Three Centers of Intelligence

When studying the Enneagram, we learn of three centers of intelligence. These are three centers we each possess that are distinct portals or ways of accessing valuable information impacting our life, each and every moment.  The three centers are the body center, the heart center and the head center. Although each of the nine Enneagram types falls into one of these three groups or triads, we all have and need each to function fully.

Types eights, nines and ones are part of the body triad. The body triad taps into instinctual intelligence. We best understand this as “gut” instinct. “I just felt it was the right thing to do in my gut”.

Types twos, threes and fours are part of the heart triad. Heart types are often led by their emotions, either their own, others, or by noticing them and pushing them aside.

Types fives, sixes and sevens are part of the head triad. Head types are led by logic and facts.

More information on each type can be found at the Arizona Enneagram Association.

Biological Imperatives

In addition, each of these centers has distinct characteristics and something we might call biological imperatives, something we each need to survive. We need the biological imperatives of all the triads to survive and thrive.

The biological imperative focus of the body triad is on power and control. We all need to have some power and control in our lives to survive and further to thrive. Autonomy and independence come from how much power and control we exercise. Each of the three types in this triad work to find power and control through some relationship with the emotion of anger. Some say the childhood need to be heard emerges from this center as well.

The heart biological imperative is the need for esteem and affirmation. Praise and recognition is most important in this triad. These types go out into the world seeking connection and meaning by relating to others. This triad is also often referred to as the image triad. Each of the three types in this triad work to maintain an image, gain esteem and affirmation, and have a particular relationship with distress or shame. Some say the childhood need to be seen is strongest in this triad.

The head biological imperative is the need for safety. Predictability and certainty are most important in this triad. These types go out into the world seeking safety, security and certainty  as a means of mitigating fear. Mentalizing, strategizing, planning and mapping are used so one can be prepared for any impending danger or pain. Some say the childhood need for safety and predictability is the strongest in this triad.

The Three M’s Revisited

In my last blog post, I introduced the three M’s: mindfulness, meaningful connections, and movement. I adopted this formula during the pandemic in 2020 to help keep me on a healthy path during uncertainty. Mindfulness helps me to stay present to what is. Meaningful connections helps us feel a sense of belonging and purpose. Movement helps us manage overall health. The more I thought about this triad, I saw how the focus helps one stay balanced. Additionally, I saw connections to the Enneagram.

Connecting the Three M’s to the Enneagram

All the centers of intelligence are most easily accessed when we are in a state of receptivity. Being mindfully aware requires receptivity. Relaxing our thoughts and turning our attention to the present moment may be thought to originate in the head center. So, mindfulness may begin with the head center.

Not all our connections are meaningful connections. Meaningful connections are most available when we are open-hearted and living fully from our heart center.

The body, gut, or belly center requires an energetic exchange. We may correlate this to the  three M called movement.

It is important to note that each of the centers and the three M’s are all fluid, engaging, and not meant to be seen as separate. Imagine how healthy you feel when you are able to access logic, open your heart, and trust your gut through being mindful, engaging in meaningful connections, and experiencing the freedom to move with ease through your day. This is the value of connecting the 3 M’s to the 9 Paths.