareness. And when used in a healthy, well-rounded environment, the Enneagram (a Greek word which simply means “a figure of nine”) can become a valuable resource for those who want to better understand the good/bad/and ugly that lies deep within each human life.

The Enneagram begins by identifying nine different personality types (i.e. the nine paragraphs) within three major triads or operating systems from which our lives flow. These triads can be called by different names, but for our basic understanding here, let’s call these three systems: 1) The Heart Triad, 2) The Head Triad, and 3) The Gut Triad. In the world of science and psychology, these three triads (or human operating systems) are sometimes referred to as the “triune brain,” a term which helps us identify which part of our complex brain generally is calling the shots for us as we work our way through life.

At the core of our brain is the primal (reptilian) section which includes our brain stem and cerebellum. Some call this the Gut section (or ‘knowing’ compartment) of our brain, and it’s here our brains make core decisions, not by feeling, thinking or any other conscious awareness, but simply by instinct. It’s in the Gut section where we find our “fight-or-flight” responses and other core activities that control our basic needs for living (i.e. breathing, heart-rate, blood pressure, physical balance, etc.). Overarching this Gut section at the core of our brain lies the Heart section (or ‘feeling’ compartment) which controls all our emotional makeup as a human being. Its’ formal name is the limbic circuity (paleomammalian) section of the brain, and it’s here in the Heart section where all of our emotions (i.e. pleasure, joy, fear, disgust, anger, shame, hurt, sadness, etc.) are birthed, released or contained. Finally, on top of these two sections of our brain, lies the neocortex (neomammalian) part of our brain; or the Head section (or ‘thinking’ compartment). This region of our brain contains the prefrontal cortex where all of our social, cognitive, linguistic, creative, sensory and motor skills are processed. The Head section enables us to choose altruistic love, learn algebra, appreciate art, delay gratification, and discern and make decisions.

Thus, the human brain is divided into three sections: And for simplicity purposes here today, let me lay these three triads out and give you a few basic assumptions about how each triad works…

THE GUT TRIAD: Doing-oriented, knowing-driven, body-centered, decisions from the gut, power-focused. When encountering life, the first reaction is to do something. Tends to act before thinking or feeling. Anger is always waiting beneath the surface.

THE HEART TRIAD: Feeling-oriented. feeling-driven, emotionally-centered, decisions from the heart, people-focused. When encountering life, the first reaction is to feelsomething. Tends to feel before doing or thinking. Shame is always waiting beneath the surface.

THE HEAD TRIAD: Thinking-oriented, thinking-driven, mentally-centered, decisions from the head, provision-focused. When encountering life, the first reaction is to think and plan. Tends to overthink things before feeling or doing. Fear is always waiting beneath the surface.

Now, it’s obvious that every healthy human being uses all three triads (Heart, Head and Gut) of the brain throughout any typical day. But throughout our lifetime, each one of us will learn to lean on one of these three brain types more than the other two. And it’s there, the Enneagram comes into play. When you or I chose a paragraph or two that best identifies us, we are, most likely, picking identifiers that indicate which part of your “triune brain” you lean on the most.

So as we close today, take a look again at the nine Enneagram paragraphs (below – see Chart #2) now identified with one part of our “triune brain.”

CHART #2: Understanding The Gut Triad, The Heart Triad, The Head Triad.


THE GUT TRIAD: Doing-oriented, knowing-driven, body-centered, decisions from the gut, power-focused. When encountering life, the first reaction is to do something. Tends to act before thinking or feeling. Anger is always waiting beneath the surface.

These three GUT types are somatically/sensately aware. They tend to take practical action. Their anger is rooted in having buried their true nature. They overcompensate by self-forgetting and focusing on external power, wanting to have an impact with their lives.

They perceive that life is a struggle to be won in a world that is coming against them; life is a battleground; they win by holding their ground rather than adapting.

They process the world through a deep place within themselves; a “sixth sense” or their gut/instincts. (People who are from this triad are often the hardest to name.)

They present themselves as people grounded in the moment; differentiated and having personal power in the here and now.

Their core emotion is anger; an overwhelming sense that they’re not doing enough.

Their existential question: How am I doing?

The strengths of the gut triad: they’re aware of and in touch with their bodies; are not easily swayed by the opinions of others; draw good boundaries and are decisive in relationships; and respond deeply and totally to the present moment.

The weaknesses of the gut triad: they resist appearing vulnerable and hide their weaknesses by being in complete charge of themselves; they are consciously or unconsciously ruled by aggression; they can become preoccupied with their own assessments/judgments of others and situations.

THE CHALLENGER (Paragraph A – Enneagram #8): I approach things in an all-or-nothing way, especially issues that matter to me. I place a lot of value on being strong, honest, and dependable. What you see is what you get. I don’t trust others until they have proven themselves to be reliable. I like people to be direct with me, and I know when someone is being devious, lying, or trying to manipulate me. I have a hard time tolerating weakness in people, unless I understand the reason for their weakness or I see that they’re trying to do something about it. I also have a hard time following orders or direction if I do not respect or agree with the person in authority.  I am much better at taking charge myself. I find it difficult not to display my feelings when I am angry. I am always ready to stick up for friends or loved ones, especially if I think they are being treated unjustly. I may not win every battle with others, but they’ll know I’ve been there.

THE PEACEMAKER (Paragraph B – Enneagram #9): I seem to be able to see all points of view pretty easily. I may even appear indecisive at times because I can see advantages and disadvantages on all sides. The ability to see all sides makes me good at helping people resolve their differences. This same ability can sometimes lead me to be more aware of other people’s positions, agendas, and personal priorities than of my own. It is not unusual for me to become distracted and then to get off task on the important things I’m trying to do. When that happens, my attention is often diverted to unimportant, trivial tasks. I have a hard time knowing what is really important to me, and I avoid conflict by going along with what others want. People tend to consider me to be easygoing, pleasing, and agreeable. It takes a lot to get me to the point of showing my anger directly at someone. I like for life to be comfortable and harmonious and for others to be accepting of me.

THE REFORMER (Paragraph C – Enneagram #1): I have high internal standards for correctness, and I expect myself to live up to those standards. It’s easy for me to see what’s wrong with things as they are and to see how they could be improved. I may come across to some people as overly critical or demanding perfection, but it’s hard for me to ignore or accept things that are done the right way. I pride myself on the fact that if I’m responsible for doing something, you can be sure I’ll do it right. I sometimes have feelings of resentment when people don’t try to do things properly or when people act irresponsibly or unfairly, although I usually try not to show it to them openly. For me, it is usually work before pleasure, and I suppress my desires as necessary to get the work done.


THE HEART TRIAD: Feeling-oriented. feeling-driven, emotionally-centered, decisions from the heart, people-focused. When encountering life, the first reaction is to feel something. Tends to feel before doing or thinking. Shame is always waiting beneath the surface.

These three HEART types are principally oriented toward what others think of them, often feeling a secret shame. They overcompensate by shape-shifting, adapting themselves to their surroundings in order to create an image and to feel love.

They perceive the world in terms of their connections to people.

They process reality through their feelings.

They present themselves as relational and will quickly adapt to what they perceive others want and need of them.

Their core emotion is shame; a primitive sense of deficiency.

Their existential question: Who am I?

The strengths of the heart triad: instinctively relational; inviting, engaging and creative; well-defined sense of responsibility.

The weaknesses of the heart triad: preoccupied with a concern for their identity and seek attention through creating an image; ruled by what others think of them; life is a task to be mastered—which leads to non-stop activism.

THE HELPER (Paragraph D – Enneagram #2):  I am sensitive to other people’s feelings. I can see what they need, even when I don’t know them. Sometimes it’s frustrating to be so aware of people’s needs, especially their pain or unhappiness, because I’m not able to do as much for them as I’d like to. It’s easy for me to give of myself. I sometimes wish I were better at saying no, because I end up putting more energy into caring for others than into taking care of myself. It hurts my feelings if people think I’m trying to manipulate or control them when all I’m trying to do is understand and help them. I like to be seen as a warmhearted and good person, but when I’m not taken into account or appreciated I can become very emotional or even demanding. Good relationships mean a great deal to me, and I’m willing to work hard to make them happen.

THE ACHIEVER (Paragraph E – Enneagram #3): Being the best at what I do is a strong motivator for me, and I have received a lot of recognition over the years for my accomplishments. I get a lot done and am successful in almost everything I take on. I identify strongly with what I do, because to a large degree I think your value is based on what you accomplish and the recognition you get for it. I always have more to do than will fit into the time available, so I often set aside feelings and self-reflection in order to get things done.  Because there’s always something to do, I find it hard to just sit and do nothing. I get impatient with people who don’t use my time well. Sometimes I would rather just take over a project someone is completing too slowly. I like to feel and appear “on top” of any situation. While I like to compete, I am also a good team player.

THE INDIVIDUALIST (Paragraph F- Enneagram #4): I am a sensitive person with intense feelings. I often feel misunderstood and lonely, because I feel different from everyone else. My behavior can appear like drama to others, and I have been criticized for being overly sensitive and over-amplifying my feelings. What is really going on inside is my longing for both emotional connection and a deeply felt experience of relationship. I have difficulty fully appreciating present relationships because of my tendency to want what I can’t have and to disdain what I do have. The search for emotional connection has been with me all of my life, and the absence of emotional connection has led, at times, to melancholy and depression. I sometimes wonder why other people seem to have more than I do – better relationships and happier lives. I have a refined sense of aesthetics, and I experience a rich world of emotions and meaning.


THE HEAD TRIAD: Thinking-oriented, thinking-driven, mentally-centered, decisions from the head, provision-focused. When encountering life, the first reaction is to think and plan. Tends to overthink things before feeling or doing. Fear is always waiting beneath the surface.

These three HEAD types are “rational”. They gather information and are full of ideas. They want to understand and figure things out before acting. They worry about safety and having enough. They overcompensate by focusing on protection from fear and doubt by acquiring knowledge (or experience).

They perceive life in terms of finding a safe place and safe way forward.

They process what they observe through their thinking (careful observations) and are often out of touch with their bodies and feelings.

They present themselves to others as stable, having things figured out.

Their core emotion is fear; they’re afraid of getting lost in the overwhelming challenges and problems of life.

Their existential question: Where am I?

The strengths of the head triad: grasp reality in a comprehensive and perceptive way; steady, stable and clear-minded.

The weaknesses of the head triad: can be hindered, even paralyzed by insecurity, anxiety and fear; they hide their true feelings behind a façade of objectivity and un-involvement.

THE INVESTIGATOR (Paragraph G – Enneagram #5): I would characterize myself as a quiet, analytical person who needs more time alone than most people do. I usually prefer to observe what is going on rather than be involved in the middle of it. I don’t like people to place too many demands on me or to expect me to know and report what I’m feeling. I’m able to get in touch with my feelings better when alone than with others, and I often enjoy experiences I’ve had more when reliving them than when actually going through them. I’m almost never bored when alone, because I have an active mental life. It is important for me to protect my time and energy and, hence, to live a simple, uncomplicated life and be as self-sufficient as possible.

THE LOYALIST (Paragraph H – Enneagram #6): I have a vivid imagination, especially when it comes to what might be threatening to safety and security. I can usually spot what cold be dangerous or harmful and may experience as much fear as if it were really happening or just question or challenge the situation and not experience fear. I either tend to avoid danger or tend to challenge it head-on. In fact, sometimes I do not experience much fear since I go into action with little hesitation. My imagination also leads to my ingenuity and a good, if somewhat offbeat, sense of humor. I would like for life to be more certain, but in general I seem to doubt or question the people and things around me. I can usually see the shortcomings in the view someone is putting forward. I suppose that, as a consequence, some people may consider me to be very astute. I tend to be suspicious of authority and am not particularly comfortable being seen as the authority. Because I can see what is wrong with the generally held view of things, I tend to identify with underdog causes. Once I have committed myself to a person or a cause, I am very loyal to it.

THE ENTHUSIAST (Paragraph I – Enneagram #7): I am an optimistic person who enjoys coming up with new and interesting things to do. I have a very active mind that quickly moves back and forth between different ideas. I like to get a global picture of how all these ideas fit together, and I get excited when I can connect concepts that initially don’t appear to be related. I like to work on things that interest me, and I have a lot of energy to devote to them. I have a hard time sticking with unrewarding and repetitive tasks. I like to be in on the beginning of a project, during the planning phase, when there may be many interesting options to consider. When I have exhausted my interest in something, it is difficult for me to stay with it, because I want to move on to the next thing that has captured my interest. If something gets me down, I prefer to shift my attention to more pleasing ideas. I believe people are entitled to an enjoyable life.


Making sense to you yet? Do the paragraph(s) you picked earlier still seem to describe you now that we’ve added yet another dimension to your self-awareness?  Next time, we’ll take you a bit further down this road to improved self-understanding via this helpful tool called the Enneagram. I hope you’ll join us.

My questions to ponder: Could it be that tools like the Enneagram, when used in healthy environments, could become a powerful self-help-tool, helping me better understand and shape my life like never before?

Much thanks to The Essential Enneagram by David Daniels & Virginia Price for the nine paragraphs used in today’s blog.

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

Click here to go back to our Enneagram homepage…