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  • Writer's pictureRev. Ani

The Enneagram, Part 2: The way we get our needs met & the way we react to problems

Updated: Jun 1, 2021

converting vice to virtue on the path of personal transformation

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In The Enneagram, Part 1: Are you a fixer, people pleaser, or over-thinker?, we examined the primary triad of the enneagram, based on the three parts of the human psyche: the instinctual (gut) center, correlated with the need for control and autonomy; the feeling (heart) center, correlated with the need for approval and esteem; and the thinking (head) center, correlated with the need for security. The last two enneagram triads are the Hornevian/Social grouping and the Harmonic grouping.

Psychiatrist, Karen Horney, identified 3 fundamental ways that people solve inner conflicts, and her theory led to the development of the second enneagram triad: the Hornevian or Social Groups. The enneagram Hornevian/Social grouping describes the strategy that each type employs to get their needs met.

Hornevian/Social Triads

Assertives: Types 3, 7, 8

Assertives move against people. They expand their ego in the face of difficulty or buck-up, so to speak. They demand what they want. People in this triad act assertively when healthy and demanding when unhealthy.

Withdrawns: Types 4, 5, 9

Withdrawns move away from people. They move away from engagement with the world and zone out into their imaginations, their safe inner world. They disengage to get what they want. People in this triad take a time out and re-engage when healthy and isolate when unhealthy.

Compliants: Types 1, 2, 6

Compliants move toward people. They are not necessarily compliant to other people but are compliant to their internalized rules (should’s and ought’s). They earn what they want. People in this triad consult their inner wisdom when healthy and follow an inner rulebook when unhealthy.

Harmonic Triads

The final enneagram category is called the Harmonic Grouping. These triads describe how each type responds when faced with a problem.

Positive Outlook Group: Types 2, 7, 9

People in this triad reframe disappointments in some positive way. They emphasize the bright side of things and automatically revert to morale-building when conflict arises. They inspire optimism when healthy and are in denial when unhealthy.

Competency Group: Types 1, 3, 5

People in this triad deal with difficulty by putting aside their personal feelings and trying to be objective, effective, and competent. They seek to solve problems logically and expect others to do the same. They are team players when healthy and insensitive when unhealthy.

Reactive Group: Types 4, 6, 8

People in this triad react emotionally to conflicts and want other people to match their emotional state—as if to say, “Isn’t this horrible? Doesn’t this upset you?” If they are unable to express their emotions, these types can become resentful and vindictive. They are motivated for change when healthy and emotionally demanding when unhealthy.

Understanding how you attempt to get your needs met and how you react when faced with a problem can assist you in making more skillful choices. Recognizing that people organically have different strategies for getting their needs met and for solving problems can also increase your empathy, compassion, and patience when navigating personal relationships at home and on the job. Stay tuned for upcoming articles that further explicate this beneficial personality typing system.

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