At Best: Threes show Magnanimity (generosity of communal spirit) by honoring everyone as worthy, as is, and embodying the Higher Quality of Holy Hope (deep knowing all will be well & all people have inherent dignity). Threes are dynamic and usually get things done, close the deal. Threes can create elegant environments out of simple resources.
Habits: When driven by Vainglory (inflation of & deceit about one's abilities, qualities), Threes start Performing: shamelessly doing or saying anything to be the best, win the audience. Focus of Attention: keeping up MY image: what's valuable? what's efficient?
Threes Forget: Reality is already gloriously self-luminous. Threes strive to acquire worth and value, doing whatever it takes to win honor, praise, and glory. Threes habitually generate and display feelings attracting audience approval, becoming confused about their true feelings and identity. Threes Believe: I am valuable only for what I do; I must shine my credentials to get honor, attention, and love. Threes speed thru life and believe feelings slow things down too much. They so completely sell their stardom in any given context (best executive, best hippie, best artist, etc.) that they deceive themselves and others. Threes can be overly optimistic or lack all hope (“why try if I can’t win?”). Threes also can be the (Too) Radiant One—presenting as the most shining one at the expense of others. Threes Excel: at being adaptable, optimistic, and energetic. Threes are quick to spot best means to any goal and they make excellent mentors.
I know where I'm going and I know the truth, and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want.
- Muhammad Ali
Type Three Personality Reflections
Existence is a mystery. On the surface, it seems obvious that we exist. Yet, on a deeper level, science and introspection both reveal we are empty of anything solid. Everything is constantly changing, constantly becoming, constantly adapting to everything else – all according to universal laws. From this perspective, all being is actually doing. There is no separate identity or self.
The Three in all of us creates an identity out of the doing of our personality type, our habit patterns. Identity is a deception – an elaborate fiction through which Reality can experience separation.
Folks running the Three ennea-type are right in the center of this grand deception. Threes are so closely identified with what they do, what they present to others, that deception becomes existential fact rather than playful fiction. Threes do whatever it takes to win the shine of recognition – “you are valuable” – in the eyes of their audience.
Some Threes work hard to prove their worthiness. Often these Threes are defensive about their virtue, creating a ‘vanity of having no vanity.’ One Three discovered a startling paradox. “One evening my partner kept bugging me to come to a romantic dinner she prepared,” she said. “I kept putting her off ‘a few more minutes’ while I powered through my to-do list. Then I realized, ‘I’m working hard to provide us with financial security so I can earn love.’ But her love was right there waiting all along!”
Other Threes like to shine themselves so their partner shines, and vice-versa. Often this is done through hyper-masculinity or hyper-femininity.
Threes focusing attention in the social arena can be openly boastful and exaggerating. Muhammad Ali – a likely Three – said, “I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be.” He also said, “It’s hard to be humble, when you’re as great as I am.”
Threes gift the collective consciousness with the boldness to come forward and ‘be’ something, to engage in the play of incarnation, with its triumphs and tragedies. When we consciously inhabit the fiction of our identities, we become personas of Reality. When we realize the truth of emptiness behind the mask, and the correlative truth of non-separation with others, our doing becomes easeful, skillful service done for everyone’s benefit.
Type Three Interview
This clip is from an interview with a representative Type Three. For the full set of interviews with all 9 types (about 20 minutes each), along with downloadable charts, check out this online course: Enneagram Interviews.