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Enneagram typing | type 6-3-1 confusions

Typing is tricky; helping people to navigate the Enneagram system and accurately identify their own type is an art and a science. The more we know (and I mean really know) about types, subtypes, centers of intelligence, somatics, emotional patterns, etc., the better we can assist others.

A not-uncommon confusion that occurs is a confusion of types 6-3-1. This can occur with whatever typing process is used. Below is a review of how people first approach the identification of their type:

In my practice, participants use Typing Cards after giving an initial verbal and visual overview of the system, and sort the cards – which have a graphic, a type description paragraph, two positive and two negative words that go with that type, plus a defining characteristic of that type – into three piles: yes, no and maybe. Yes means this card really describes me well, no means the card doesn’t fit in any way, and maybe means part of the card fits and part of it does not. Then, participants rank order their yes pile into most-to-least accurate in terms of the degree to which it describes them. It happens just enough that some participants have 6, 3 and 1 in their yes pile, and they wonder why, since there is no obvious connection between and among these types on the Enneagram symbol.

Why this confusion? After all, type 6 is in the Head Center, type 3 is a Heart Center type, and type 1 is in the Body Center. There are a number of reasons why people could get reasonably confused:

Centers of Intelligence
Even though 6-3-1 are in entirely different Centers of Intelligence (Head, Heart and Body, respectively), 6s most often relate to being in the Head Center, but 3s and 1s may not. 3s, for example, use their Heart Center primarily to “read” the reactions of others in terms of being respected or esteemed, but not as much for experiencing their own emotions or tuning into the emotions of others. Many 3s think they function more from the Head than the Heart. And 1s may or may not relate to being a Body Center style because they suppress their anger (albeit to differing degrees, referring to it as irritation or resentment) and their natural impulses in order to be so “good.” Many 1s think, at least initially, that they are Head Center styles since they think so much and have such strong opinions. As a result, asking questions about their Centers of Intelligence may not help people sort among the three types.

Competency Triad
With 1s and 3s forming two of the three types (along with 5s) as part of the Competency Triad (note that this triad is covered in a prior blog; click here), 1s and 3s may get confused about what competency means to them and some 3s relate to having very high competency standards.

Action Orientation and Arrow Lines
The 6-3-1 confusion is heightened by the fact that 3s, 1s and many 6s perceive themselves as action-focused and result oriented. One-to-One 6s are very action oriented, even impulsively so at times, and so are many Social-subtype 6s, who often think, “The worst thing that can happen is that nothing happens, and that can be pretty bad.”

Add to this the arrow line between type 6 and type 3. Many 6s have a great deal of type 3 in them and vice versa. The movement can be so fluid as to shift in a nano-second or to be very conditional on the circumstances the person is in. A prior blog covers the 3-6-9 movement; you can read it by clicking here.

Subtypes is the answer to this confusion
Here is where understanding the subtypes really matters. Self-preservation 1 and Self-preservation 3 are what is called “look-alikes” for each other and also “look-alikes” for type 6. Here’s the explanation:

Self-preservation 1 versus Self-preservation 3 versus type 6
Self-preservation 1 is called “Worry.” They worry about getting everything right, are highly structured, use foresight and worry to understand what is going on and to have everything under control. This sounds like 6, but here’s the difference. When 6s worry, they often think of it as creative problem solving.

Self-preservation 3 is called “Security,” and they strive to be the ideal model of a “good” person, which includes being virtuous and lacking concern about image, an image of having no image but also being virtuous. They are highly structured and work very hard to get things as good as possible in the time that they have, but are willing to let go of everything being perfect when the time comes.

Sixes, by contrast, worry or fret or anticipate an abundance of scenarios so nothing bad will happen, and they do this before, during, and after an event will take place.

So a way of understanding this is that 6s like to be prepared for everything and all the time, Self-preservation 1s want to figure things out – but only in advance – so everything can go as perfectly as humanly possible, and Self-preservation 3s want to know what they need to do (hence, the need for structure) but only want it to be as good as possible within time constraints and other limitations.

So ask this to help differentiate between Self-preservation 1, Self-preservation 3, and type 6: Do you worry in advance to make sure everything will be perfect and under control and no mistakes will be made but then stop worrying once you have it all nailed down (Self-preservation 1). Or, do you simply want to get it done and get a great result (doesn’t have to be perfect) within the constraints of the situation (Self-preservation 3)? Or, do you worry before, during, and after, even thinking of it as creative problem solving, in an attempt to make sure nothing bad will happen as a consequence (type 6)?

In addition, Social-subtype 6 (called “Duty”) is a “look-alike” for type 1. The Social 6 looks for meaning, certainty, and safety by needing to know and then adhere to the established rules or order; for this reason, they can appear rule-bound like 1s. But the difference is that Social 6s do it so they won’t get in trouble with authority, and they are anxious about it; 1s follow the rules because they think it is the right thing to do. So, if there is a question about whether this person is a 1 or a Social-subtype 6, this question can be helpful: When you follow or adhere to rules, what is motivating you to do this? Is a fear of getting in trouble (Social 6) or a belief that rules are there to help people do the right thing (type 1)?

For more on subtypes, you can read all about them in Bea Chestnut’s new book, “The Complete Enneagram,” available on amazon.com or bookdepository.com (from the UK with free global shipping). If you want to use subtypes in your training programs, we carry a tool called “The 27 Enneagram Subtypes,” which is a short, full-color, easy-to-use training tool where participants can sort out the subtypes for themselves! Click here.

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