The Inner Triangle, How We Got Lost

In our last Insight I introduced you to the Inner Triangle that illuminates our universal (shared) human story, where we all started and how we get to where we are now. It is an important part of the Enneagram symbol as it explains how and why we lost track of our Gifts and replaced them with our Defensive Strategy, as well as how and why we can let go of our Defensive Strategy and reconnect with our Gifts. The Inner Triangle follows the journey we start early in life and one we will continue on until our dying day. This journey unfolds in two parts; today we begin with the first part, beginning at point 9 where we first lose track of ourselves.
The term the Enneagram uses for this losing track is “falling asleep” to ourselves. This term highlights what we will do, unaware, here at point 9. This all begins sometime in our first four years of life.  You see, we arrive in the world open and vulnerable, intellectually unaware, but holding qualities that come naturally to us (our Gifts.) Our initial vulnerability includes an assumption that we’ll be welcomed and seen as we are, especially in our gifting. We eventually run into experiences in which we’re not seen or welcomed and experience pain and fear as a result. It is simply too scary to be overlooked or misunderstood at this stage in life therefore our sense of security is affected. If this happens too often, we are compelled to find a solution to ensure the seeing and welcoming we require. It will come down to tweaking, in some way, how we have interacted (which has up to this point been driven by our Gifting). As we tweak our Gifts, we are essentially developing their replacements, our Defensive Strategies- behaviors meant to help relieve the pain and fear we experience.
Our new tweaked strategy seems to work, we are grateful, and our pain and fear lessen. As this process repeats itself, we find ourselves moving further away from our Gifted behaviors through lack of practice. At the same time, we are building our Defensive Strategy.
It is important to keep in mind that this is happening when we are young… when there are limits on our knowledge and our options, but no limit on our need for the security that comes from being seen and welcomed. The creativity we demonstrate given these combined limitations, is admirable.
In the next Insight we will continue The Inner Triangle’s journey and find out what is next for us at Point 6. 

 – Sali– 

Let Me Introduce You To The Inner Triangle

The Enneagram is a great self-awareness tool highlighting what is important to us and how we interact in the world. It’s also a great problem-solving tool for when things aren’t going so well helping us find better ways to interact. It contrasts behaviors that come from our strengths (I call these our Gifts) and behaviors that come from our weaknesses (I call these our Defensive Strategies.) Today I want to introduce you to the Enneagram’s Inner Triangle which lays out for us how our Gifts and Defensive Strategies are related to each other. Over the next several Insights you will see how the Inner Triangle points to both the self-awareness and the problem-solving wisdom of the Enneagram.
Let me explain a bit. We live our life; we don’t watch ourselves live it. Similarly, we might run a race but don’t watch ourselves run it. Someone else does the watching. From their third-party perspective they can give us feedback on how the race is going. The Inner Triangle takes this same third-party perspective and gives us feedback on what is happening as we live our life. We find the Inner Triangle in the middle of the Enneagram symbol using the lines connecting 9, 6, and 3. Even though it uses these numbers, the Inner Triangle is giving every type feedback on what is happening in us and around us. Using this feedback will increase our self-awareness and make possible new problem-solving possibilities.
The Inner Triangle gives us feedback on our universal (shared) human story, that is, where we stated and how we got to where we are. It is the Enneagram’s attempt to helps us have a context in which to understand how we have both Gifts and Defensive Strategies and how they relate to each other. There are two halves to this universal human story, the first half begins at point 9, moving to point 6, and then onto point 3, the second half starts again at point 9, but now moves us to point 3, and on to point 6.
This may make little sense right now but stay with me as together we follow the Inner Triangle’s observations step-by-step. We will watch from this third-party perspective how our human story starts off with us vulnerable and needy, having little awareness, and trying to figure out how the world works, and then where we go from there. I hope you will see your story reflected in the observations of the Inner Triangle and will be able to use it to increase your own self-awareness and problem-solving skills because that’s what the Enneagram is all about.  Stay tuned!    – Sali

Enneagram Insights: The Law of Seven, How Things Unfold

I began these Enneagram Insights discussing the Law of One and the Law of Three because these overarching concepts are part of the wisdom contained in the Enneagram. Today we move to the Law of Seven represented by the six inner lines that begin and end at point One called the “hexad.” Recall the previous Insight in which we observed two opposing views reconciled and a third view emerge, the Law of Three (see the previous post, below). It is at this point that the Law of Seven comes into play highlighting what unfolds in the life of a thing does not do so in a straightforward way. Instead it will do so in a way the breaks that straight line and move up, down, this way and that, jump, pause, circle back, or go off in a new direction all together. The hexad lines illustrate visually that nothing is free of change; quite the opposite, change is a certainty.

How does this Law of Seven help us navigate personality? It suggests we ready ourselves for the distinct possibility that real outcomes many depart from what we have planned, either in a positive or negative direction. Warned by this law, we can comfort ourselves that whatever is happening now will not continue forever—or we can brace ourselves for that same reality. This invites us to recognize and accept that—beyond our effort or manipulation— things will change, something new will be introduced, and we will need to let go of something else.

It invites us to move with our lived experiences. We can develop practices that help us cherish what we have and experience as we hold them loosely. It invites us to create practices of intentionally marking situations and stages in life that will come to their end. It reminds us that difficult seasons will give way to less difficult ones. This is a truth we have encountered in life. The Enneagram is simply adding this truth to the wisdom it brings.  -Sali

Enneagram Insights: The Law of Three Invites Either/Or to Shift to Both/And

In the previous scene of our drama, point 9 showed up in hopes of casting a new vision by inviting our opposing characters to reconsider their Either/Or-ing. What could be their response? Let’s imagine the following. 

We watch point 9 assure both 3 and 6 that they are being heard, affirming that they both bring something of merit. This idea was previously unimagined by our 3 and 6 points. Impacted by point 9’s gentle, attentive voice, 3 and 6 begin to relax and, most interestingly, to be a bit more open to the differences that point 9 has affirmed in the other. Now dismissing the other and moving against or away from is replaced by curiosity. As we see this transformation build, we see the potential of moving beyond two opposing views to creating a third thing, a resolution that can move things forward. 

I want to shift now and look at the Law of Three more technically. There are labels we use to identify the three forces we have personified for our purposes and have been following these two months. The label used for point 3 is the “Affirming Force,” that which begins the process with the introduction of a starting point. Secondly, is the “Denying Force” at point 6, which comes up against what is offered from point 3. Lastly, the “Reconciling Force” at point 9 that offers to negotiate what is best and true from the first two forces. This last force makes possible the shift needed to achieve reconciliation, support right action, and experience real resolution for the good of all. 

The Enneagram, holding the triangle front and center, is illuminating the wisdom of the Law of Three. It is from within this space of Both/And that the Enneagram suggests we come to the table with our ideas allowing other very different ideas to be set alongside them. Then, with time and curiosity, we see how seemingly contrary ideas can refine each other, affecting and influencing each other until what gets created looks very different than what we each first laid down. Truly the “tug of influence” between the Affirming and Denying forces alone gets us nowhere. The Enneagram uses the Law of Three to invite us to see this plainly and loosen the hard, certain lines we draw and discover that Both/And sets us on a path of more durable resolutions. -Sali

Enneagram Insights: The Law of Three and Both/And

We have been exploring the Law of Three represented by the triangle held squarely in the middle of the Enneagram’s circle, listening for the wisdom it wants us to take hold of and practice. Last time we left off with the “tug of influence” happening between point 3’s “Yes!” and point 6’s “No1”. And remember from our last Insight, we all practice both “yes” and “no” views at many points in life. Also keep in mind that there are no “good guys” or “bad guys” here; these are different, unique voices. Yet they can make for an impasse that often becomes a final—though less durable —resolution. 

Luckily, this is where point 9 enters the story line, dropping down into point 3 and point 6’s back and forth of what can feel like opposing truths. The 9 moves into this opposition with a beautiful, albeit difficult, Both/And

We have highlighted the opposing stands point 3 and point 6 represent and the (partial) truth represented by each, but what of this Both/And point 9 brings? What is this all about? 

Metaphors abound to help us appreciate the effect of the point 9 here. One I particularly like is visualizing point 3 and point 6 as a boat and sail respectively and 9 as the wind. The boat will go nowhere, the sail will be of no use, without the effect of the wind to pull it all together, to bring the best of each to the act of moving forward. The boat is not enough, the sail is not enough—yet both are needed. What makes their gifts come together to make something happen is the wind. Point 9 shines a flashlight on what both bring, pulling out what is needed and letting go of what is not. To be sure this shining, inviting forward, and letting go, is often unwelcome by the voices at points 3 and 6 or by you and me. We get stuck in our truth, protective to the death–afraid that if you win, I lose. So, we double down, with our hands over our ears, and lose so much. Next time we’ll explore what we might have to gain if we allow point 9’s Both/And to get through to us.   

Resurrection Morning


Open our hearts Resurrected One to all the places within us and around us longing for life. 


These last two years we have known so much grief.                                       

We have been isolated from loved ones. Families bore the toll of being  home and school and work. People experienced job loss. In this pandemic loss and death have been ever present. 

Jesus entered that deep place of grief and death for us,

to breathe life and healing

into all the grieving and broken places within us.

He emerges from the tomb to offer life and hope

and Divine Companionship in ways we couldn’t imagine.

Hear the Good News.


 Scripture: Luke 24:1-12

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.  While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.  The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”  Then they remembered his words,  and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.  But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.”

Prayer of Response

Dear Resurrected One,

Thank You for the light that shatters the darkness

and permeates every corner where death and loss are found.

Thank you for the gift of life that is a resurrected one 

and not a resuscitated one,

a life that is new and moves us beyond everything we have known.

For although this world still knows dark and broken places,

the life we know in you is like the sun’s beams 

breaking through the clouds and shining its light as a healing balm within. 

You shed your loving, healing, light into every space and place.

Thank you for your love that did not and does not stop.

Your love and light reach to us covering us 

in a beautiful display that will not let us go.

May we be healed by it. 

Grant us strength and hope through this unfathomable gift.

And shine that healing and permeating light

through us into the world around us.

Glory. Hallelujah, Amen. 

Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff,

Founder and Executive Director

Good Friday

April 15, 2022

Undying Love


Divine One, as I with great heartache follow you to the cross, I continue to pray these words from the song in Godspell, 

Day by day, oh, dear Lord, 

three things I pray

To see thee more clearly

Love thee more dearly

Follow thee more nearly, day by day

Scripture Isaiah 53: 4-6

“Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. 

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Prayer of Response

Holy One,

How can we begin to respond

to the horror that You knew?

We are humbled, heartbroken,

and silenced…

Forgive us Holy One.

We pause to sit quietly in these moments,

mindful of all you have given…

Your eyes have always been on us.

Your heart has always been with ours. 

We are moved by Your undying love,

which knows no end.

It heals us and makes us new.

We desire to be Your loving reflection

and healing presence in the world around us. 

You are our life.

We continue to journey with You

through these holy days.


Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff,

Founder and Executive Director

Palm Sunday

April 10, 2022

Love Offering


Divine One, as I follow you on the road to the cross and the empty tomb, I draw closer still, while I continue to pray these words from the song in Godspell, 

Day by day, oh, dear Lord, 

three things I pray

To see thee more clearly

Love thee more dearly

Follow thee more nearly, day by day

Scripture  Luke 19:35b-40

“after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 

As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.

As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Prayer of Response

Our Holy One,

We humbly bow before you in praise and adoration

for all who you are, and all you have done.

We follow you closely

through the journey of this week.

Awaken us to notice your undying love,

Your unswerving intention, 

And your continual focus on us.

Help us to take this in. 

We love you oh Gracious One.


© 2022 Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff,

Founder and Executive Director

Enneagram Insights: The Law of Three and Either/Or

Like the Law of One, the Law of Three represents a concept that is independent of the Enneagram but that the Enneagram points us toward. If we could personify the Enneagram, it would be saying, “Hey! Keep in mind this important truth as you live your life. You will benefit greatly!” 

Let’s continue this personification and discover how the Enneagram illustrates the Law of Three by putting the 3, 6, and 9 points in conversation. 

Point 3 says, “I have this great idea that we should definitely get started on now!” (Do you hear the energy?) Point 6 responds, “Wait just a minute, you need to think about this…And what about that?” (Do you hear some resistance?) If our two characters continue to advocate for their view, seeking persuade the other, we reach an impasse. 

We are all familiar with this place of Yes/No. We set up camp on our side and make it our mission to get the other to abandon theirs in favor of ours. We Either/Or. When submerged in this Either/Or mindset, ensuring our truth is represented, we do not take our eyes away to take a peek at what the other is saying. As both parties remain equally entrenched, the sad result is a simmering stalemate or felt disconnection. Neither of these are great to experience, and neither helps truth make its way into the world. There is so much lost in our Either/Or-ing; I am hard pressed to find much good it offers. 

Luckily, point 9 has not yet shown up in the story. We will save that for next time.   -Sali

Enneagram Insights: The Law of Three Reflected in the Triangle of the Enneagram

March 21, 2022

Over the last twenty years, the Enneagram has gained greater public recognition in the United States. It is increasingly common to hear people speak of the Enneagram “types,” with varying degrees of accuracy (myself included!). We know from our attention to the Law of One that there is much more than “type knowledge” to be gained from the Enneagram. As a holistic system, the Enneagram invites us inside ourselves to notice, through a loving lens, the ways we navigate life. It then suggests alternatives, should we be interested. 

The implications of the Law of One (that everything belongs) for how we live could fill a book, but we are going to pivot and look at the second of three laws reflected in the Enneagram: the Law of Three. This law is imaged by the triangle nestled within the circle. 

The Law of Three is the Enneagram’s reminder of the truth that decision making, and conflict resolution are less Either/Or operations than Both/And operations. It is a great temptation to take the quicker Either/Or route and, in so doing, to simply eliminate what we oppose. If this were possible, why would we not do so? The Law of Three, positioned right smack in the middle of the Enneagram, is a constant reminder that this Either/Or approach does not actually deliver on what it promises, that is, a durable resolution. 

The truth is we do not have the power to eliminate what we are opposed to. But we do have the power to work with it. The Both/And represents an alternative to the Either/Or approach, taking what both voices bring and making a third thing, a third way forward. 

Over this month and the next, we will follow the Law of Three, looking more deeply into this invitation within the Enneagram. For now, let’s notice our Either/Ors and begin to wonder how they might be limiting us as we seek resolution. -Sali