What Are Enneagram Triads?
Do You Live In Your Heart, Head, or Body?
The Enneagram isn’t just a number or typing system. It’s a tool with depth and endless layers for exploration and self-discovery. Triads, also called Intelligence Centers, are one such layer.
The Triads teach us about our habitual responses: namely, how we filter our experiences. Your Enneagram number determines which of the Triads you belong to: Feeling (Heart), Thinking (Head), or Instinctual (Gut). For example, as an Enneagram 4, I live in the Feeling Triad (Heart Center), meaning I process experiences by way of feelings first (hence why I’ve sometimes been deemed ‘too sensitive’).
By understanding the Triads, we can better understand ourselves and how we react and respond to the world. This is helpful for finding balance, as we can move between Triads once we realize our dominant one.
This knowledge is also useful for relationships, as it can help us empathize with our family, friends, and coworkers who may experience life through a different lens. Ultimately, like with all Enneagram work, Triads are another tool for further learning, growth, and mindful living.
Below is a brief overview of each Triad, alongside suggestions for finding balance outside of your dominant center. If you want to dive deeper, I recommend teachers like Helen Palmer and Beatrice Chestnut. And if you’re new to the Enneagram, here’s an overview of all nine types, as well as tips for discovering your number.
The Heart Center
Enneagram Numbers | 2, 3, 4
If you’re an Enneagram Two, Three, or Four, you belong to the Feeling Triad, also known as The Heart Center. Numbers in this space filter the world through an emotional lens and can more easily access their feelings.
Those of us who live in the Heart Center are driven by a need for connection. We crave intimacy and love from others and when we don’t feel (emphasis on feel) this connection, we experience deep guilt and shame, believing ourselves somehow flawed and undeserving.
The work for us Heart Center types is to grow curious about our emotions. Feelings can be deceitful and create false illusions and narratives.
Ways To Find Balance | Feelings aren’t always truthful or encompassing of the big picture. Seek balance by borrowing from the Thinking and Instinctual Triads. Take online classes to get into your head, and try breathing exercises to move into your body. With every interaction and experience, welcome the full range of your feelings while also acknowledging your thoughts and instincts. Ask yourself: What do my mind and body have to say right now?
The Head Center
Enneagram Numbers | 5, 6, 7
The Thinking Triad (Head Center) includes numbers Five, Six, and Seven. If you belong to this Triad, you filter life through an intellectual lens. You’re motivated by a need for security and, when that need isn’t met, you often feel stressed or anxious.
Perhaps you’ve been told you “overthink things.” This isn’t a negative habit, as taking your time with decisions is a virtue. But when you camp out in your head, you risk inaction and detachment from your heart and body.
This is why movement through the Feeling and Instinctual triad is essential to your wellbeing. Listen to your thoughts and thank them for showing up. Then welcome your emotions and body into the room. Analyzing your experiences is normal, as long as you don’t allow perceived logic and reason (or lack thereof) to dictate every decision.
Ways To Find Balance | Practicing making decisions, taking action, and embracing your feelings. Try journaling to get in touch with your Heart Center, and spend time in nature to practice embodiment and to get outside of your head.
The Gut Center
Enneagram Numbers | 8, 9, 1
The Instinctual Triad (Gut Center) is dominant for Enneagram types Eight, Nine, and One. For these numbers, everything is visceral, and experiences are filtered through the body. The center of gravity is in the belly and a strong intuition informs decisions.
If you live in the Gut Center, you’re likely instinctual and react almost immediately to your surroundings. Rarely do you pause to think or feel your way through an experience. Your desire is control. And when you feel you’ve lost it, anger, frustration, and rash decisions can succeed. While action and response are excellent tools, they’re best practiced in conjunction with the mind and heart.
The work for Instinctual Triad numbers is to pause and to look to the Heart and Head Center for help with wisdom and empathy. While the body has so much to say, sometimes it needs help from the other Triads for balance.
Ways To Find Balance | To access the other Triads, practice breathing, and adopt a mindfulness or meditation practice. Open yourself up and allow your heart to speak. Talk therapy, while useful for every Enneagram number, can be especially beneficial for engaging your feelings.
Kayti Christian (she/her) is an Editor at The Good Trade. She has a Master’s in Nonfiction Writing from the University of London and is the creator of Feelings Not Aside, a newsletter for enneagram 4s and other sensitive-identifying people. Outside of writing, she loves hiking, reading memoir, and the Oxford comma.