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The Harmonic Triad Overview

We all experience pain, adversity, failure, and/or trauma in this life at some point. However, we all choose to deal with that pain in distinctly different ways. That's what the Harmonic Triad is all about. The three groups within the Harmonic Triad are: The Competency Group The Reactive Group The Positive Outlook Group Wonder which group you're in? Well, you may already know just based on those group names, but there's far more to learn so let's get into it!


The Harmonic Triad is all about the way we cope.

Whether it's with a physical injury, a career failure, or some trauma like the death of a friend or family member. REALLY FUN STUFF. The Harmonic Triad describes three major ways people tend to cope.

  • The first way is by having a Positive Outlook and searching for a silver lining.

    • Types 7, 9, and 2 fall into the Positive Outlook Group.

  • The second way is by finding a practical solution to the problem or pain.

    • Types 1, 3, and 5 fall into the Competency Group.

  • The third way is by reacting emotionally and venting about it.

    • Types 4, 6, and 8 fall into the Reactive Group.

These groupings can be a major source of either bonding or conflict, because when we're hurting, we are primed for either deep relational connection or an all out brawl. So for example, think about someone in the Reactive Group like a Type 4 Individualist who is wallowing in their deep, dark emotions and then someone like a Type 1 Reformer comes up, looking like they have it all together all the time, and offers a practical solution to the 4's emotional turmoil...could be some fireworks.

Understanding and empathizing with the different ways each personality type tends to cope is super important for building relationships that can stand the test of time. So, let's talk about the unique ways each personality type copes with pain and conflict, starting with the Positive Outlook Group.

The Positive Outlook Group

Type 7s

7s have a profound ability to just, move on. Yeah sure, they've got a problem or a project they've been working on for months just blew up in their face, but hey! That's some old shit. They've got a new job now, a new strategy, a new girlfriend or boyfriend. Less healthy 7s typically avoid taking a long look at any topic, let alone a painful topic, and so they live in a perpetual state of distraction. They meet any new subject or new thing with excitement - so they have limitless opportunity for mood-boosting positivity. This can make them look like 3s because Achievers also know how to spin a setback into a success, but 7s are more likely to turn a horrible experience into a hilarious anecdote while 3s tend to just avoid talking about it at all.

Type 9s

You've probably heard the phrase "making mountains out of molehills" when someone is overreacting to a problem. Well, 9s "make molehills out of mountains." If you've listened to the episode on The Triad Centers, you know that 9s are the Impinged Type of the Gut Group. That means that they resist both external and internal forces in their environment. That tendency plays out in the Harmonic Triad as well, and 9s will pretend that their painful experiences and memories aren't a big deal, and neither are the problems of people around them. 9s believe we'll all figure it out in time, so don't worry about it. But, that blind optimism prevents 9s from doing the hard work to improve their situation or heal from their trauma. When 9s have a healthy acceptance of their pain, their positivity can become a real source of healing for themselves and others which is why they make great counselors, therapists, and teachers - and that's also why they get mistyped as 2s.

Type 2s

Type 2s Positive Outlook is focused mainly on other people. If you tell a Type 2 Helper that they have a problem, they're more likely to whip out some relational judo and turn it into a conversation about YOUR problems and how THEY can provide support to YOU. 2's believe their needs take up too much space, so to be a good person they have to remain caring and supportive at all times. I know this may seem dark - but I've only seen 2s break this habit by suffering some profound pain that they could not hide or spin. When 2s are hit with sudden trauma - it's breaks open the flood gates on their needs - which CAN BE A GREAT THING because their friends can finally show up and support them in the way they've always wanted but resisted. It also kicks their self-righteous pride in the balls - which having less pride makes all of us more enjoyable to be around - but especially 2s.

The Competency Group

Type 1s

Type 1s cope with trauma by trying to have integrity. That means knowing what the rules are and following them to ensure they don't incur any more pain or punishment or blame. Religious 1s will dive deeper into practices or rituals they believe "SHOULD" bring healing, relief, or justice. 1s believe that doing the right thing and acting like an adult SHOULD solve the problem. They're list of "shoulds" grows longer in correlation with the amount of pain they've experienced. 1s are almost at peace with suffering if they believe they've done the right thing and will receive a reward at the end of it.

Type 3s

Type 3s are very concerned with their goals and being perceived as capable, outstanding human beings. If they fail miserably at something, they're likely to shift the goal posts and explain that they were actually shooting for a totally different target and they don't really care that the other thing didn't work out. Like I said before, this behavior makes them look like 7s, and vice versa. However, 3s are the impinged type of the Heart Triad Center. So they look unfazed by failure because they are so deeply out-of-touch with their emotions - not their anxiety like 7s are. This makes logic feel better to the 3 and makes them seek rational solutions that will look good to their audience of friends, family, and coworkers.

Type 5s

Now type 5s cope with competency by disappearing into a world of their own rules and ideas. They actually prefer operating within the context of a larger system or structure because they like something concrete to push against. 5s handle setbacks by moving outside the boundaries of acceptable mainstream life. When they finally try to overcome past trauma or failures, they approach their pain with a detached outlook that can make them look like totally apathetic or like a stoic philosopher. But deep down, they just know how hard it is to survive in this world and that unpredictable pain is the worst kind of pain. 5s will definitely have the hardest time letting go of the fact that they can't plan their way out of pain and into a peaceful existence.

The Reactive Group

Type 4s

Let's start with Type 4s. They're already dramatic people by nature, and so they respond to deep pain by dreaming of a beautiful rescuer to come along and save the day. That can be a new lover or a God, but either way, 4s subconsciously crave parental attention, since their childhood experience was defined by not really feeling understood by either of their biological parents. 4s will express their emotions in extreme acts of intimacy - and then pull away into their own world. This push-pull interaction often keeps people clinging on to them as if the 4 is playing hard to get. But 4s may not actually want the people they've enticed to chase them to be their friends - and many 4s experience a codependent relationship with a Type 2 that wont leave them alone. Ultimately, the 4s fear of abandonment must be overcome in order to maintain healthy relationships with people who can handle the fluctuations of their emotions in stride.

Type 6s

Ok, let's talk about Type 6s. 6s are the impinged type of the Head Triad Center, so they feel the most stuck in their fears of losing support & independence. Counterphobic 6s may actually look like 8s, and will react with intense anger and volatility that pushes people away before they can get too close to abandon or reject them. Phobic 6s are equally mistrusting of the support they desire, but are more likely to freeze up during a real challenge. During traumatic seasons, 6s can create a confusing role for themselves as they present themselves like a mature, parental figure coaching or directing people around them all the while longing for a father figure to come in and bail them out.

Type 8s

Alright Type 8s are the most cliche type of the Reactive Group. Some people jokingly call them 8-holes, because their aggression becomes even more intense during a crisis. They fear being dominated by other people or by an external system like the government, so they go kicking and screaming after a perceived threat. 8s will keep their anger at bay only if it makes them look like they're losing control around people they don't respect enough to be authentic. They only trust people who match their outrage and strength, and anyone who approaches with a contradictory opinion, no matter how calm, balanced or well-informed is met with suspicion and downright contempt since the 8 feels they clearly do not understand the magnitude of the situation.

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