Spirit of the Enneagram: Type Three Forum

A place for questions and reflections around the type three enneastyle.

These are the best practices offered during the webinar:

What a Three Can Do:

  • Pamper yourself with time off because you’re already good enough. For example, “schedule” a weekly Sabbath day of rest.
  • Make a point of arranging quality time with a person whom you normally would not be inclined to visit. “Waste time” with someone or something that doesn’t feed your ego.
  • Walk through a store or mall and notice how many people are old, ugly, out of fashion or otherwise unattractive – to you. Did God make that many mistakes? Or is there another order of affection operating here?

Hi! I’m Dan Martin, and I’ll be your Type Three mentor on this forum page. The Enneagram has been an integral part of my life for almost 20 years.  I have been a student both at the Enneagram Institute and numerous e-courses and have taught the system.  Primarily, though, I’ve used the Enneagram as a tool for my own personal growth on this amazing journey.  Please post any questions about your enneatype journey and I’ll respond with my feedback and perspective.

13 Comments on “Spirit of the Enneagram: Type Three Forum

  1. On a recent walk, I spotted extraordinary mushrooms. What resonated with me was the symbiotic connection between these fungi and their willing host, a fallen tree trunk. I have been exposed to Enneagram for two weeks now, so I am in the infancy (maybe newborn!) stage of my journey. That said, I have tested equally between a 3w2 and 1w9; a facilitator in our workshop thought I sounded like a 6. This post might shed a peek into narrowing my Enneagram assessment. In addition to the strong connection between the fungi and log, I was captivated with the magical detail of the exposed speckled gills under the mushrooms’ caps. I am detailed and appreciate order but love to create and find beauty in the details, such as these mushrooms asymmetrically blanketing their host log. (How I wish I could share a photo.) During our current isolation, walks especially in nature help renew focus.

    When I learn something new, I try to find information on a basic level. I thought others might get a kick out of a video I found exemplifying the nine Enneagram types and their behaviors working from home. I’ve listed the website’s URL below.

    • Dan Martin
      May 21,2020

      Hi Jody, it’s Dan here. Thanks so much for writing in. It’s wonderful that you’ve begun this journey with the Enneagram. As you can see so far, there is so much it teaches us about ourselves.

      I love your encounter with the mushrooms and log. It’s nice for you to have experiences like that to see what bubbles up and how it affects you. I also get so much out of being in nature and observing the beauty and amazing relationships that exist.

      It’s not unusual for folks just beginning their exploration to have two or more strong scores on tests. So, I hope this does not concern you too much at this point. It provides you an opportunity to really explore different types. We do have all nine types within us, so even when we have identified our type, it’s good to see how the other types within surface at times. It’s also good for you to do your own exploration and self identify your type rather than have someone say you are type X. It’s too easy to mistype someone. Many people, even long-time teachers of the Enneagram have mistyped themselves only to discover, sometimes years later their true type.

      A couple of things can help you further explore your type. One is to try to narrow down which center you most identify with…body (gut), heart or head. Which do you lead with? Along with that is to identify which of the primary emotions of each center is strongest in you…anger (body), shame (heart) or fear/anxiety (head). If you can narrow it down to one of the centers, then it becomes easier because each of the types in a particular center evidences that emotion slightly differently.

      Also helpful in typing is to look at the passion of the types. So, for example, for the one that’s anger/resentment and for the three it’s deceit. And the corresponding traps for each are perfection and efficiency, respectively. Since you indicated both type one and three were your highest scores these clues as well as the fixations and virtues of each can help. Compare these in terms of which do you evidence more. Since it was suggested that type six may be your type, it would be good to explore that more deeply also.

      The video is very funny and hits some real facets of each type when operating primarily from personality. One of the modern developments in the Enneagram that Don Riso of the Enneagram Institute developed is the concept of levels of health. Each type can operate in healthy, average, or unhealthy levels, each of which has its own characteristics. You can see these on the Institute’s website.

      I wish you well as you continue to explore. Please let me know how it’s going, and I will try to answer any questions you have, especially as you look at specific type characteristics.


      • Hi Dan,
        Thank you for your thoughtful response. I especially appreciated you breaking down areas leading me on a more directed path. This is where I got overwhelmed – where do I even begin considering what Enneastyle am I. I’m fairly methodical, so considering this exploration in chunks is most helpful! Since I completed the workshop, I’ve been listening to language I use to discern primary emotions. The other day, my husband and I were talking about something neither of us liked. I added the reason why I didn’t like it because I felt “resentful,” not to any person but to the time it took to complete what we were discussing. I was surprised I used that word, since I cannot see myself being that open about my emotions prior to being exposed to the Enneagram.

        Thank you for bringing up the Enneagram Institute. I looked into a few of the Enneagram types (1, 3 and 6), and found this information quite helpful, I particularly appreciated Don Riso’s audio files. Reading this site, https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-3, and listening to his audio clips made me narrow more to a 1 or 3, not necessarily a 6.


        • You are welcome, Jody. It’s so good to hear that you are bringing attention to the language you use. The Enneagram is really a tool to help us with presence and awareness. When we can be present and aware of when we’re falling into our habitual patterns, it can lead to transformation, or at least the ability to make different choices. As Don Riso would say “catching ourselves in the act” is so important. As you home in on your personality type, these patterns become more obvious. It’s interesting that often the people close to us see these patterns more than we do until we train our inner observer to be on the look out for them.

          As you look at both 1 and 3 there are many similarities but also significant differences. The differences lie in underlying motivations. For example, both are hard workers. But the 1 is most interested in getting it ‘right’, thinking they’re the ones who can right more than others. Threes are more focused on getting the job done and not so concerned about how it gets done. Focusing on these underlying motivations can really help you in your discernment. On the Institute’s website under Learn there is a tab Misidentifications. I don’t know if you saw that but it’s a good reference.

          Another good indicator of type is the passion. For the one it’s generally called anger. But it’s kind of a simmering anger, frustration, or resentment. It’s more under the surface and rarely erupts. The passion of the three is deceit. It’s not so much deceiving or lying to others as it is deceiving one’s self. For example, inflating one’s accomplishments to impress others or gain favor. See if you can identify with either of those.

          I want to encourage you in your continued discernment. Let me know how it’s going and if I can help in any way.


  2. Type Three
    Idealization: I am successful
    Avoidance: Failure

    Hi Dan,
    As a (probable) 3, I see the notion of success a factor in my life. I enjoy succeeding, but for what purpose is the question I need to consider. Since retiring almost three years ago, I am contemplating a second career, but this time I am focusing on what fulfills me, what work truly resonates with me – what I feel called to do. The first half of my adult life, what drove me (drive being an operative word) was success, prestige, salary and how others viewed me. I succeeded, but I never felt called to do what I did – project management. Soon after my second child was born, I went back to school to study accounting and got another degree (first degree in psychology). I succeeded, but I continued to not feel called.

    Now, in my early 60s, children grown, I truly feel I have a calling: hospice work. My whole being feels nourished in visiting patients and talking with families. One aspect of this work I have learned yet cannot explain is I thrive especially to mediate or calm family members. I also love the connections I have had with social workers, nurses and especially chaplains. There is still a need to be successful, but for a completely different reason: to be true to myself, to feel complete and to apply my interests and gifts for the betterment of the whole. The key difference is the motivation prior to retiring versus what drives me now: extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, respectively. Currently, I am privileged to be a hospice volunteer, but would love to find an avenue within hospice to develop a career.

    A career in hospice for me is a daunting yet exciting idea, since I do not have a background in social work, medicine or theology. An area of great interest related to hospice is grief counseling; however, to do this work, I believe one needs an MSW. What I feel is not necessarily the fear of failure, it may be the fear of age or time – being too old to consider furthering my desire for a professional role in hospice.

    Thank you for being available! I have so much appreciated your thoughtful responses.

    In peace and gratitude,

  3. Hi Dan,
    Since I am not sure if I am a 3(w2) or a 1(w9), I am truly interested in delving more into the study of Enneagram. There are numerous books available to help discern enneatypes, but is there one which you would recommend to a true neophyte like me?

    Thank you,

  4. June 1, 2020

    Thanks for your notes, Jody. I do hear the discernment you are going through. In particular paying attention to, as you say, what you are called to do…finding where your deep calling can interface the world in a positive way and cultivate further your gifts, skills and talents. Certainly, hospice work, either as a volunteer or paid staff is worthwhile on several levels.

    You’ve articulated a central challenge for 3’s. That is to have our ‘doing’ arise out of ‘being’ and the willingness to be present and listen for our calling, what might be called our soul work. Often times, 3’s just jump into something just to be doing something or anything.

    I encourage you in your continued discernment of how to do work in hospice. I’m one who believes that as people of a certain age we can bring not only knowledge and life skills to a new undertaking, but we also can bring wisdom which is so needed. I would also say that if you are a 3 you would have the energy for it.

    It’s interesting that at the beginning of your first message today you identified as a ‘probable 3’ and in your second message your also raising the raising the possibility of a 1w9. That’s good your still exploring for which I applaud you heartily!

    You are right, there are so many really good books on the Enneagram (I have a whole library). The one that I recommend as the ‘starter’ is The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. As you probably know they founded The Enneagram Institute. The book has been around for about 20 years and is one of the earlier books. It has a lot of the basics in an easy to read format with not too much jargon. One of the main reasons I like it is that they examine both the psychological and spiritual dimensions of the Enneagram. There is so much depth in the book. I will say that there have been some interesting developments in the Enneagram over the last number of years that are not in the book. However, I still believe that if a person studies it, it will be easy to pick up newer thoughts. Also, it’s important to note that not all books or teachers use exactly the same language. This book gives you good grounding in Enneagram language. An added benefit is that their website has lots of additional information which you’ve seen.

    Please let me know how your continued work with the system is going. I’m happy to help in any way I can.

    I want to encourage you in exploring your calling.


  5. Thank you again, Dan, for your thoughtful response and detail you provide! All of this is quite helpful.

    I do believe the “soul work” you introduce is what I’m beginning to work on, and you’ve helped guide me. Your statement “3’s just jump into something just to be doing something or anything” doesn’t really fit me. When I consider getting involved in something, I typically put thought and research into it before participating. Sometimes, I get frustrated with myself by taking longer to decide whether to get involved or not. Pertaining to hospice, I have had a calling for years; I still did my research to know how to get involved but I did no real discernment whether to follow this path or not. I just knew. Thank you for your encouragement to continue developing my path in hospice work. I have no doubts this is my direction, and I am looking into ways to expand my knowledge and what I have to offer. Life experiences and wisdom (at a certain age ?) do bring value.

    Thank you so much for recommending “The Wisdom of the Enneagram”! I recently received my copy and have skimmed it. It elucidates the enneatypes I’ve questioned about myself. I feel as though I’m eliminating type 1 and am probably a 3 or a 6. Per my first post on May 20, I mentioned a facilitator of the workshop, Michael, said I was probably a 6. I took the QUEST, pgs 14, 15 in the book, and came out a 6 (CY). You are certainly right: there is much depth to this book, and I look forward to delving into it.

    • June 15, 2020
      So glad to see you continue to explore and discern, Jody.

      It may well be that 6 is your home base. As you know, 3 and 6 are connected by the lines connecting 3, 6, 9.. And the 6 does, at times, takes on some of the actions of the 3. So you will see yourself in both.

      Another suggestion for you: The Enneagram Institute has a daily free email they send out called the EnneaThought for the Day. You can sign up for two types. Each day you receive a very short email highlighting something about the types you select. It might be useful for you to sign up for the 6 and 3 and see if that helps. I’ve received them for years and still find it helpful.

      I would love to hear how your continued work with the Enneagram is going and if there is any way I can be helpful.

      Be well,

  6. To begin, thank you, Dan, so much for your thoughtful responses. You truly have helped direct me to continue forging a path of self discovery. I feel privileged to do this.

    Week 4 Post:
    The more I’ve read on the Enneagram Institute’s site and perusing “The Wisdom of the Enneagram,” I am starting to narrow the gaps between types 1, 3 and 6. Putting this all into perspective, I believe I truly am a 3.

    Goal for future study: thanks to the reference to Enneagram Institute’s Business site, https://theenneagraminbusiness.com/blog/, I read the “Learn to Lessen Your Primary Defense Mechanism” for each of the Enneastyles 1, 3 and 6. The one, by far, I related to the most was that of a 3. I’ve been too caught up in the results of the Enneagram quizzes to tell me what style I am – since I’m so new to this – in lieu of trusting my own intuition and reflection. I am giving myself permission to identify my true self.

    The one goal I’d like to work on is creating a daily log or journal to answer “I am…” This concept of identification was referenced as the primary defense mechanism for a type 3 in https://theenneagraminbusiness.com/development/learn-to-lessen-your-primary-defense-mechanism-type-3/.

    As a side note regarding identity and self-reflection, I ran across a poem with deep meaning and self-inquiry: Raymond Carver’s “Late Fragment”.
    “And did you get what
    you wanted from this life, even so?
    I did.
    And what did you want?
    To call myself beloved, to feel myself
    beloved on the earth”

    In my journal, I will incorporate the questions posed in these rich words above; however, I intend to focus on “I am.” This inquiry, coupled with “I am…,” I believe, can lead us to a truer self.

  7. June 18, 2020
    You’re welcome, Jody. I’m so glad to hear you’re continuing your discernment process and engaging the often challenging work of self discovery. Continuing to be present and aware of what’s going on within are so critical to this process.

    Enneagram tests always have to be used carefully as you see. How they’re structured and how we answer them can make a real difference. It’s always good to use them only as a starting point, as you are doing and listen to what’s emerging from within.

    In your ongoing exploration, it’s worthwhile to spend time reflecting on the concept of identification, the defense mechanism for type 3. It’s also related to the fixation of the 3 which is deceit. (This is Riso Hudson’s fixation for the 3 which Ichazo identified as vanity.) To see clearly the ways we deceive ourselves. Some are obvious, but some are very sneaky. As I have said before, it’s so good if we can catch ourselves in the act of engaging in identification and deceit.

    Another thing I would offer you in comparing the 3 to 6 is to understand the original heart wound of each. As you know both of them are in the middle of their respective centers. As such they are often disconnected from their centers, heart and head respectively. The original heart wound of the 3 is represented by the empty heart…being disconnected from true feelings. For the 6 it’s the fear-seized heart…often being seized with angst in situations and looking for guidance from outside.

    Love the poem. Thank you. Those inquiries will surely yield some important discoveries.

    As I’ve indicated, I’d love to hear about your journey and be of help any way that would be good for you.