Harmonic Groups - What Happens When You Don't Get What You Want

Enneagram, Harmonic Groups -

Harmonic Groups - What Happens When You Don't Get What You Want

The Harmonic Groups are another way we can group the Enneagram into three groups of three. This grouping is organized around the way our personality defends against loss and disappointment. Basically, what happens when we don’t get what we want and how do we cope with that?


Let’s review a very crucial aspect of the Enneagram that we know from the primary triads: each number has a primary need or desire that they are trying to fill and protect. We are grouped together in the primary triads called the Centers of Intelligence (Head, Heart, and Gut) based partially on those needs. Today we are beginning to talk today about The Harmonic Triads. The Harmonic Triads organize the nine Enneagram numbers into three groups of three that are based around how we cope with loss and disappointment in life.

Harmonic Groups connect numbers 9, 2, and 7 - the “Positive Outlook” group; numbers 1, 3, and 5 - the “Competency” group; and numbers 4, 6, and 8 - the “Reactive” group. You know I love to nerd out about this stuff, and I’m glad you’re along for the ride!

1. Positive Outlook Group

The  Positive Outlook Group includes numbers 2, 7, and 9. Like their name implies, each number in this triad tries to put a positive spin on negative feelings and/or conflict, looking for ways to avoid or counteract anything bad with something good.



For Enneagram 2  this looks like ignoring anything negative in your own life in order to focus on other people. Their hope is that others will see how caring and self-sacrificing they are when bad things happen. If they can be recognized enough for ignoring negative things in their own lives in favor of taking care of other people, they will be loved. 

Enneagram 7 focuses on hiding from negative things by seeking out fun, exciting, and positive things in their own life. If they keep batting down the bad, they will only feel the good, and therefore, will be satisfied and content. 

Enneagram 9  is concerned about both themselves and other people. They idealize their world and hate to see bad things in themselves or anyone around them. When negative things happen, they avoid and deny that their is a problem in order to keep the peace. The problem is, they can become overwhelmed by their own needs or the needs of others.


2. Competency Group

Next up is the Competency Group, which includes the 1s, 3s, and 5s among us!




For Enneagram 1, this looks like using logic to find the “right” answer. When they don’t get what they want, they may try to figure out what went wrong and make it better. They generally adhere to the rules (if they believe those rules to be helpful) and expect other people to do the same. When they do bend the rules, people rarely challenge them because they’re known for rule-following.

When faced with difficulty, an Enneagram 3 goes to work to solve the problem logically (bending rules when the rules don’t serve them.) If they can just stay focused on fixing the issue, they won’t have time to feel negative emotions. When they successfully find a solution, they can add it to their list of achievements and skip right over the emotions brought on by the difficulty in the first place.

Enneagram 5 prefers to face difficulty by completely removing their emotions from the equation and using their brain to solve the problem. If they’re not already an expert on the matter at hand, they will learn all they can about it so they can be confident in their solution. Fives typically do not like operating inside the structure of rules and gladly work outside those bounds to achieve the outcome they want.


3. Reactive Group

Now we’re going to uncover what the Reactive Group (numbers 4, 6, and 8) tends to do when things don’t go their way. People in the Reactive Group often respond to difficulty by reacting first with their emotions. They often have strong feelings and opinions about things and want the people around them to feel the same way they do when things go wrong.


When Enneagram 4 is dealing with difficulty or an uncomfortable emotion, they want people to understand and empathize with them. They don’t hide their feelings, but instead look for someone to see their pain, identify with their pain, and help take care of it.

For Enneagram 6, uncomfortable situations bring out their anxiety. They wonder if they can handle the emotions that are coming up. Some 6s will react defensively and put their guard up, while others will sink back and seek the support of someone who will go to battle for them.

When an Enneagram 8 is faced with difficulty, they want their feelings and opinions known. Often responding with anger, they need other people to see the injustice in a situation. Eights will try to take the lead in uncomfortable situations so that they can control the outcome.

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