Enneagram Threes are the Achievers, the Performers, the Catch, the Best. Image focussed. Effective. Adaptable. Ambitious. Successful. They sense what's valued their environment, and become that thing.
In Sandra Maitri's book The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram, she explores the Holy Ideas. Each ennea-type comes into existence in tune with a particular aspect of Being, which they soon separate from. Their personality emerges in an attempt to simulate that aspect of the divine.
Threes, appropriately enough, have three Holy Ideas.
Holy Law is the understanding that Being - the spiritual as well as physical manifestation of the universe - is active, creative, ever-changing and always unfolding. And every one of us is a part of this. How can we not be? Everything - from the formation of stars to the emotions of a child in Peru - is part of the pattern, a perfect and integral expression of the dynamic unfoldment of the whole.
Holy Harmony is the understanding that this interplay is… harmonious. What might seem bad - death, destruction, decay - only appears that way from the surface. Everything came from Being, and is simply part of a bigger flow, always in a state of transformation.
Holy Hope is what happens when we integrate the other two Holy Ideas. We feel a sense of alignment with the universe's unfolding, radiant pattern.
The inevitable separation happens, and Threes lose their sense of being a part of the whole.
A Three fully entrenched in her personality feels autonomous, a generator of her own life, an independent operator, a law unto herself, able to bypass the rules and limitations that govern others, at least when success is at stake.
In a Three's attempts to regain the generative sense of the universe (Holy Law), she seeks to create herself, molding her image and personality to such an extent that she even convinces herself. And yet with so much focus on image, within this shell is a deep and thoroughly hidden feeling of emptiness.
Threes are sensitive to a lack of holding in their early environment. A Three gained approval for what she did. This continues into adulthood, leading to deep (and again, thoroughly hidden) feelings of shame, as her value lies solely in her accomplishments, her accolades, her appearance - rather than who she really is.
But no success ever truly satisfies, since it was the image that achieved it.
If she turns her attention inward, she faces the emptiness resulting from a lifetime of focus on her surface and its adjustment to the values of others. Letting go of the facade she's been so invested in constitutes the most objectively painful inner journey of all of the Enneagram types.
Furthermore, her natural inclination for success will want results - fast. She'll (unconsciously) try to convince herself and others she's achieved considerable spiritual development in an impressively compact amount of time.
But with courage, persistence and a desire to face whatever truths come up, she'll experience her genuine depths, giving her a profound sense of peace and spaciousness.
She'll learn to differentiate between the ideals of her family, peers and culture and her own actual nature.
As Sandra Maitri puts it:
"The inner sense of being a phoney, a fabrication, an imitation of a person, gives way to a sense of simplicity, naturalness, and genuineness. Her soul will become more and more and more transparent to the depths within herself, and her actions will bit by bit express and be informed by objective reality - her essential nature. … And little by little she will find herself feeling part of the fabric of the universe, a beautiful form within it, and will finally feel in harmony with the truth. She will become more and more of a real person, a conscious manifestation and embodiment of Being, and at long last she will really walk her talk - indeed become a Pearl Beyond Price."