The Enneagram is an invaluable system of self-awareness, helping you understand your motivation— why you do what you do. With nine different types come nine different perspectives of filtering the world, bringing insight into your strengths, blindspots, thinking and feeling patterns, and so much more. 

Whether you’ve explored the depths of your type or still can’t put your finger on which one you are, a common question that comes up is: what do I do once I know my type?

Enter: Enneagram stances, also referred to as the Hornevian Groups.

Three stances, three very different strategies

In a nutshell, stances define your social style of how you get what you need or want. It is a look at how you move through the world based on the wounding you experienced in childhood. What happens is, you lose the ability to balance all three of your Intelligence Centers: thinking, feeling and doing, leading to one of these centers becoming repressed.

By knowing your stance, you’ll learn how to tap into your repressed center to achieve harmony within the mind, body and heart. The Enneagram is one of the best tools to help you grow, and while there are many ways to approach this, working with your stance provides actionable takeaways to help you feel more aligned. Think of it as the yin and yang of the Enneagram. 

Plus, if you’re struggling to find your type, listen up—this might just be the thing that helps you distinguish it. 

Aggressive Stance 

Enneagram types Three, Seven and Eight fall into the aggressive stance. They move against people focusing on what they themselves need or want and are feeling repressed. 

As the name implies, these types are bold, assertive and carry a strong energy with their presence. These quick-witted types often feel like others move too slowly for them. They work to push their own agenda forward and get others on board with their big ideas.

Some of their defining positive characteristics include being:

  • Action-oriented
  • Direct
  • High-energy
  • Optimistic
  • Persuasive 

Threes move against what gets in the way of their goals, while seeking attention and praise for their accomplishments. 

Sevens move against what gets in their way of happiness, seeking security by satisfying all of their desires.

Eights move against what gets in the way of their agenda, seeking autonomy by being in control. 

Some of the challenges aggressive types might face are:

  • Taking impulsive action
  • Struggling to connect to their emotions and the emotions of others
  • Wanting control and things being done their way
  • Reframing negative situations or outcomes without taking time to process

How assertive types can tap into the Feeling Center:

Feelings are seen as counter-productive to these types—but Threes, Sevens, and Eights might try to look at it this way: bringing attention to the feeling center will help them strive for things that matter. These types are especially prone to burnout, so taking time to check-in with what exactly it is they’re going after will put things into perspective. 

Some things that may benefit assertive types are vision boarding and journaling. These allow them to keep active while turning on their emotional center. Stream-of-consciousness journaling especially is a valuable technique to flesh out repressed emotions, where you set a timer for fifteen minutes and do not pick up your pen (or lift your fingers off the keyboard) until it goes off. By tapping into different aspects, this can help flesh out emotional blockages. 

Dependent Stance 

Enneagram Types One, Two and Six fall into the dependent stance. They move towards people with compliant solutions to get what they need or want and are thinking repressed.

These types make sense of the world through relationships. They are emotionally-attuned to what’s happening in the present moment and respond to shortcomings or injustices by taking action. These team-oriented types are concerned with the larger group, wanting to come up with solutions that benefit everyone around them. 

Some of their defining positive characteristics include being:

  • Relational 
  • Problem-solving
  • Emotionally intuitive 
  • Compassionate towards people and causes
  • Concerned for the greater good 

Ones move towards what will earn them autonomy by following rules and doing what’s right. 

Twos move towards what will earn them praise and acceptance by focusing on helping others.

Sixes move towards what will help them feel safe by building a secure environment and aligning themselves with a group.

Some of the challenges dependent types might face are:

  • Struggling to think independently
  • Becoming self-sacrificial 
  • Setting boundaries
  • Feeling a secret sense of superiority for doing what’s right

How dependent types can tap into the Thinking Center:

Alone time is critical for these types to connect with themselves. Taking walks, spending time in nature, and developing passions or hobbies are all good practices for these types to tap into their own identity. 

It is also very important for dependent types to not judge the thoughts they have. Often, they carry guilt and feel a sense of duty or loyalty to something outside of themselves, which hinders free-thinking. By holding on to a standard of perfectionism and being a good person, they can repress their own desires. By extending the same compassion to themselves as they do for others, they will liberate their minds and expand their sense of self.

Withdrawn Stance 

Enneagram Types Four, Five and Nine fall into the withdrawn stance. They move away from others to get what they need or want and are doing repressed.

These types have rich inner worlds as they detach from others to find fulfillment within. In times of stress, they retreat into their minds and rely on their inner strength and knowledge to guide them to the answers and comfort they’re looking for. 

Some of their defining positive characteristics include being:

  • Self-aware
  • Imaginative
  • Observant 
  • Insightful 
  • Curious

Fours move away from a sense of something missing within them by connecting with their authenticity. 

Fives move away from what triggers their personal shortcomings by finding security within their minds and resources.

Nines move away from conflict and distress by seeking an environment that brings them peace.

Some of the challenges withdrawn types might face are:

  • Struggling with connection outside of themselves
  • Feeling like their presence is insignificant 
  • Wanting to be seen but not wanting to engage
  • Ruminating on the past

How withdrawn types can tap into the Doing Center:

Connection is critical for withdrawn types. By seeking others to share their observations and passions with, they become more confident in how their presence matters. Once this comes to light, they will feel more inspired to take action on their dreams. Taking small actions such as reaching out to someone they admire or simply committing to sharing something they are fascinated with will help these types become more proactive. 

As withdrawn types are highly self-aware, they don’t so much struggle with naming what needs to be done, but rather acting on it. This stems from questioning their own contributions and how they can really make a difference. The challenge for withdrawn types is getting outside of their fantasies and becoming present so they can feel empowered to fully be themselves in the world.

Julianne Ishler
Julianne Ishler is a writer, Enneagram coach, and creative mentor. Obsessed with all things personality and storytelling, she helps creatives and entrepreneurs define their voice and feel empowered to follow their own path to live a life of fulfillment. She is based in Chicago and enjoys travel, rainy days, and deep conversations over hot tea.