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Understanding the "passion" of Type 3 on the Enneagram

Updated on March 10, 2013

The passion of type Three

The Enneagram is a personality typology system. It can tell you a lot about your personality but because it is a very vast body of knowledge attempting to understand it in its entirety can literally take years. This HUB focuses only on what is called the “passion” of Type 3 – “The Achiever” or “The Performer” – on the Enneagram system. I am also writing HUBs about the passion for each of the nine Enneagram personality types. If you do online research, you won’t find much written about the “passion” of Enneagram Types. Sandra Maitri’s book about the Virtues and Passions is overly technical, not an easy to understand book, and I found it not helpful.

The “passion” of Type Three is “deceit.” This doesn’t mean that Type Threes are deceitful as people. Rather the term “passion” describes an inner insecurity built-in to the person’s type that manifests as if the person were deceitful. For example, a Three will change their image to adjust to the situation in order to look good. Thus, their image changes to be successful in any given situation. It is like being inauthentic instead of being honest. It does not mean that Threes are dishonest. In fact, many of them are very honest people who have no deceitful tendencies at all. The “passion” is an analogy in a way. That is, it describes the heart’s disconnected self.

Instead of being whatever image they already are, the Threes change their image in ‘deceitful’ ways in order to behave in ways that they think will be acceptable to others. The Threes however start to believe that their image is the real them. Only by coming into the Enneagram teaching does one start to understand that their tendency to shift their image around is a function of disconnectedness. It is a built-in habit that cannot be avoided. If you can observe inwardly, you will notice, as a Three, that your image shifts. That is the benefit of the Enneagram – being able to be aware of that shift in order to see what’s really going on inside.

A need to be valued and successful drives the Three’s passion. Threes feel and experience their image as themselves. Thus in order to be successful they try to adopt the image of success in any given situation. Thus, in one situation the Three’s image will be one way, say with his wife. In a work setting, the Three’s image may be another way. The shifting of their image, and their internal need to be valued and successful drives them to adopt an image of success rather than expressing their truer selves. Expressing their truthful self is hard because it creates the possibility of not being seen as successful in any given situation. Deceit therefore is the passion. The image shifting is the deceit; the lack of an ‘honest image’ – how they truly are internally in any situation, is their passion.

The Enneagram is a very powerful tool for self awareness. Coming into awareness that you have a passion is helpful because it leads to a greater level of self acceptance, self awareness, and enables you to not feel badly about your passion. In the case of the Three, knowing that you have a compulsion to adjust your image to feel successful, can help you to be more your authentic self. Knowing that it is because you and others who are also Threes have a built in need to shift your image leads you to a different conclusion that you and others share the same sort of built-in insecurity. I encourage you to check out any number of Enneagram websites if you’re interested in the material. Typing yourself can be a fun process. Try


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