Some may not be familiar with the notion of tritype. The term "tritype" was coined by enneagram research team Katherine and David Fauvre who took the original idea of Oscar Ichazo, who previously postulated that individuals used 3 fixations (two in conjunction with the dominant type) but didn't really expand much past that original hypothesis. However as the Fauvre's differentiated their research from that of Ichazo they renamed it as "tritype" to distinguish their findings from that of the original Arican concept. Tritype states that we posses one type in each center. One of those types is our dominant type, while the other two are employed as necessary when the strategies or defenses of our dominant type are no longer effective. What the Fauvre's say about tritype: http://enneagram.net/tritype.html
Some take issue with the notion of tritype because they find that it complicates the purity of one's enneagram type and takes focus away from the main type issues. I disagree. I do believe that one should work primarily on their primary type issues (especially when discovering the system), but for some who have done a good deal of self work, like myself, I ran out of ways to approach growth. There were some issues that weren't covered by my main type, wings, or arrow connections, I became stuck. In many respects my 4,5 and 3 issues have been worked to death. Since the enneagram is a trialectic system (a system of 3s) the notion of having a type in each center only makes sense mathematically and can aid one in their spiritual or psychological growth. Some conceptualize the enneagram as a process, in which we all move around the whole enneagram througout our lives. Tritype is another way to approach all of the types and help better to explain how one might move around the whole circle.
I think of it this way: just because we are a head type doesn't mean we don't utilize the gut and heart centers. Tritype seeks to explain movement to these other centers that are not as organic as arrow connections and from my experience helps people to identify their primary type much easier. For example how does a 7 move to the heart center? They naturally connect to 5 (head) and 1 (gut) but have no access to the heart center either through wings or arrows. Surely they use the heart center, and use it in a specific way (via types 2,3 or 4).
Another example; if someone is a 3, they may have a tritype of 3-5-9. This means that once the 3 has exhausted their main type strategies (image maintenance, solution orientation, efficiency, self promotion, etc) they will move to the head center and utilize the strategies of the 5 (cerebral reflection, theorizing, withdrawal, and avarice, etc.) in order to gain the results they need. If 5 strategies don't work they may move to the strategies of the 9 (placating, merging, passive aggression, etc). It has been my experience that the tritype seems to play itself out most obviously in relationship with others.
In our interpersonal relationships (whether they be work relationships or personal relationships) we tend to utilize our egos more readily. We may cycle through our tritype in order to yield a specific result, or rather to incite a specific result in others. More research is necessary to determine when people actually employ their tritype strategies.
I find tritype a useful construct in understanding and expanding the dynamism of the enneagram. I think some people are more comfortable with the system as a closed; main type, lines of connection, wings, subtype that's it. However, if you believe the enneagram really is a dynamic system and that it is a trialectic system than entertaining the notion of tritype shouldn't be too threatening. It adds even more color to individuals and helps to explain differences of people of the same type, wing and instinctual stack, while still maintaining the laws of the enneagram (the continuity of the triads and trialectic movement).
Whatever the case, recognizing how and when you employ the tritype strategies can be useful in understanding how you relate to the world in addition to the basic enneagram type. I finally understand why I seem less tolerant of negativity in other people than other 4s and my issues with boredom and incompletion when I discovered the 7 in my tritype and now I have a conceptual framework for understanding how to approach those issues.
Another way I like to conceptualize tritype it is to think about the energy of the center and how we embody the energy of that specific center. So asking yourself when you feel the emotional energy of the heart triad how that manifests. If you had 4 in the tritype you might experience shame, grief, feel great sadness, enjoy melancholic reverie of the past, or feel the need to differentiate yourself emotionally from others. If one had 3 in the tritype they may experience the shame/grief issues of the triad as a need to mask or adapt your feelings to be more acceptable and reflect positively on you, and not want to wallow or reflect to heavily to avoid being unproductive. The anger of the gut center may be experienced in an explosive 8ish way, in which you may have a very strong temper that has a formidable and blustery quality or conversely experience the anger like that of a 1 and seethe and seek to reform that which angers you. In other words you may be irritable and testy (1) as opposed to forceful and blunt (8).
I think the extent to which you use your tritype is a highly personal issue. Some may bounce back and forth between the first two types in the tritype others may require a good deal of stress to start galvanizing those other types into action. It's important to remember that one type is in charge and remains in charge, so whether or not you move to another type in your tritype you will not live there for too long because we all return to our default primary type. I do believe that there is a general overlay of the tritype types in an individuals personality map, 2's with 5 in their tritype configuration are visibly more contained and cerebral than 2's with 7 in the tritype, which tends to support the joyful, boyant quality one might expect with 2s. There also seem to be some rules with what tritype types show up with what type and wing. For example, Katherine Fauvre has shared that it is more common for 4w3 to have 7 in their tritype than perhaps a 4w5, but these rules are not hard and fast as I myself am an exception, this can cause some difficulty in pinpointing the right tritype (it took me almost a year to finally land on the right combination). However, the Enneacards test on enneagram.net is the only test available that assists in pinpointing tritype.
There's some confusion about whether a tritype type is just a line or connection or a wing. I know that the Fauvre's state that it has more to do with the degree to which that type shows up in your personality. For example, if you are a 4 with a 5 wing, you may or may not have 5 in your tritype. Katherine Fauvre states that those 4w5s with 5 in their tritype will have a exacerbated 5 issues and will generally feel more 5ish than other 4w5 that might have 7 or 6 in their tritypes.
For example I have 7 in my tritype but have a 5 wing. For me, understanding the 7 in my tritype helped to explain a lot of tendencies that don't fit with 4 (or my lines of connections or wings). I have a lot of 7ish traits that cannot be explained simply through my main types movement through the system. However, I originally believed I had 5 in my tritype due to a 5 wing. Upon meeting more 4w5 with 5 in their tritype I saw the compounded 5ishness that played out in their general demeanor and couldn't figure out what the difference was. I present a little more optimistic, sociable (I am social first so that was a bit confusing) and generally a little more flippant than other 4w5s I knew.
I believe the other types in the tritype can develop out of environmental or parental expectations. I have absolutely no factual basis for this hypothesis but in my case there is compelling evidence to suggest that my mother conferred the other two types of my tritype onto me, and I'm starting to hear this from others as well. I am 4-7-8. Mygrandmother is a 7w8 (self preservation) and my grandfather is an 8w9 (social subtype). I have always been a bit distractable, "busy," and had a monkey mind, however I believe the protectiveness of the 8 developed out of having to take care of a lot of things in my home to help my mother. My parents divorced when I was 7 and I was left with my mother who struggled occasionally to keep things afloat. I developed the sense that it was up to me to make sure she was okay, that the house was okay, and a fierce protectiveness over her (and my other friends and loved ones). I'm not entirely convinced that her projection of the original authority onto me didn't imbue me with the 8 that show up in my tritype. As a result I have a tendency today to be quite bossy to people when it comes to taking care of essential things. I yell at or push others when I'm concerned with them. I feel a need to maintain strength around others and show less vulnerability than some other 4s I know and will fiercely protect and defend my close friends/family if somebody is "messing" with them. I have a temper, but it takes me a minute to access it.
Some others also question the use of wings when using the tritype and I think that if your type has a wing, then it would behoove one to use wings when doing the tritype. If the enneagram really is trialectic than wings would have to be utilized when doing tritype according to Katherine Fauvre.
For example I believe I am 4w5-7w6-8w9. Some may prefer not to be that specific with their tritype orientations but I believe it adds even more clarity when trying to determine one's own tritype, because each type and wing has a specific coloration. Before I discovered the 8 in my tritype I was sure that my head fix (7) had to be 7w8 because I had such strong identification with 8, however now that I've delved deeper I have more of the double head energy in the mental center (anxiety is very difficult for me, and I can get so stuck considering options that I overwhelm myself) as opposed to the more grounded, impulsive and more audaciously selfish qualities that might come out with the 7w8. Conversely the gut energy has a more languid quality for me, I'm a little slower to anger than an 8w7 might be. I completely loose my mind and act like a complete meat-head and have that double gut quality of not thinking. I like to relax and prefer a slower pace, and am not quite as enterprising as 8w7 might imply.
With that said it's not for everyone, but I will frequently refer to it in this blog. Further research is needed but the Fauvre's provide the most cutting edge research of this endeavor and I personally believe that as they develop this line of research it will become integrated into the mainstream enneagram literature. It was hinted at by Ichazo himself but he did not develop it to it's full degree. As people begin to identify how they utilize the energy at each center it will undoubtedly become more clear.
For more information contact Enneagram Explorations as they are the leading researchers with this particular concept and are a great resource.