Development levels and Enneagram Centres



Enneagram centers of emotion, expression and intelligence could segue onto development levels of egocentric, ethnocentric and worldcentric.

Depending on which practitioner you are engaged with, the centres or triads on the Enneagram can be quite confusing. For instance, Pam Roux, who facilitated my initial Enneagram workshop, referred to the types 8, 9 and 1 as being located in the “anger” centre (1). Riso and Hudson put 8, 9 and 1 in the “instinctive triad.” Others describe this centre as the “action” centre, while Ginger Lapid Bogna places  8,9 and 1 as being in the “body” centre . Ginger, however, also says these centres are not fixed to types, but that any of the types might show up expressing any of the centres.  This is a point picked up in a recent article by Lucille Greeff and Dirk Cloete. In the article, they make some very useful distinctions around the Enneagram centres, and they describe three key “perspectives” considering each as equally valid. Their perspective distinctions are particularly interesting as, in my view, they can also relate to levels of human development i.e. pre-conventional,  conventional  and post conventional (2).  So what are the distinctions made by Lucille and Dirk?

Center of emotion — egocentric

First comes the intra personal centre of “structure” which relates to how our “centre’s emotional theme is constructed within us.” This is determined by the structure of the Enneagram.  For 8,9 and 1 this would be the “anger” centre with each having a different relationship to anger. Similarly it is the “fear” centre For 5, 6 and 7 and the “shame” centre for 2, 3 and 4. In my view, this would relate to the preconventional or egocentric human development phase where the individual is absorbed with his or herself.

Center of expression – ethnocentric

Second, comes the interpersonal perspective which is a “centre of expression not related to type”. This is concerned with how I interact with others.  Lucille and Dirk have an excellent questionnaire which measures how an individual shows up in the world in relation to thinking, feeling and action (I have also included their beautiful representation of the Enneagram in this blog.) This perspective would correspond, again in my view, to the conventional, or ethnocentric stage, where the individual is concerned with a particular group, clan or nation.

Center of intelligence — world centric

Third is the transformational perspective where the triads become “centres of intelligence”. Here Dirk and Lucille reference Roxanne Howe-Murphey. As we become present, these centres in the Enneagram can be described as grounded (8,9,1), connected (2,3,4) or quiet mind (5,6,7). To me this corresponds to the post conventional, or world centric, stage of development where we are capable of identifying with and caring for all sentient beings.

Levels include and transcend each other

It is important to note, as Ken Wilber has done, that these phases include and transcend each other. So, for example, having reached a post-conventional developmental stage, we may well have issues to resolve at a pre-conventional level. Also, each stage is equally valid, and indeed, needed for the overall functioning of the person and society. As Enneagram practioners who are using the centers, linking these perspectives to the stages of development assists us in identifying where and how to start working with the needs and objectives of our clients.

(1)    Each has their own specific relationship to anger with the 9 repressing it, the 8 expressing it, and the 1 “leaking” it.
(2)    These were first referred to by Kohlberg in his theory of morality development and have subsequently been developed by many other theorists including Ken Wilber.
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