This aimed to be a series which explains how to use Enneagram for inner growth. For this I will go into the first major topic, accessing your own 3 centers of intelligence

Prelude

The basis of the Enneagram type is fixation. Basically, the theory of enneagram is centred around this

While every human is capable of almost infinite possibility of feeling, thought or actions, Enneagram theory observes that somehow everyone ended up over-utilizing one type of inner resource/brain function / whatever. The overutilization might come from childhood trauma, genetics, etc. This part is not being concluded yet. The overutilization is what we call in enneagram “fixation”.

Fixation is what works for each individual life to a certain degree. Of course, there are some trade-offs but at least we can roughly say that the trade-offs are acceptable to each individual, and that’s why fixation stays. But there will be times when your fixation will not work with the current situation. And that is how enneagram helps.

Enneagram helps you understand your own fixation, your own imbalance, and with that awareness, it will open an opportunity to utilize your own other inner resource/brain function which already exists in you to match whatever life challenge you find currently.

That said, everyone has their own “head intelligence”. The head types are likely to overutilize their head intelligence but for other types, they might underutilise their head. It is worth learning to access their own head intelligence.

What is head intelligence all about?

To go to this, I would ask one really really simple question: Why do humans even need logic? What’s the function of logic in our mind?

In a world where we are so adamant about “thinking objectively” or “thinking logically” to the point that these words are becoming a dogma or an excuse to insult others, I would really like to ask: Do we even know what is the function of logic? (And subsequently what is the limitation of logic?)

(Please hold your thoughts and think about this question before continuing)

Ok. Here is the answer.

Logic is a tool to predict the future.

That’s it. In the end, it is that simple.

The nature of logic is pattern matching and understanding cause and effect. And there is no point in learning cause and effect if we don’t want to predict the future. If we are living in only current and past moments and we don’t really care what will happen in the next second, minute, day, etc. There is no point in using logic.

Now it is established that human preserved logical thinking in their gene throughout history because it helps us predict the future. Now the next question would be more interesting: Why do we want to predict the future? Or even more precise question, what triggers us to think about the future?

Answer: Fear

There is a certain fear embedded in the human mind that the future is not certain and we need to do mental work to understand what might happen in the future, so we can act now and make the future better for us.

The very interesting observation is that: this mental work never physically touches anything on its own. But we still compelled to do so. We also feel more at ease after we do so, even when again, nothing physically changes. Interesting, ha?

Please note that this fear can manifest in unconventional ways. For example, 7s love uncertainty and chaos to a certain degree but in some way, they still instinctively use their mental work to make sure they are in the “best possible” path of life, maximize their pleasure and minimize pain.

This is not a fear in traditional meaning where it’s like oh my god my life is in danger. Fear in head intelligence is the shaky feeling we all have toward the future and it triggers us to do “mental work” and make it more certain in our mind (even when nothing physically changes).

For 5s, fear is focused on being depleted of time, resources, etc. that they need.

For 6s, fear is focused on danger.

For 7s, fear is focused on pain and the possibility of being trapped in unhappiness.

For other types, they can access this fear and that is how they can still utilize logical thinking and mental work. As I told you, everyone has every enneagram type’s resource inside their brain. It is just their fixation is not centred around these issues.

What if we overutilize our head intelligence?

When people fixate on head intelligence, they usually have too much in their heads. This can happen to both 5,6 and 7.

Head intelligence has two big limitation

First, head intelligence alone cannot know what resonates best with us. For example: A head person might try to evaluate “who is the most fit partner logically speaking”. They might come up with a pros & cons table with their own score system (ie. Hot-Crazy scale system in How I Met Your Mother). But in the end, will they be truly happy and in love with the person who matches their logical criteria? I have seen times and times again that it won’t be the case. Just like how hot-crazy scale is just a logically sound joke system anyone who finds their date this way would never be able to maintain their relationship.

The same can apply to many things: Hobby, Career, Place to live, etc. There is some aspect to all of this that you need to access your heart to know whether this is the “right thing” that resonates with you. Statistically and logically speaking, Sweden is the best country to live according to this research and I believe this come from comprehensive comparison and logical thought. I am also super confidence that Sweden is not a place that resonates and good for everyone, regardless of what logic say

Second, which is more obvious, head intelligence still requires our body to make things happen in the physical world. And you can plan as much as you want but at some point you need to go with your own instinct. Like, you can plan to travel to the mall but at some point, you need to rely on your body instinct to know that you still can walk. You can’t think your way through the act of simply walking to the mall. You need body instinct and body intelligence to perform that act.

What if we underutilized our head intelligence?

I think this is very clear: You lost access to the ability to predict the future and it might cause problems.

I heard some gut people say that I know this is the right action and I don’t care about the consequences. Sometimes that is good, also many times it turns out very bad.

On this, I want to add that there are too many people who are romanticizing being “fearless”.

It is not good to be fearless. This is not something to be romanticized.

Fear is a natural human signal for us to slow down and think about the consequences.

Without fear, there will be no trigger for us to use head intelligence.

Without head intelligence, we will not be able to think about the consequences. We will just act what feels right.

Too much fear can cause us to be paralyzed, but no fear can cause us to intentionally walk to our own demise or act against our own interests just because it feels right.

The core of the Enneagram is to learn to be grounded.

Practice using head intelligence

The core of practicing head intelligence is to learn to stay with doubt.

  • Ask yourselves: What are the possible consequences of my action?
  • Ask yourselves: What can I do differently? What are possible alternatives? Why do I decide to do this instead of those alternatives?
  • Ask yourselves: Is this thing really worth doing? What is the cost of doing this?

For heart and body types, these questions might make you feel uncomfortable because you will get a little bit further from “the sense of clarity” that you usually have. And that is understandable. People usually demonize fear because fear usually destroys that sense of clarity.

But fear and doubt in itself, whatever your gut or your heart says, are not bad things on their own. Fear and doubt trigger us to slow down in the face of uncertainty. It helps warn us when we are walking into our own demise. Fear is a very useful emotion and signal.

In the extreme example: many cult followers also have that sense of clarity. The emotion which can help people get out of the cult is fear and doubt.

Fear and doubt trigger us to use logic, to think about the future, consequences and possibilities. Without fear and doubt, we won’t even bother using logic. There will be no internal trigger.

It is true that sometimes fear and doubt might be a false alarm, but you should learn to know your fear and doubt. You will learn to know when the doubt is right and when it is just a simply false alarm.

Learn to be friends with doubt and fear. And like any of your friends, sometimes they will be annoying but many times they will be really helpful to your life. You need to be a good friend with your fear and doubt. The more you get familiar with them, the more you will be able to understand when your fear and doubt are working well for you and when it does not.

This is a very simplified version of head intelligence. Please note that there is much more to this.

But I think this article (and the series that I might continue) would be helpful to understand what can we really learn from enneagram, aside from just putting ourselves into a box and saying “look, that’s me”.


Chris

Hi. I'm Chris.

A product builder, specialize in software engineering
I am currently working at ThoughtWorks