Three Ways of Knowing - Understanding Our Centers of Intelligence

enneagram Nov 18, 2019

Did you know that there is a neural network not just in your brain, but also around your heart and in your gut? Our gut and heart send messages to our brain that we react to without having to think about it. Depending on your Enneagram archetype, you've come to rely on one center more than the others and this is what creates your default or automatic responses to life. We've all heard of IQ and even EQ, but there is also an intelligence that comes from your gut that people are now referring to as GQ.


GQ - Body Center

Enneagram archetypes that reside in the body center tend to focus on the immediate physical experience of life. These types have an intuitive knowing and trust their gut. They react instinctively, taking in information from their senses and tapping into a knowing that is in their bones. They somehow can sense if something is true or if they are safe.

Because they trust their gut, it is easy for them to jump into something, act out, or even leave without a second thought. They are constantly making judgments about the world around them, and often (but not always) they are right. When things get heated, they tend to trust their gut and dismiss their heart or mind.

So these folks tend to see, sense, and respond - before they've had a chance to think about it. The brain bypasses thought and prioritizes an immediate and instinctive reaction. That judgment may or may not be true, but because their gut has been right a significant amount of time, it gets priority treatment and becomes the default or programmed response.

Our bodies take in so much information all of the time, and it can be overwhelming. When someone in the body center gets overwhelmed, they try to control. But when trying to control doesn't work or they feel overwhelmed, they can get angry. The particular flavor of anger looks different depending on the archetype - an 8 will blow up, a 9 might bury their anger, and a 1 would experience seething resentment or frustration. 

EQ - Heart Center

Enneagram archetypes that reside in the heart center rely on feelings and are guided by a concern for others. This center is all about social and emotional intelligence. The heart somehow knows things you can't know in another way.

People in the heart center are the glue that holds us together. They are caring and are all about connection. They are good multitaskers because they are juggling lots of balls in the air. 

Most people don't trust their feelings because they change so frequently. But feelings are important to decision making, many times you can get a more true measure of what's going on by reading the temperature of a room. People in the heart center are especially attuned to this truth. When faced with a situation or big decision, they will lead with their heart. Consequently, they might dismiss gut reactions because they don't feel authentic. And they distrust others who live in their heads. 

Action for the heart center tends to focus on keeping relationships flowing. Somehow they know what is needed. They tend to ask questions like, "Are we connected? Is this connection good? What do I have to do to maintain this connection?"

When that connection is broken, they will work like crazy to regain affection and approval of the other. That is their default mode, typically feeling shame if things get heated. They might look to others as a mirror to help them see who they are, or jump in to do what needs to be done so that others will validate them. Archetype 2 tends to seek affection and love, while 3 is looking for admiration and respect and 4 looks for validation of their specialness.

IQ - Head Center

People whose primary type resides in the head center inherently trust their mind above all else. They are responsible for human advancement, and learning, reading, researching, and technology are their jam. Where would we be without these cerebral types? Their strength is in knowing how things are and sharing what they've learned with the group. 

They believe they can compensate for personality quirks or a lack of sociability by knowing a lot. If you ask them about something they are interested in, they can chat about it for hours!

Because they are so in their heads, they can dismiss their feelings and conceptualize their experience. When asked a question about how they feel, they consult their mind - they might say, "I think I'll get through this." 

Because they trust their mental activity, these archetypes tend to have very active minds. They love to make pro/con lists, research, or studying things they are interested in. They might dismiss heart people as lightweight or head people as reactionary, as they don't trust their feelings or the hot emotions of the gut.

When life is thrown at them, the action they tend to default to is seeking safety or security by collecting more information. They might ask questions like, "Do we have enough information? Is this good for everyone? Is this safe?" Thus, head types are prone to anxiety. Fives will seek clarity by gathering more data. Sixes will look for guidance outside themselves, seeking out something trustworthy. Sevens will look for freedom by making plans or formulating a strategy or creating a vision and dreaming big.

Now what?

We’ve learned to protect ourselves by relying on one of the Centers of Intelligence more than the others. One way to live a more authentic life is to explore other ways of knowing beyond our default mode. This allows us to take in more information and see the different choices that are available to us. (I shared a little example that came up this week in my marriage on my Instagram page.)

If you would like more information on the Enneagram archetypes or the Three Centers of Intelligence, please see my explanation here.  If you would like to work together to explore how this shows up in your life, contact me and we can chat!


Note: If you want to dig deeper, the Art of Growth podcast interviewed Adele and Doug Calhoun in Nov 2019. This blog post is inspired by their conversation, but it goes into more detail on how to integrate the different centers. The @artofgrowth Instagram account posted a picture from their book that outlines the different integration paths for each of the Enneagram archetypes on a November 4th post. 


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