My Uncle Gordon, rest his soul, was a Type Three. He was a paragon of hard work, achievement, social
sparkle, salesmanship, warmth and achievement. He could charm the teeth out of a snake if he needed
to, and do it while the snake smiled at him. This charisma, this magnetism, was powerfully expressed in
the work world where he served as a life insurance salesman for Hollywood's big stars, the likes of which
included John Wayne, Dick Van Dyke and a long line of others. He embodied the archetype of the
Three, the Achiever, to the hilt. As do other Type Threes, Sharon Stone, Richard Gere, Tom Cruise,
Sting, Meryl Streep, Bill Clinton, Madonna and Sylvester Stallone (oh course, widely known for his
rendition of Shakespeare when he said, “To be, or what.”) Three's are driven for success, and possess
the qualities of adaptability, ambition, hard driving energy, communicative excellence, and a pragmatic
prowess for getting things done. Passionate about developing and expressing their innate gifts, they
have the energy to go after it until they get it. At their best the Three seeks to be the best they can be,
to express and succeed at what they care about most deeply, and to assist others in waking up their
motivation and drive to do the same. Tom Robbins and Oprah Winfrey are shining examples of this.
Like all the types, the Three has her own particular psychic issues to attend to. The basic fear that
drives the Three into action is the fear that they are not valuable and, in fact, are worthless outside of
what they are capable of achieving. In other words, they are only as worthy as their achievements. This
translates into “I am my achievements, or lack of them.” This sense of not being valuable unless they
are achieving and winning sets them immediately into the business of being the best at whatever seems
to be most valued by their parents, and those they hold in high esteem. Thus, they are driven by a deep
need to be seen, applauded, and recognized for their achievements, and in service of this need, are
extremely adept at adapting to whatever stage they are on, able to perform for the standards of
whatever audience they seek to please. The difficulty with this drive to succeed is not that it is by any
means bad, but that early on the Three begins to go after the goals that please others, rather than
those goals that mean the most to them. In this manner, the Three begins to disengage from her real
feelings and desires and seal off access to their Heart Center, where their real ability to be genuine and
joyful is located. Learning to “play the part” expected by parents, teachers and mentors, the Three
learns to turn off her feelings in service of pursuing achievement and recognition. The Three is in the
Feeling Triad with the Two and Four, and while the Two over-expresses positive feelings, and the Four
tends to over-express painful, sad feelings, the Three disassociates from inner feelings and dons the
mask of whoever she is surrounded by and needs to impress or perform for. She becomes the actress
and no errant emotional state is going to throw her off the stage of her performance. This disconnection
from her heart sets her up for a very difficult crisis, one in which she might succeed famously, but
internally, feel numb, empty, and void of value. Here is where her Superego begins to chant: “You, dear
girl, are good or okay as long as you are successful and others think well of you. You better get to work
or it could be too late. Failure is closer than you think.” Caught in a moment self-reflection where she
begins to sense a soul emptiness (due to abandoning her own heart) the Super Ego message chides
her to get into action. Failure is at her heels, there is no time to rest. She must keep succeeding to
outrun the living truth of her soul: that her success is not bringing her the contentment she wishes for,
nor the life she truly wants. It's not hers, but “their” life she is living for. In many ways this can be a wake
up call for the Three, if she can slow down long enough to sense it. In fact, Three's are so driven to
excel that slowing down to take a breath to check in on what is true or false within them rarely happens,
and is counter-intuitive to what they feel will bring them joy and happiness. For my Three friends,
actually slowing down long enough to sense inside themselves is foreign territory that many resist. If
they get quiet long enough, that nagging sense of unworthiness that relentlessly propels them forward
to succeed begins to pierce the facade of the successful one. Their basic fear starts to feel as if it were
coming true, and they are up and out the door, charging towards success.
This dynamism happens in all the types. As the Three descends the Average levels, the nagging sense
that they are not valuable takes a deeper unconscious hold on them. Feeling they are not good
enough, they begin to inflate their egos, and for a Three this means telling you exactly how good they
are at a chosen profession, listing their successes for you, and bragging about their self-worth. For my
dear Uncle, wealthy beyond belief, this unconscious feeling of not being valuable for who he was
manifested in the need to tell me in repeated ways, just how incredible he was. Standing in the midst of
success, he needed no calling card, he was the paragon of outer success, but the unconscious, well, it
is unconscious, and blinding. If he had eyes to see, he might have concluded, “I'm standing in the midst
of abundant success. It's everywhere. Yet, I am driven to brag about this because in my heart I feel
empty, and somehow bragging softens the edge of this suffering and this hurt. Perhaps I should give
myself space and time to investigate this emptiness, this sad feeling that is arising and whispering to me,
'You are not valuable. You are worthless.' I notice too, that when this feeling arises, I instantly begin
making a plan for a new success, something to take this pain away.” It is at this priceless moment that
his inner work can begin, this returning to what is true and real within in, such that, if he choses to
succeed in the future, it will be because he authentically chooses it from a place of heartfelt awareness,
where whatever he does will be fulfilling and lasting. It is here that Enneagram work can become a
pivotal bridge to this inner awakening.
 From the Enneagram Institute’s website, From Free Hudson-Riso materials, Section 3, The Types in Brief.
All Rights Reserved Copyright 2001 The Enneagram
2 From Riso & Hudson Part 1 Training Manuel, p. 205, Personality Type Three, which describes the Type
Three Basic Fear, Desire, etc. All Rights Reserved Copyright 2001 The Enneagram Institute.
3 From the Enneagram Institute’s website, From Free Hudson-Riso materials, Section 3, The Types in Brief.
All Rights Reserved Copyright 2001 The Enneagram
4 From the Enneagram Institute’s website, How the Enneagram System Works, “The Triads.” All Rights
Reserved Copyright 2001 The Enneagram Institute.
5 For an understanding of the Superego message in all the Types, read Don Riso and Russ Hudson’s
wonderful books: The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Personality Types, Understanding the Enneagram, and
Discovering Your Personality Type.
6 From the Enneagram Institute’s website, from How the Enneagram System Works, “Levels of Development.”
All Rights Reserved Copyright 2001 The Enneagram Institute.
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