You’re more intelligent than you might think! 

 June 12, 2020

By  Donna Woodrow

When we say that someone is intelligent, it is generally accepted that we are referencing their intellectual and reasoning capacity. We’ve been measuring peoples reasoning ability in the form of IQ tests since 1904. However, is it possible that there are multiple forms of intelligence at play in any life form?And if so what do these look like? How do we know which kind of intelligence has been called into play by the organism that we are?  This article is written on the premise that we do in fact have three centres of intelligence within us. By using the lens of the Enneagram Framework, we can start to understand how each of these intelligences plays out in our day to day lives. 


Three Centres of Intelligence

Looking through the lens of the Enneagram gives us a way of understanding these three centres. The Enneagram is a dynamic system, which recognizes patterns of thinking, feeling and being throughout 9 different personality types. (If you're new to the Enneagram, read a quick overview here)

One of the ways in which you can group the 9 Enneagram Types is by head types, heart types and body types, and each of the 9 Enneagram types operates from a predominant centre. Have you ever known someone who you would describe as a cerebral type of person - an academic with a brilliant mind? Or maybe you know someone who shares their heart deeply and openly, perhaps even being seen as too emotional by others? What you're noticing in these people is the predominance of a particular kind of intelligence at play in the person.

Although we each might favour one centre of intelligence over the others, we all have access to three centres of intelligence. 

The Head Centre

Our head centre, also referred to as the mind or thinking centre is the part of us that engages the full power of the brain. It's also the poster-child of intelligence, colloquially known as IQ. In my lifetime, the intelligence of the mind has been crowned as king. At the risk of reducing such a complex organ as the brain into a few dot points, let’s take a look at some of the ways that the intelligence of the head guides us:

  • It allows us to think thoughts and access memories.
  • It uses logic & reasoning to answer questions.
  • It processes information that helps us draw conclusions and make predictions.
  • It remains alert and prepared the body to respond to perceived dangers.

These are all essential for us to succeed in today's world, but when we become over-identified with our head-centre, we can become excessive thinkers and planners. We get caught in imaginary worlds in our minds and even dissociate with reality. This predominance of thought creates an imbalance in our being. But when we are able to balance our thinking - in conjunction with our hearts and bodies - our thinking takes on new, more profound qualities; such as being mentally alert and perceptive to reality, we are able to think positively and trust in ourselves and others and become true visionaries in the world.

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The head centre also teaches us about wisdom, thoughtfulness, presence of mind and inner knowing.

Culturally, we are encouraged to grow and develop in our minds, to strive for academia and intellectual success. But at what cost? If intellectual capacity is king, then one would think that it has been granted power over all the bodily constituents? But how equipped is the brain in dealing with matters of the heart? Have you ever tried to think your way out of grief over the death of a loved one? Or tried to reason your way out of a breakup, but couldn't quite squash the assortment of bio-feedback your body was distributing. Such as the heart-ache, anguish, shame, or sadness? These feelings don't disappear simply because one understands these emotions intellectually. The meaning and purpose of such feelings are elucidated by the intelligence of the heart, through allowing the heart to experience life.

The Heart Centre

Our heart centre, also referred to as the emotional or feeling centre is the part of us that engages the full power of the heart. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that the intelligence of the heart centre guides us:

  • It allows us to feel feelings, and experience moods.
  • It's the birthplace of empathy, love and compassion.
  • It helps us to form bonds and connections with others.
  • It informs us of our authenticity and the truth of who we are. 

Again, these all seem like important things to have access to, to live a healthy and happy life. In fact, studies have shown that emotion suppression may convey risk for earlier death, including death from cancer.[1] However, when we become over-identified with our heart-centre, the whole system becomes unbalanced. We become over-identified with our emotional states, leading us to neglect any realities outside of our own emotional experience. Unbalanced heart energies can cause us to become moody, to seek intrusive levels of intimacy, or to become overly conscious of our self-image. When we are able to balance our heart centre in conjunction with our mind and body, the intelligence of the heart guides us in profound ways. We are able to show deep compassion and empathy to others, loving unconditionally. We are able to stand in our authenticity, focusing inwardly at our own ambition and we become highly intuitive to others. 

The Body Centre

Our body centre, also referred to as the gut or instinctual centre is the part of us that engages the full power of the physical form and instinctual energy. Our body centre also provides many useful functions. Here’s brief look at some of the ways that the intelligence of the body guides us:

  • It gifts us the ability to express our thinking and feeling.
  • It allows us to have a direct felt experience of our environment.
  • It communicates to us our energy levels and vitality.
  • It informs us of our boundaries and inner needs. 

We all need a healthy body to truly thrive in life. When we become over-identified with our body-centre, our system becomes unbalanced. We can begin to use our bodies to dominate our environment and intimidate others to the point that we can become inflexible in our perceptions in the world. When we are able to balance our body centre in coordination with our heart and mind, the intelligence of the body guides us in profound ways. We are able to show restraint, and exchange aggression for assertiveness, we learn to command rather than demand. We engage in our environment whilst being intensely present and conscientious about how we contribute to the world. 


It doesn’t matter what intelligence you preference, you still have all three centres of intelligence.  The question is, do you freely use them all? Are they balanced? The degree at which you are identified with one particular centre of intelligence can be influenced by the degree to which you are aware of your preference.

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Imagine how intelligent we could be if our access to these three centres was balanced, that they worked in cohesion with one another, and not in spite of each other. 

If you'd like to learn more about how to integrate your three centres of intelligence, join us in one of our Enneagram workshops, or contact us for one-on-one coaching.

We'd love to hear from you.

Donna Woodrow

Donna takes a genuine interest in the collective and personal growth of the human race and its individuals. Donna is a seeker who loves to travel and invests considerable time in her own personal growth. Donna is a professional coach and trainer, experienced Enneagram facilitator and the Managing Director and Partner of Modo Coaching & Training.

Donna Woodrow

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