How did the 3Keys approach come about? 
When I first became an “Inner-Child” therapist, I was in practice with a group of women who were all doing the same affective work.  Besides having my own clients, my role was to do intake for all the new clients.  I designed the intake process to include the MBTI, the Enneagram (orally) and an extensive case history (2-4 hours).  In the very beginning, I did not know precisely why I chose the MBTI and the Enneagram.  I was familiar with other typing systems but instinctively I just knew these were both important.  I attribute this to being INFJ with an innate instinct for how people operate.  What I noticed after a short time was that people came in operating almost entirely out of their Enneagram type and, after about a year, left operating mainly out of their MBTI type.  Because of the kind of therapy we did, right-brained and subconscious, we could change some of the original programming and reverse the effects of early wounding messages.  This lessened the need for the Enneagram defense system to be in control.  However, we could see that as soon as someone was triggered, there would be an immediate reversal back into the Enneagram defense.  The more healing work the person did, the quicker that person could recover from the triggering experience and restore control to the MBTI part of personality.  We were able to show people in session what happened when a trigger was activated and how that launched their Enneagram defense.  We could then show them methods to shift control out of the Enneagram and back to the MBTI (Chapter 10 in my book).  People would make diametrically opposite decisions, one minute from the next, depending on if the Enneagram or the MBTI were in charge because each system uses different criteria for decision-making.  The Enneagram’s only criterion is to protect from emotional pain.  It is not rational.  It is located in the subconscious on the right (non-rational) side of the brain.  For a Four, killing the pain might mean suicide.  That makes sense to the Enneagram defense because it gets the job of stopping the pain done but it is not a rational choice.  When we shift to the MBTI, we can use rational methods of decision-making using the mental functions and these decisions are always for our higher good.
During the three years I did intake for that group of therapists, I saw about 350 people and was able to follow the results of their therapy.  This model never failed then and has never failed me during the ensuing years.
I find many Enneagram tests online and elsewhere.  Which one should I use?
First, there are many, many Enneagram instruments on the market.  I have gone on record stating I do not feel any of them are valid because they do not take the MBTI® into consideration when formulating the questions.  The MBTI part of personality will often answer the questions that concern behaviors; in order to determine Enneagram type, the questions have to be geared more towards motivation.  That is a difficult challenge.  In formulating the questions, those who have designed Enneagram instruments have not acknowledged that the MBTI plays any part in personality.  Therefore, there is no way to tell whether the instrument is measuring Enneagram type or MBTI type or mixing both.  It is my contention that the current Enneagram instruments generally mix both.
For instance, a list of ENFP characteristics is going to look a great deal like a list of Seven characteristics.  So when an ENFP scores as a Seven on an Enneagram instrument, was it the ENFP part that was answering Seven questions or was it really Seven?
It is for this reason that I encourage people away from the Enneagram instruments.  I think it is best worked out by talking it through with someone who understands both typing systems.
What about “wings”, “lines of integration/disintegration” and “sub-groups”?  It seems so confusing!
The Enneagram people do not acknowledge the MBTI®.  Conversely, the MBTI people don’t acknowledge the Enneagram.  Therefore, both communities tend to overwork their own systems to explain away the differences they see in people of the same type.
In other words, if there is a room full of Ones at an Enneagram gathering, the Enneagram people notice that there are perceptible differences in the Ones.  In the same way, if you have a room full of ENFPs, the MBTI people will notice that there are significant differences – not all ENFPs look alike or act alike.  So they both devise ways of explaining away the differences they see.  You will hear an Enneagram type description sound something like “a One with a Two wing and a Social/Sexual subtype”.  In my estimation, that is a convoluted way to explain away the MBTI part of personality without acknowledging the MBTI exists.  I do not subscribe to the “wings” theory or the subgroups. (The only exception is the Six – there is a phobic and a counterphobic variety.  The phobic Six subtype is fearful and anxious, shy and retiring.  The counterphobic is also fearful but with an aggressive attitude of “get them before they get us”.  Helen Palmer explains these well.)
Similar to the Enneagram people, the MBTI community has come up with various methods to explain away the differences seen in each MBTI type caused by a difference in Enneagram type (Step II, the Beebe model, the Grip, etc.).  I don’t subscribe to these approaches either because I feel they are a way to try to ignore the fact that we each have an Enneagram defense in operation.
Now, regarding integration and disintegration in the Enneagram.  The Enneagram diagram will show two lines coming off each type:
The Enneagram community teaches that the line in the direction of the arrow is the line of disintegration indicating what happens under great stress.  An example is the line from One to Four.  Disintegration means that, when a One is under extreme stress, the One characteristics are not sufficient to protect that person emotionally and the defense system goes to the Four for additional support.  What that looks like for a One is:  Poor me, no one understands me, etc.  Ones will say it is not pretty and people around them will agree.  It can be diagnosed as depression.  I agree with the Enneagram community’s interpretation of the disintegration point.
The other line coming from each type is the line the Enneagram community says indicates integration (against the arrow).  For a One, that is towards the Seven.  The Enneagram community will tell you that a One’s job is to work towards the Seven as the “point of integration” for a One.  According to them, when a One reaches integration and spiritual maturity, that person will demonstrate some of the higher qualities of the One and some of the better qualities of the integration point as well.  So a One would be working for justice in the world (One) with a smile (Seven).  (Please know I’m being just a bit facetious.)   I do not agree with this interpretation of the Enneagram system.  The Enneagram community sees  Enneagram type as defining personality.  I do not.  I have good evidence to support my model which identifies the Enneagram as the defense system.  If you subscribe to my version, that Enneagram type profiles the defense system, it is only logical to conclude that integration and spirituality cannot be reached from within your defense system.  I have never witnessed a case in which attempting to develop or evolve one’s Enneagram type was effective, no matter how valiant the effort.  If we want to get to “integration” (I prefer Jung’s term of “individuation”) and spirituality, I feel we have to shift control out of the Enneagram defense and into the gifts of the MBTI.  What I do see is quite different from the official Enneagram position.  That is, when someone is under a great deal of stress, that person will employ a few of the tricks of both types indicated by the two lines coming from the primary defense.  For a One under “normal/daily” stress, the One characteristics manifest.  When extremely stressed, the One will go down to the Four and pick up the drama and self-absorption of the Four.  But in addition, under extreme stress, the One will also go to the Seven and pick up perhaps some denial or inability to make decisions.  This is what I have seen in the people I have worked with over decades and I see it consistently.  This tertiary defense is weak and not nearly as noticeable as the secondary line of defense which is generally intense and decidedly noticeable.
I have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.).  I have been advised to take medication but I am reluctant to start.  Is there a personality link to A.D.D.?
One of my pet peeves is the A.D.D. diagnosis and medication.  Yes, ENFPs and ESFPs do have all the characteristics that have been labeled A.D.D. but that doesn’t make it something that is pathological.  The label sends a message that people of certain personality types who don’t think in a linear fashion are defective.  That is simply not true.  They think differently which gives them different gifts (see “Gifts Differing” by Isabel Meyers).  Those gifts should be valued and not medicated away.
Can type change?
No, type does not change from childhood through adulthood, but people may change how they answer the questions on the MBTI instrument due to a variety of factors.  First, the Enneagram defense is fully developed and operational around age 20 and will significantly impact MBTI scores at that stage of life.  After mid-life, the influence of the Enneagram is not quite as pronounced and the impact on MBTI scores may be less.
Secondly, the pressures imposed by family of origin may have a greater influence on how you answer the MBTI questions earlier in life than later.
Thirdly, the demands of a certain job can affect how you answer MBTI questions so that you would tend to answer how you think you should rather than your true preference.
Finally, there are always cultural influences that encourage us to be what is culturally acceptable.  This is especially true for those of minority MBTI types who exhibit characteristics distinctly different from the accepted stereotypical cultural norms.  It is also true for those who are Feeling males and Thinking females because of the cultural pressures to fit the stereotypical gender profile.
Both the MBTI and Enneagram communities agree that type is genetically inherited.  However, the outcome of the MBTI instrument may change because the influences in your life change.  Your type doesn’t change; what changes is how you answer the questions due to these various influences.
I am so tired of the endless treadmill I feel I’m on and nothing seems to change.  What can I do that will make a lasting difference?  I’ve tried cognitive behavioral therapy with limited results.
The first step is awareness.  You have to be able to at least recognize that your life is not as you would wish and that you are most likely operating out of your defense.  Seeing, feeling and noticing that your defense system has taken over is a sign; feeling it in your body is a helpful indicator.  We live in a culture that wants to medicate away everything the body is trying to tell us.  Physical and emotional distress are present for a reason, that is, to tell us something is not OK.  If we don’t take charge of the situation, the defense will, and this all happens in a nanosecond.  Once you are aware that you are moving in and out of your defense, you are ready to move forward.  To really get a handle on it, there has to be some digging into the programs that were put in place early in childhood.  Here are the components of a program:
programming jpg
In order to learn more about the composition of a program, go to the “Model” page of this website:
Once you are caught within a program, it is nearly impossible to find your way out without the proper tools and techniques to do so.  Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”  Using defense system thinking will never move you into rational thinking.
Further, since at least 90% of what is driving us is subconscious, we are ill-equipped to delve into the root of the problem.  If we knew what the problems were, they wouldn’t be subconscious.  Our defense system is working hard to block access to what it deems hurtful.  In short, this is not a do-it-yourself project.
Contact one of the 3Keys Practitioners to explore how you can get some help in addressing the programs that put your defense system in charge to begin with and in learning the tools and techniques to regain control of your life.
Why do I find myself always over-reacting, even when I promise myself I won’t do it again?
We are all programmed in childhood.  I maintain that no one gets out of childhood alive.  A childhood program consists of (1) an event (an event can be a one-time thing such as divorce of parents or on-going such as a controlling parent); (2) some emotional response; (3) some conclusions we drew about ourselves, others, a higher power, the world in general; and (4) our defense system response.
programming jpg
This program is stored in the subconscious.  The subconscious is accessed from the right side of the brain.  About 90% of who we are is in our subconscious.  These are not my figures.  In fact, 90% is a conservative figure.  Many psychologists say that as much as 95% or even 99% of control is out of conscious awareness.  In the subconscious where the program is stored, there is no sense of time; there is only the eternal Now.  Time is a construct that is stored in the left brain.  So the program has no way of knowing that 20, 30 or 70 years have passed since the original childhood incident when the program was installed.  It reacts the same way as it did originally and it feels just as real.
So what pushes someone over the edge?  It happens when the program is activated by another person or situation that mimics the original.   The program is kicked into action just the way it operated in childhood because it has no sense of time having passed and does not recognize that the players have changed.  Now, if childhood experiences were such that a person’s primary Enneagram defense was inadequate, then the secondary Enneagram line of defense is added to the mix.  In Enneagram circles, that is referred to as the point of disintegration or in the direction of the arrow on the Enneagram illustration.
There are other layers of defense as well.  In my experience, the second line coming from an Enneagram type, the one the Enneagram community refers to as the point of integration, is really just a 3rd layer of defense.  I have worked with both these systems for decades and have never seen anyone “grow” personally or spiritually in their Enneagram configuration.  But I have seen people under extreme stress employ their primary Enneagram type and some characteristics of the two types associated with their primary type, indicated by following the two lines emanating from the number indicating their type.
I have a family member with an addiction.  How can we help?
Addictions are just another layer of defense.  The purpose is to limit emotional pain. I personally believe that we all have addictions and I have not seen evidence otherwise.  Some addictions receive cultural approval such as workaholism, co-dependence and religious addiction, and other addictions will land you in Weight Watchers, jail or rehab.
It is important to realize that you can never talk someone out of an addiction.  It is part of the defense system and therefore out of conscious control and out of the reach of language.  There is nothing you can tell an addict that that person hasn’t said to him/herself a million times.  But reasoning takes place on the left side of the brain, the side that can be reached by language and reason.  The part that governs addictive behaviors is in the subconscious defense, out of reach of language and reason. The only way to lessen the grip of an addiction is to realize that its function is to numb emotional pain and then address the cause of that pain.
If you look at this illustration of the brain, you will see that on the right side of the brain I have inserted the symbol of a child.
right left brain
Around that child are several circles or levels of defense indicating the various aspects of the defense system.  Three of the levels are assigned to the Enneagram defense.  On one of those circles, you can add “addictions”.  When the cause of the emotional pain that created the need for an addiction is addressed, the need for the addiction will fade.  Addiction is not a character defect, a lack of will power or a disease.  An addiction is a misguided attempt to help by numbing pain.
I have read about “The Grip”.  Does my Enneagram type actually refer to my opposite MBTI type?
Some people in the MBTI community believe that, under stress, we flip from our MBTI type to its opposite and that is called “the Grip”.  For those who happen to have an Enneagram type that imitates the opposite of their MBTI type, it does look like their opposite type has taken over.  For example, ISTJ and One look very similar except that One includes a considerable amount of anger.  Therefore, if an ENFP-1 is under stress and the Enneagram One defense takes charge, it would look like the ENFP has moved into the ISTJ Grip to someone who does not acknowledge the Enneagram.
However, not everyone’s Enneagram type looks and operates like the opposite of his/her MBTI type.  An ENFP-7 under stress would react quite differently.  The Enneagram Seven has many of the same characteristics of ENFP and so under stress an ENFP-7 would become more jovial, smiling and optimistic.  An ENFP-7 would not be able to relate to the “ISTJ Grip” at all.
For an INFJ such as myself, being “in the Grip” would appear as if I were operating from ESTP, the opposite of INFJ.  It simply does not work that way for me as an Enneagram Three.  As an INFJ under stress, I get more efficient, more structured and more decisive as my Three takes over.  An INFJ who is Nine will space out, get more inactive and lethargic whereas an INFJ who is One will lash out in anger.  I think when the “grip” approach was developed by Naomi Quenk, she did a good job in recognizing that something significant was happening under stress.  Using the MBTI to explain what is happening doesn’t work for a lot of people but the Enneagram consistently does.
I am an Enneagram Three and notice that I have excess energy when I am the busiest.  If this is my defense, what accounts for all this energy?
Each Enneagram type, when activated, provides a bio-chemical experience or payoff.  For instance, when an Eight, Three or Seven is activated, there is an adrenaline surge which can be mistaken for true energy.  When the surge is depleted, there is not only lowered energy but no further adrenaline to run on.  I think you did a good job of describing such a situation.  If you had an Enneagram type that provided calming bio-chemicals such as a Nine, you would not have had the adrenaline rush and would not be able to stay as busy as you describe.  Instead, you would find yourself “spacing out” throughout your day.  True energy comes when you are operating from your True Self and not your Three defense.
Is personality type acquired or is it inherited?
I am convinced that both MBTI and Enneagram are genetic and most people in the type communities agree.  What happens in childhood determines the extent to which the Enneagram defense is employed.  For instance, with normal “dysfunction”, a Three is a busy workaholic.  With extreme abuse, a Three becomes a sociopath.
How do I know if I am operating out of an old program or from my rational self?  It always seems to make sense until later!
If you are triggered, you will feel an emotion and you will get some physical manifestations of that emotion somewhere in your body.  This requires some body awareness.  If you feel tension anywhere in your body such as a change in breathing, heart rate, stomach upset and/or muscular tightness, you are getting a message that you are experiencing an emotion such as anger, anxiety, fear, sadness, betrayal, etc.  If that is the case, you are definitely in a non-rational program and should not be making any important decisions.  If you feel as peaceful as you would if you were totally relaxed and sitting in a beautiful bucolic setting, you are most likely in your MBTI part of personality and in position to make a good decision.
I have read and attended workshops on both the MBTI and the Enneagram but they are never spoken of together.  Why aren’t more people putting the two together?
People in the Enneagram community generally disregard the MBTI and people in the MBTI community generally disregard the Enneagram, each for different reasons.  Using both systems takes nothing away from either because they each have different roles.  I don’t think we would have two distinct sets of personality traits without purpose and it is obvious that both sets are present in everyone.  I have not found anyone yet who did not recognize both their MBTI and their Enneagram type.  I think it is short-sighted to lock onto a paradigm around one typing system and not be open to both.  In my workshops and with clients, I can move people from MBTI into Enneagram using experiential exercises so that participants can feel what it is like in both parts of personality.  While in the MBTI part, they are calm and peaceful.  When in the Enneagram part, they are upset, agitated and have physical feelings of unrest.  I feel that is nature’s way of giving us a red flag to show that we are in a non-rational program and that we need to do something about it.
My fervent hope is that both typing communities would be open to some rethinking around being over-invested in the exclusivity of their systems.  Using both systems and seeing their different roles takes nothing away from either.