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Riso-Hudson Triads

The Triads are important for transformational work because they specify where our chief imbalance lies. The Triads represent the three main clusters of issues and defenses of the ego self, and they reveal the principal ways in which we contract our awareness and limit ourselves.

The Wisdom of the Enneagram

The Triadic Self

The triads as they are presented in the works of Riso and Hudson differ quite a lot from original Enneagram currents, save it be the three original triads, head, heart, and gut. In these triads they provide nothing novel, but in their other three triads they deviate quite a bit, Hornevian, Harmonic,  and object-relations.


The Hornevian Groups indicate the social style of each type and also how each type tries to get its primary needs met (as indicated by its Triadic Center). Bringing awareness to the ways in which we unconsciously pursue our desires can help us disengage from powerful identifications and wake up.

As is implied in the name, these triads are based on Karen Horney's three neurotic types, and he notes them as assertive, withdrawn, and compliant. At its core, the Hornevian triads tell us the strategy it employs to get its needs met.

Assertive (moving against)

The assertive types he notes as E7, E3, and E8, by way of being "ego-oriented and ego-expansive". They respond to difficulty by puffing up their ego and hardening it against reality, expanding into the environment and asserting themselves in it instead of backing down and withdrawing, or complying to others' demands. In terms of their social style they have a tendency to think of themselves at the center of everything, that when they walk into a room they have an "everyone look at me" kind of attitude. 

Essential quality: taking

Compliant (moving toward)

This conception of moving-toward is synonymous with the superego types, types that are dutiful and compliant with external demands. He notes these as E1, E2, and E6. According to The Wisdom of the Enneagram, these are the public servants, defenders, committed workers, and advocates. In regards to their social style, these types have a tendency to think that they are better than others because of their superego compliance. The E1 thinks everything is messy and that he can clean it so he is "better," the E2 thinks everyone is deficient so she gives them her love and becomes "better," the E6 thinks everyone is wrong (perhaps politically) and because of their opinions is "better" than others.

Essential quality: earning

Withdrawn (moving away)

The withdrawn triad is composed of the E5, E4, and E9, and they have little to no differentiation between the consciousness and unconsciousness. This unconscious part is always causing the welling of daydreams and fantasies which the withdrawn type takes refuge in as they psychologically move away from the external world, possessing a quality of passivity and disengagement. Their social style reflects exactly this, a passivity in regards to other people and a felt alienation that keeps them from truly fitting in with other people.

Essential quality: resigning 


The Harmonic Groups are useful for transformational work because they indicate how each person copes when they do not get what they want (as indicated by the Triad they are in). Thus they reveal the fundamental way that our personality defends against loss and disappointment.

What this triad conveys is how each type reacts when it does not get what it wants. There are three triads which RH proposes, positive-outlook, competency, and reactive.


The positive outlook triad is composed of the types E7, E2, and E9, who reframes disappointment and negativity in as positive way as possible. They solely want to emphasize the uplifting and joyous aspects of life, even if this positivity ends up becoming toxic positivity. For this reason, they may be morale builders and mood lifters for others. This leads to an inability to face their own inner darkness, and becomes a rejection of the balance of needs. E7s focus on their own needs, E2 on the needs of others, and E9 is torn between the needs of both.


The competency triad has the types E3, E5, and E1, types that set aside their feelings in favor of objectivity, achievement, and competency, being highly logical characters. Not only is there reaction to disappointment a compensation for competency (trying harder and relentlessly improving so that the mistake is not met again) but there is a reaction to how one fits into systems - "how do I function in a system? Can I use it to my advantage?" The E1 is very conformed to the rules, attempting to embody it, E5 is outside of the rules, and E3s operate fluidly between conformity and nonconformity.


The reactive triad is made of E8, E4, and E6, and when these types are faced with conflict or disappointment they immediately reactive emotionally to the situation, and are characterized by a markedly more cynical and distrustful nature. However, it isn't just one's own emotional response, but they are looking for a response in others that mirrors their own, like a "this is bothering me and it should bother you too!" making their problems very known. They have strong dislikes and likes for this reason, and are torn between the polarities of rebelling against others and being cared for by others. The E4 wants to be cared for, the E8 wants to rebel, and the E6 is torn between both.


The three triads proposed by Riso and Hudson are not without flaw, and receive a lot of criticism from students of the original current of Enneagram. Riso-Hudson doesn't accurately reflect Horney's work in any way shape or form and the names he attributes to his triads are arbitrary incredibly misleading for anyone wanting to become familiar with psychoanalysis and object-relations theorists. Saying that the moving-toward types are simultaneously compliant with the superego is in fact a terrible way of characterizing this triad, and further, these types. It does heavily depend on which current of Enneagram one approaches from, as these triads are very consistent with Riso-Hudson's conception of Enneagram, as well as his associates like Lukovich, but because of this, they only portray a surface-level image of personality. Comparing Riso-Hudson current with the original current, the reasons used for putting the E7, E3, and E8 triad are all applicable to E1, E2, and SX4. 

In reality, not a single compliant type is a superego type. These are types that, according to Horney's theory, are permissive, hedonistic and pleasure-seeking, and move towards others in an act of seduction. The parents are not accommodated by "earning the right to love" through embodiment of the superego, but they are rather seduced or given service to at the expense of the self (E9). The aspect of superego is only accurate insofar as it explains E7 and E2, pseudo-social types who look like they are "good" and superego compliant when in reality are secretly rebellious and permissive.

By organizing the types in this way, Riso-Hudson's types only reach a surface level depiction of Enneagram, so much so that the types become obsolete.

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