Threes (Enneagram of Personality)

Threes are a personality type of the Enneagram of Personality.

General characteristics

When Threes are healthy they will strive to develop themselves in order tobecome the best they can be and are often well-liked and successful in whatever field they choose. When healthy they will also tend to be motivated to help other people to become successful. For less healthy Threes outward success is not their principal motivation. When healthier their definition of success is no longer so strongly influenced by their culture and their peer group.

Threes learn early on in life to be goal-oriented and in an unhealthy state can seek admiration for their actions. They aim for success because they are afraid of becoming a "nobody" with no value. The downside for Threes is that thay can become so focused on outward success that they lose touch with who they really are. They can become chameleons in behaviour, knowing how to acceptably act, look and talk to different people. This can involve putting on a different facade for each occasion and even deceiving people they are close to, such as their spouses. When the question, "What do I really want?", is asked of them they may not be able to adequately answer because they had never thought of this before.

Childhood issues

Threes were not valued for themselves as children. They were valued for whatthey could achieve. They learned how to get external validation of theirself-worth through their successes, but that never really satisfied thembecause it was validation of what they "did" and not what they actually"were". Young Threes usually looked to the nurturers of their familiesfor approval -- usually their mothers. They adapt to pleasing that person,absorbing subconscious expectations without knowing it. As they grow older Threes may start pursuing a certain career not knowing why, only knowingthat this career would make their families (especially their mothers) proud ofthem. Those who grow up in dysfunctional environments struggle with ragebecause nothing can please their dysfunctional mothers. They split off fromtheir identities and live lives of loneliness and frustration, even though theymay have achieved some sort of worldly success.


Threes with a dominant Two wing

When psychologically healthy the tend to be helpful and kind like Twos but are also focused on personal achievement. They want to be close with people but may substitute public life for a more satisfying private life with stable relationships.

When more average, in their pursuit of others liking them and admiring them, they may learn how to "turn it on" to impress others. They often come across as artificial. They are usually covertly competitive, and resort to multiple images to impress others in social situations.

In more unhealthy may begin to fear failure and humiliation and become exploitative and opportunistic, covetous of the success of others and willing to do "whatever it takes" to preserve the illusion of their superiority. May become devious and deceptive so that their mistakes and wrongdoings will not be exposed. Untrustworthy, maliciously betraying or sabotaging people to triumph over them. Delusively jealous of others. Become vindictive, attempting to ruin others' happiness. Relentless, obsessive about destroying whatever reminds them of their own shortcomings and failures. Psychopathic, murder. Generally corresponds to the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Threes with a dominant Four wing

When psychologically healthy they derive their self-esteem from their job success more than their personalqualities. Putting great energy into their careers, they take great pleasureinto developing their craft and maintaining professional integrity.

When more psychologically average they may become perfectionistic in order to avoid being shamed as inferior.They are less sociable than those with a dominant Two wing. They also display a mix of arrogance andself-contempt, making them very confusing and self-destructive.

Instinctual subtypes


Average: Self-preservation Threes tend to be workaholics who work for money,assets, and a stable home, and they try to impress others with these things. They strive to live as efficient lives as possible. At work, they strive forcareer advancement, and they are often unable to relax during vacation,deciding instead to do homework. Illness can seem to destroy everything.

Unhealthy: At this stage Threes are prone to nervous breakdowns and burnout.


Average: May become the definition of the phrase "conspicuous consumption". Theyseek the right credentials, the right degrees, the right clothes. As theybecome unhealthier, they resort to bragging and exaggeration of theirabilities.

Unhealthy: Threes at this level often demonstrate the Peter Principle, or inother words, they are promoted to their level of incompetence. They use deceitand exploit others to hide their real condition.


Average Sexual Threes want to be desired. They want to be the person their loveinterests show off to their peer group. They may have ambitions to be a moviestar or a fashion model. They usually know how to attract mates, but they maynot know how to maintain a relationship. They may be constantly afraid thatthey do not personally live up to their image. May become exhibitionists in order to seduce others or feel valued.

Unhealthy Sexual Threes may be promiscuous, and may strike at others whoattempt to question their value.

Principal psychological issues

*Fear of failure
*Deceit, vanity, external validation
*Pushing on with performance and being out of touch with feelings
*Image and presentation
*Packaging oneself as a commodity
*Hiding behind masks
*Fear of intimacy

Riso and Hudson's psychological levels

Level 1 Let go of their belief that their self-worth depends on others' perception of them. They can now discover their true identity and their heart's desire. Threes also satisfy their basic desire to be valued. They become self-accepting, kind, and genuine.
Level 2 Learn what others value and become more valuable in that sense. They feel they have unlimited potential at this stage.
Level 3 Develop themselves and their talents at this stage. They become excellent at whatever they do. They are effective communicators and become popular role models for other people.
Level 4 Start to fear that they will not get the attention that they desire, because others' accomplishments overshadow theirs. They drive themselves to achieve more.
Level 5 Start to impress people because they fear they will lose the positive regard of others, so they are simultaneously ambitious and self-doubting. At this stage, they have intimacy problems.
Level 6 Attempt to convince others of their huge successes, because they fear that others will not notice them if they are not hugely successful. They are competitive, arrogant, and secretly needy.
Level 7 Fearing that they are failing and their claims are fraudulent they start to deceive themselves and others. They feel depressed and empty inside.
Level 8 Deceit at this level is incredibly high and they use deceit to cover their mental deterioration. They hide their emotional illness and bad deeds.
Level 9 May lose control of their repressed rage and seek revenge on real or imaginary tormentors, attempting to bring down whoever has rejected them.

When stressed

Under stress, Threes begin to act like average-to-unhealthy Nines. Theymay eventually burnout and then have no choice but to stop from their relentless pursuit of success. Experiencing setbacks can be devastating to Threes. During these times, their emptiness and rage can break through. It can also be a time for them to work out what they really want and to value themselves from within through self esteem. Often only a complete burnout will lead them to develop themselves rather than their outward success and image that they naturally and often unconsciously fixate on.

When relaxed

Threes integrate to Six by committing to others and to goals that transcendtheir self-interest. They shift from trying to pursue a self-image to a realdesire to contribute to something that is bigger than themselves. They learnhow to communicate honestly, because there is no longer any need to impressothers. As Threes learn how to build relationships with others, they alsolearn how to find their own inner guidance and support.


*Basic fear: Of being worthless.
*Basic desire: To be valuable.
*Passion: deceit
*Virtue: truthfulness
*Holy idea: hope
*Fixation: vanity

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