Exploring the Enneagram – The Number Three.
Basic Fear: Of being worthless, without value apart from their achievements.
Basic Desire: To feel worthwhile, accepted and desirable.
Superego Message: You are good or okay as long as you are successful and others think well of you.
Threes are often referred to as The Achiever. They are able to achieve success in many areas of their lives and are often looked up to by others due to their personal accomplishments. They enjoy motivating others to achieve more than they thought they could. Healthy Threes know that they are worth the effort it takes to be the best they can.
Although they are in the centre of the heart triad, they have the most difficulty of all the Enneagram types in perceiving their own feelings. Alongside this though, they are very good at detecting the feelings of others allowing them to relate to all kinds of people on many levels.
Threes get their life energy from their successes. They want success and the sense of accomplishment that it brings, without it they’re afraid of falling into a big hole of emptiness and worthlessness. The Three is very good at putting on a mask and can become so alienated from themselves that they no longer know what they truly want or what their real feelings and desires are – feelings go into a box in order that they can get on with what they want to achieve. Life becomes a competition and they want to be the winners. Most Threes are youthful, intelligent, dynamic and productive.
The root sin of the Three is deceit. They have a tendency to present themselves in a way that does not reflect their authentic self. They must convince themselves that they are in fact the idealised image they convey to the world. This requires them to repress their own feelings of inadequacy in order to keep the self-deception going. The fear is that if they drop their self-made image people will see them for who they truly are confirming that they are indeed worthless.
Coming home for the Three invites them to face their own feelings and engage their hearts without judgement or prejudice. As they do this they face into and dismantle the lie that tells them “I am what others think or say about me.”
They are invited to solitude as a contemplative practice. In this place, Threes don’t have to look for admiration from others. They have no need to prove their worth or value to God and nor do they need to perform in order to gain validation. A grace is offered as they spend time alone knowing that God is near and they are loved simply for who they are. Solitude provides a space in which the Three can discover who they are apart from the perception of others. They do need to engage the solitude though rather than checking out or getting lost in it.
Riso and Hudson say of the healthy Three:
At their healthiest, Threes let go of the belief that their value is dependent on the positive regard of others, thus freeing them to discover their true identity and their own heart’s desire. . . They become self-accepting, genuine, authentic, and benevolent. . . When Threes are able to perceive their Essential value directly, they become freed from the ego’s relentless pursuit of self-esteem through achievement. This affords them the time and space to live with a greatness of spirit, a life of love, richness, and wonder.
Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations
Don Richard Risso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram
Christopher L Heurtz, The Sacred Enneagram