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The Three Centers


The Centers
> The Three Centers

You can think of each of the centers as a musical theme that plays the background music for that center's movies. The theme for the Body Center, for example, is anger. All the types in that center are variations on that theme. Eight, Nine and One each deal with the issue of anger consciously or unconsciously in a different way. Eights act out their anger, Nines forget about it—deny it, and Ones repress it and aim it inward in their quest to make themselves perfect1. The variations on each musical theme change accordingly.

The Body/gut/instinctual Center is focused on being in the world. It acts and reacts spontaneously. When you live on this level you experience living in your body and letting the body react.2

The Heart/feeling/image Center is focused on feelings and emotions. It is mostly concerned about relationships with other people. When you live on this level you experience achieving personal contact and connection with others. 3

The Head/thinking/mental Center is focused on thinking and reflecting and intellectual doing. When you live on this level you experience standing back from reality as it is seen and trying to fit it together in some meaningful pattern. 4

In trying to discover your own type, it can be helpful to initially place yourself according to the head-heart-body division. There are common traits and themes shared by the three types in each center. Read through the descriptions of the three centers and see if you can feel where you live most of the time. If you can determine your center, you have narrowed your choices for your type down to three.

Great thinkers have recognized these centers for ages. Plato likened the three centers to a winged chariot pulled by three horses and driven by a charioteer. The chariot represents our Body or gut Center, and it has to be in good shape to get us where we want to go. If the wheels are falling off, we are in trouble. The horses represent the emotions or Heart Center. They can get out of control and run off in the wrong direction, or they can be reined in too severely and not be allowed to move with their natural vitality and you never get anywhere. We need to befriend the horses rather than beat them.

The Charioteer represents the Head Center. If the charioteer is awake and paying attention, working well with the horses and caring for the chariot, the journey will stay on track and go in the right direction. The idea is that to be most effective, the chariot, the horses and the charioteer are all equally important and must be in balance with each other. Likewise, our lives' journeys run most smoothly when our three centers are in balance.5

At some level, the ego has chosen one of these centers to be the ringleader to the detriment of the other two centers, causing an imbalance in their functioning and interfering with the independent (and interdependent) functioning of the three centers.6 We unconsciously make that center take over the functioning of one or both of the other centers—the favored center muscles its way to the top so to speak.

This substitution of one center for the work of another can be seen in the example of learning to play the piano. Here the thinking center takes over for the instinctive body-based center. At first the thinking part of us has to direct each finger to each key. Once you have learned it, your fingers instinctively know where to go. Or, when we eat or drink excessively without thinking of the effects on our bodies, the instinctual center prevails over the mental center. These substitutions become so natural we do not even think about them, and certainly we are not even aware that they are happening.

By the way, though you may be able to naturally communicate with and understand the people in your own center, relationships with people in other centers can offer counter-balancing elements that balance your own personality.

> The Head Center
> The Heart Center
> The Body Center

1 Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom Of The Enneagram, Bantam, 1999

2 Maria Beesing, O.P. The Enneagram: A Journey Of Self Discovery, Dimension books, 1984.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 The Enneagram Monthly, "Conversation With Peter O'Hanrahan" July/August 2002

6 Beesin

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