Three is the Magic NumberOct 14, 2022
I loved watching Schoolhouse Rock on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. The joy of counting by fives, “Five, Ten, Fifteen, Twenty…” or the jazzy, “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.” One of my all-time favorites was, “Three, the magic number.”
If you want a refresher, you can see it here. The lyrics start like this:
Three is a magic number,
Yes it is, it's a magic number.
Somewhere in the ancient mystic trinity.
You get three as a magic number.
The past and the present and the future.
Faith and Hope and Charity,
The heart and the brain and the body
Give you three as a magic number… (1973, Bob Dorough)
The Enneagram is built on the number three and groups of threes. Indeed three times three equals nine, and the prefix “Enneagram” is Greek for a nine-pointed figure. In the center of this figure is a triangle, a three-sided shape.
The Heart and the Brain and the Body
If you really want to understand the Enneagram, you need to understand these groups of three. At the top of the Enneagram is the Body or Acting Center (types 8, 9, 1), on the right of the Enneagram is the Heart or Feeling Center (types 2, 3, 4), and on the left of the Enneagram is the Head or Thinking Center (types 5, 6, 7).
At its most basic level, the Enneagram is about our relationship with Thinking, Feeling and Doing. As people, we need to have ready access to each of these centers, and it should match what is needed for the moment. If the situation is complicated, we need to step back and think. If the situation is sad, we need to draw on our empathy and emotions. If the situation is urgent or dangerous, we need to act.
Each of the Nine Enneagram types are about an imbalance in these centers – too much, too little, or out of touch. We get in trouble when we become hyper-rational when the situation calls for empathy. It’s a problem when the situation calls for action, but we are frozen. Each of the Nine Enneagram types shows some preferences to one or more of the centers at the expense of others. It takes awareness to begin to bring these centers together.
In the meantime, it’s helpful to recognize our own preferences and strengths. Some of us know exactly what to do when a friend has experienced loss. Others of us are able to come up with novel solutions to complicated problems. Some of us can move a project from A to B in the most timely and effective way. It’s good to know both our strengths and weaknesses. It’s even better to know the strengths and weaknesses of others, so we can work together as a team and in harmony.
We all have “a heart and the brain and the body” and it makes three. It’s the magic number.
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