Some people see the world as dangerous, and some see it as safe. Some see it as just or unjust. Nevertheless, we all live in the same world. Elements of our personality color our views, and human perception is little more than an inkblot test. One purpose of the Enneagram of Personality is to describe the various lenses that distort our perception of the world. If you believe that the world is ultimately yours for the taking, that you must be competent, and that the objective of life is to succeed, then you might be:
TYPE THREE: THE ACHIEVER
I. Introduction to the Enneagram of Personality
The Enneagram of Personality is a personality classification system comprised of nine types. Each one of these nine types represents a distinct set of motivations, fears, desires and virtues. This article (and the other articles in this series) are designed to present each of the nine types in an understandable and comprehensive way. Many of you are no doubt familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, as it is the most popular personality instrument discussed on PersonalityCafe. The Enneagram is a fantastic compliment to the MBTI test because the Enneagram deals with core motivations, while MBTI deals with information processing. When taken together, MBTI and Enneagram can provide an accurate description of an individual's personality.
These articles are intended to describe each Enneagram type from the ground up, starting with the most fundamental motivations of that type and moving up to how those motivations are expressed in the real world.II. Quick Facts about Type Three
These facts will be described throughout the article.
Holy Idea: Hope
Enneagram Triad: Image (Associated Emotion: Shame)
Hornevian Triad: Aggressive
Harmonic Triad: Competency
Basic Drive: To be successful
Basic Fear: Worthlessness
Basic Desire: Value to Others
Freudian Association: IdIII. Type Three Description
Imagine that you are looking into a mirror. What you see is a reflection of yourself, an image that accurately portrays how you look. When a Type Three looks into that mirror, they see more than a passive reflection of themselves. Type Threes want to take control of that image and direct it as they wish.
Each Enneagram type has a “Holy Idea” that describes the fundamental fixation of the type. According to traditional Enneagram theory, each Holy Idea represents one facet of existence. The Holy Idea of Type Three is hope, which is defined as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.” Type Three is also an image type (like Two and Four), which means that their primary sphere of action is in the world of perception – both of themselves and others. If you place the holy idea of Hope within the realm of image, you start to understand the core motivation of the Type Three; they modify their image in order to gain what is wanted.
Some might think this is a negative quality, but that can't be further from the truth. Image focus is sometimes associated with egocentric people, but for the Type Three, the world of the image is simply the area in which they are most skilled to act. The image is the all-purpose Swiss army knife of the Type Three personality.
As you can tell, Type Threes place an emphasis on action. This makes Type Three one of the most engaging types in the Enneagram, if only because they are constantly striving to improve themselves. Everyone possesses a Freudian ego ideal, but Type Threes are fixated on fulfilling that ego ideal through their appearance. This ego ideal is essentially unattainable, which leads the Type Three on a neverending quest for personal improvement. Threes may also fear that they have no inner value, which leads them to fill the gap with an idealized image.
For most people, their image is out of their reach. An action may change their image, but that requires others to accept it. But the Type Three is operating in an area that few can reach, and can adapt their image as required in a very fluid way. This leads the Type Three to their vice of deceit. In this case, deceit doesn't mean outright lying. It doesn't mean that Type Threes are naturally liars or naturally misleading, as some people believe. Deceit reflects a desire to present an image without regard as to whether or not it truly reflects reality. In simpler terms, this is the “fake it until you make it” mentality. This can sometimes be a crutch for Threes, who might engage in behavior to appear more attractive, intelligent, wealthy, or any number of things. For this reason, Threes can sometimes be so fluid with their image that they may lose track of who they really are. This effect is pronounced at unhealthy levels of development.
The virtue of the Three, truthfulness, stands in opposition to deceit. Truthfulness, in this context, is embodied in the accurate expression of reality. Threes, when exhibiting truthfulness, are realistic and down-to-earth as they move up to healthy levels of development. Healthy Threes have grand and successful images, but those images are earned and their expression of them reflects reality. Healthy Threes are therefore open, generous, realistic and warm. Many Threes may find that they cannot find value in themselves until they reach high levels of health. They may also not be truly aware of how they come across to others until they reach this level.
In more practical terms, Threes are usually engaging, aspirational, active, and are natural go-getters as they chase an idealized version of themselves.IV. Developmental Progression of Type ThreeEarly in life, the Type Three is sensitive to the concept of hope (“the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.”)
The material world (life) corrupts this ideal into the delusion that an image of obtaining what is wanted is tantamount to obtaining what is wanted; that is, that you can “judge a book by its cover.”
The Three relies on deceit to give the illusion of success.
The Three’s virtue, truthfulness leads them to their growth point of Six. As their image becomes more realistic, they find it much easier to connect to others.V. Wings
Enneagram theorists quickly discovered that each Enneagram type can have traits of the types around it. This is called “wing theory”, and while some theorists dispute the finer points of it, it's generally agreed that each type has a connection to the types around it and one of these connections will be dominant. For example, Type Two is surrounded by Types One and Three. Someone could therefore be a Two with a One Wing (Two as their main type with some Type One traits), or a Two with a Three Wing (Two as their main type with some Type Three traits.) The notation for this is 2w1 and 2w3, respectively. It is generally held that one wing is more dominant than the other; while you may have traits of both wings, one is more pronounced. Some believe that you can have balanced (equal) wings, but this Enneagram type description operates under the “dominant wing” theory, which is the most prevalent in the Enneagram community.
Type Three shares wings with Type Two and Type Four.
Type Three with a Two Wing:
Type Threes want to succeed, while Type Twos want to be seen as helpful and liked by others. 3w2s, therefore, tend to be flashy achievers. They succeed and want everyone to know it. That doesn't necessarily mean that they are vain, but they place a premium on the respect and approval of others. Some 3w2s may be self-centered, but many are not, and can incorporate the aspect of “being helpful” into their image. The owners of many non-profit organizations are probably 3w2s.
3w2s tend to be more aggressive and extroverted than 3w4s.
Type Three with a Four Wing:
Type Threes are driven by a desire to be (and appear) successful. Type Fours are driven by a belief that they are fundamentally different from the world and must stand apart from it. When you combine these two traits, you have 3w4, an Enneagram and wing combination that creates an ambitious but cautious personality. 3w4s are just as engaging as 3w2s, but they are more likely to retreat from view from time to time to analyze their image. They are generally more self-conscious than 3w2s, and usually more careful about their image.
3w4 is sometimes called the stereotypical businessperson type, because they strive to get ahead but are cautious and shrewd as well. Like any good businessperson, 3w4s can be aggressive but they use it selectively and at just the right time to advance their interests. They can be more introverted than 3w2s, but are more contemplative.VI. Growth and Stress Arrows
One theme in the study of the Enneagram is interconnectivity. Each type is distinct, but it does not stand alone. We discussed Wings earlier, which shows how a type can have traits of the types next to it. Another example of interconnectivity are stress and growth arrows. When an individual is in a state of stress or growth, they can take on traits of other types. There is some disagreement within the Enneagram community as to what precipitates a stress or growth condition, but I believe that the most logical interpretation of this is that a type becomes stressed when they succumb to their vice, while a type grows when they are following their virtue. Following a vice is a natural response, as it is the easy way out. Virtues are risky because they cause a person to confront their “dark sides” or fears and may result in a radical reassessment of one's thoughts and actions. Nevertheless, the Enneagram is a system of personal growth and the stress/growth arrow dynamic reflects that, as it embodies the concept that transcendence is hard work, and it's always darkest before the dawn.
This is also in line with the overarching theme that the Nine types are basically just different means of perceiving reality, and no type is more correct than any other.
Growth Arrow to Six:
Like all the Image types, Three is at risk of becoming self-absorbed and letting their thoughts be dominated only by their own goals and aspirations. As they harmonize their image with reality, though, they begin to realize that they can rely on – and support – other people without jeopardizing their image. Threes therefore adopt some elements of Type Six, such as cooperating with others.
Stress Arrow to Nine:
Under times of great stress, Type Threes may experience some negative characteristics of Type Nine. These include the apathetic “give up” attitude that some Type Nines can acquire. If a Type Three is blocked from success for whatever reason, they are at risk of developing this mentality.VII. Type Three Variants
Self-Preservation Threes want to be seen as strong and self-sufficient. Sometimes they may enjoy the image of being a provider. Self-Pres Threes are apt to give into conspicuous consumption, whereby they make their wealth known to others.
Social Threes are chiefly concerned with the impression they give to others. They tend to focus on being the successful one in their social circle. Social Threes are usually adept at climbing the social ladder.
Sexual Threes pursue an idealized version of their own personal attractiveness. That can include sexual attractiveness, but also qualities that make the Three a personal confidante or friend. The underlying motivation for this is a desire to connect deeply with others, and they want to make themselves receptive for that sort of connection.VIII. Comparison within Triads
Within the Head/Body/Image Triads:
Head: These types are primarily concerned with their own thoughts.
Image: These types take action when it comes to their image, which they equate with reality.
Body: These types focus on the border between themselves and the world around them.
Within the body triad…
(Compared to Eight) Threes can be assertive like Eights, but only as the circumstances require. Aggressiveness is definitely a component of Type Three, but only insofar as required to advance themselves. Threes are likely to employ aggression very tactically, reserving it only for the most advantageous moments.
(Compared to Nine) Threes are much more in touch with their needs than a Type Nine. They are also more likely to push on others than a Type Nine.
(Compared to One) Threes are not as self-critical as a Type One. Ones are also generally more principled than Threes.
Within the image triad…
(Compared to Two) Threes are much more focused on their needs than a Type Two. It can be a part of a Three's image to be helpful, but the motivation of Two's helpfulness is to be loved.
(Compared to Four) Threes do not feel the same fundamental disconnection from the world as a Type Four.
Within the head triad…
(Compared to Five) Threes are much more comfortable operating in the outside world than a Five. A Five tends to plan (and overplan) their interactions, while a Three can adapt to changing situations much like a chameleon.
(Compared to Six) Threes are not as security-oriented as a Six. Threes generally do not imagine all the “worst case scenarios” that could happen, which is more of a Six trait.
(Compared to Seven) Threes like to keep tight control over their image, which stands in opposition to the scattered nature of a Seven. Threes would likely see the Seven's tendency to be scattered as a liability that could damage their image and reputation.
Within the Hornevian triads:
The Hornevian triads describe how each type copes with a situation. They were originally developed by psychologist Karen Horney.
In this context, “aggressive” means “action-oriented.” It doesn't mean belligerence.
Type Three – Takes action to gain success.
Type Seven – Takes action to keep engaged in interesting activities.
Type Eight - Takes action to secure more resources and to continue to consume.
Type Four – Withdraws to protect themselves from being absorbed into the crowd; to maintain their uniqueness.
Type Five – Withdraws to defend themselves and to get a better/clearer view of the situation.
Type Nine – Withdraws to maintain peace.
In this context, these types are compliant to their superegos. It doesn't mean that they are pushovers.
Type One – Complies with the superego because they will feel corrupt if they don't.
Type Two – Complies with the superego because they will feel useless if they don't.
Type Six – Complies with the superego because they will feel insecure if they don't.
Within the Harmonic triads:
The Harmonic triads describe the primary problem-solving skill employed by each type.
Type Two – Twos focus on their own goodness and virtue.
Type Seven – Sevens adopt an “it doesn't affect me” mentality.
Type Nine – Nines focus on the “silver lining” in a situation instead of negative aspects.
Type One – Ones must be competent to maintain their set of ethics.
Type Three – Threes must be competent to avoid challenges to their success.
Type Five – Fives must be competent to survive in the “outer world.”
Type Four – Fours may take things very personally, which makes them very emotionally intense.
Type Six – Sixes are observant of their world and react accordingly.
Type Eight – Eights are quick to react to challenges and to assert their boundaries.IX. Enneagram and MBTI Interaction
The Enneagram describes motivations, while the MBTI describes modes of information processing. It would stand to reason that MBTI is subordinate to Enneagram, as the Enneagram deals with more basic motivations. Imagine that two people want to tell the same story, but one is a writer and one is a musician. One will write a book while the other will write a song but both have the same origin point.
So let’s look at each type and how that form of information processing would appear when directed by the primary motivation of Type Three.
Extroverted Sensation Types (ESTP and ESFP)
Extroverted Sensation is associated with a strong connection to the “present moment” and places an emphasis on practicality in life. ESxP Threes are down-to-earth achievers who use their attunement to the exterior world to advance their pursuits. It's common to see ESFP Three artists and ESTP Three programmers or IT staff.
Extroverted Intuition Types (ENTP and ENFP)
Extroverted Intuition is essentially the opposite of Extroverted Sensing: instead of focusing on present information, Extroverted Intuition brainstorms a myriad number of possibilities that may or may not be true.
The ability to consider many different possibilities means that the ENxP Three can easily act chameleon-like in a variety of situations, changing their appearance as needed and generally flying by the seat of their pants. Improvisation comes easy to them.
Extroverted Thinking Types (ENTJ, ESTJ)
Extroverted Thinking breaks a process down into its logical components and checks it for logical consistency.
Extroverted Thinking Threes naturally gravitate toward positions of power, particularly ones that involve administering others. Many ExTJ Threes want the image of a shrewd, capable boss who knows how to call the shots.
Extroverted Feeling Types (ENFJ, ESFJ)
Extroverted Feeling refers to an awareness of the emotions or hidden beliefs of another, but does not necessarily imply that an Fe-dominant person must bend to those emotions.
ExFJ Threes are “keyed in” to what people are expressing, so they find themselves presenting a very likable and helpful image. They could idealize the image of being a “man (or woman) of the people.” This is probably a common combination among some brands of politician.
Introverted Sensation Types (ISTJ, ISFJ)
Introverted Sensation types tend to use their experience to guide them; Si dominant Type Threes can be seen, in some respects, as the opposite of Ne dominant (ENxP) types – instead of having fluid, chameleonic images, they are more solid and unchanging.
Introverted Intuition Types (INTJ, INFJ)
Ni dominant types tend to have brilliant insights into “what’s going on”, although they do so in different ways.
INTJ Threes use their mastery of abstract systems, combined with their auxiliary Extroverted Thinking function, to create intricate plans for success that can put them ahead of the rest of the pack. Whatever INTJ Threes choose to pursue, they tend to do it with skill and boldness.
INFJ Threes, on the other hand, tend to be more people-oriented as their auxiliary function is Extroverted Feeling. They can do for social systems (and for individuals) what an INTJ does for an abstract, logical system.
Introverted Thinking Types (INTP, ISTP)
Introverted Thinking types (IxTP) emphasize the particular meanings of words and how each individual piece fits together within a concept. Introverted Thinking Type Threes generally like to be seen as efficient and intelligent. Intelligence and skill may be a key part of their image, and they may look for opportunities to “show off” their logical reasoning skills.
Introverted Feeling Types (INFP, ISFP)
Introverted Feeling types are concerned more about the essence of a particular subject than the gritty particulars. (This is the opposite for Introverted Thinking types.) IxFP Threes, in particular, tend to make those insights a key part of their identity. You will find that many top artists in the world are IxFP Threes.X. Paths to Security
Type One - “I will be secure if I'm perfect.”
Type Two - “I will be secure if I'm loved, appreciated or respected.”
Type Three - “I will be secure if I am successful.”
Type Four - “I will be secure if I am unique.”
Type Five - “I will be secure if I withdraw from harm.”
Type Six - “I will be secure if I am always aware of danger.”
Type Seven - “I will be secure if I can plan for the future.”
Type Eight - “I will be secure if I can control the world around me.”
Type Nine - “I will be secure if I have peace.”XI. Freudian Association
From my article, “The Freudian Theory of Enneagram”
Type 3: Id Achiever.
Basic Fear: To become worthlessness.
Basic Desire: To become usefulness and to have value.
The Type 3 is a motivated, goal-oriented achiever. They are part of the Image triad in Enneagram, and many people associate the Type 3 with "ostentatiousness"; but that there's far more to Type 3 than status seeking. Healthy threes are often industrious and highly successful, and that's because of their id.
The id is the source of the libido drive. But the libido doesn't just mean sex! It means all psychic energy. Type 3 is so industrious because they channel their libido into productive pursuits. At the same time, they get a deep id gratification when they accomplish something. They don't put their energies into serving a higher cause, like Type 1 or 2. Instead, their energy is directed back at themselves. This isn't a bad thing: it makes Type 3 one of the most dynamic and proactive types in the enneagram.
To Encourage Integration: Don't let your id convince you that you are completely responsible for all your successes. Appreciate the contributions of others. Not everything is a competition; you can allow people into your life, even if they steal the spotlight from time to time. As you integrate, you'll begin to cultivate a 6-like trust of other people.
To Avoid Disintegration: An unhealthy 3 may fall into the trap of focusing on their own failures and creating more and more apathy. This forms into a downward spiral that can be dangerous. Try not to lose sight of your goals.
Type 3 Wings:
Type 3 with a 2 Wing (Id-Superego): A 3w2 focuses their libidinal energies on themselves, but they are much more likely to seek the interaction of others in this process. Nothing would fulfill the 3 id and 2 superego more effectively than bringing some people along for the ride on the Type 3 success train. As a result, 3w2s are often more comforting and energetic than 3w4s.
Type 3 with a 4 Wing (Id-Ego): A 3w4 has all the id desires of a 3, but it's tempered with the withdrawn nature of the 4. The 3w4 is often more detached from others, choosing to cultivate their image from afar. 4 is an ego type, and one coping mechanism for the ego type is to withdraw into itself to avoid the conflict between the id and superego. You can see this in the 3w4: they'd rather build themselves up behind closed doors first, then present themselves to others.“The only journey is the journey within.”
- Rainer Maria Rilke