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Somatic Advice for Threes | A Guest Blog by Peter O’Hanrahan

Threes have such great, go-forward energy. In the study that Dr. David Daniels cites, on nine innate temperaments in small children (Thomas & Chess, 1977), Threes were likely the kids who had the most kinetic energy. They were born “on the go.” There’s much to admire about this, after all, who else can stay so active, busy and productive? Yet like any strength this can become a problem if it’s overdone. When in constant activity, Threes easily lose touch with their physical needs and their emotions. Who has the time to rest or to feel?

The irony is that Threes are very much “feeling types” of the Enneagram. But they need to come out of the closet. The danger is that emotional energy builds up in the chest, the lid goes on, and now there is pressure around the heart. This fits the description of Type A people, or “workaholics”, which was discovered at the UC Medical Center in San Francisco in the late 1960’s. Actually it’s the first time that something like our Enneagram type Three showed up in the literature of modern psychology: successful, well adapted people, who none the less were having early onset heart troubles. (Of course not all Threes have heart problems, and we know a lot more about self-care these days).

The point is that Threes can put their health at risk over time by not relaxing and de-stressing. They miss out on the life of the body. And with their sensitivity to other people’s expectations and approval they can lose touch with themselves.

Threes often say that they feel they are living in, or inhabiting, the space in front of their bodies. It all happens “out there” in the service of task and image. The big work for Threes is to make the inward turn, to come inside themselves and begin to feel their feelings and personal needs, to make space for the big questions of “who am I, what is my true purpose?” etc. This is a somatic process, meaning there has to be a shift towards body awareness, as feelings are felt in the body!

What does it take to become more grounded in the body, and more in tune with the rhythms of activity and rest? What I observe is that Threes have a pattern of holding in their chest. Right underneath this layer there are plenty of feelings and sensations to be discovered. These may be overwhelming at times. But with practice and acceptance, it’s possible to open up an inner space and create an inner dialog that brings Threes into more authentic contact with themselves.

If you are a type Three, sitting still is probably hard for you, but a little bit of mindfulness and breath practice goes a long way. The full-on energy can feel good a lot of the time (even a bit addictive). But why not enjoy life all along the way? Get familiar with sensing that surge of forward moving energy and practice a pause before moving into action. Take a few moments to breath into the belly and slow down your internal pace. You don’t need to go “full speed ahead” to accomplish everything. Much of life can be lived at 90% or even 80%. Actually, this is more efficient!

Physical exercise is good, but it’s not the same as consciously breathing in and down, sensing the life force, and befriending the instinctual energies. Patience with all of this is vital, as is personal support. When feelings come up, it’s good to have a friend to talk to – a friend of your inner work – someone who appreciates who you are, not just what you can do.

Your somatic pattern is supported by the idealization and avoidance of your type: “I have to be successful and avoid failure,” in so far as this creates pressure inside your body. The task is to expand “success” to include relaxation and balance, and live a long and healthy life. That’s good for you, and good for the people who love you.

Peter O’Hanrahan is an Enneagram teacher, body therapist, business consultant, and Senior Member of the Enneagram in Business Network (EIBN) who teaches internationally and also works closely with the Enneagram Worldwide and the Palmer/Daniels Enneagram Professional Training Program. You can visit his website at EnneagramWork.com | POhanrahan@aol.com

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Kathy Rinaldi
9 years ago

As a three I can totally relate. TIme to look inside.