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Triadic Thinking

Thinking with triads has to do with the three elements involved in the manifestation of any force, or the three possibilities which exist in any situation. For example, the three elements necessary for a vessel to function on the water are: it must FLOAT, GO, and STOP. The three possibiities which exist in any situation for everyone are: PARTICIPATE, REDIRECT, or LEAVE. Another very basic triad of possibilities is GIVE, TAKE or SHARE, which tells you what any force approaching you is there to do. Your response can be to ASSIST, BLOCK, or BE NEUTRAL.

Descriptions of Some Example Triads:


This triad may be THE most important triad for training the mind to think in this new way. This triad alone, if used daily, will strengthen anyone’s thinking abilities enormously, and empower them in all their choices. The use of this triad automatically leads you to more awareness of your life and choices. It also trains the mind to see the relationships between forces and events, a type of thinking that seems particularly absent in much of modern society.

1. DESCRIBE. Try to be as thorough as possible; try to describe from as many different points of view as you can. Describe the obvious, surface elements, then go deeper, describe what’s beneath the surface. For example, if you are describing a person, first describe their physical fetures, what they’re wearing, etc. Then look deeper -what do you see in their expression? What can you say about their movements, their posture, their cultural background, the amount of pain they’ve experienced intheir life, how they make a living, their level of comfort or discomfort in their present situation? Keep reaching for deeper levels - go as deep as you possibly can.

2. COMPARE. Any statement that uses more, less, better, worse, sooner, later, or other such comparative words is comparison, rather than description. Comparison also encompasses the past, present, and future. Comparision can be made on the basis of such triads as BETTER/ WORSE/ SAME; CLOSER TO MY GOAL/ FURTHER FROM MY GOAL/ NO CHANGE; ASCENDING/ DESCENDING/ STAYING LEVEL, or any other appropriate triad of assessment. Sometimes it is helpful to define a scale and rae whatever you are describing now, and then give a rating for how it was a t some time previous. For example, on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best you’ve ever felt and 1 being the worst, what number rating would you give your present feelings? What rating would you have given them yesterday? Last week or last year?

3. EVALUATE. As used in this triad, EVALUATE means to state the value of whatever has been described and compared, either its value to yourself, or to someone else who is connected to the subject. It could even be thte value to the world or to society at large. This is often the hardest point for people to do at first. As you attempt to make a statement of value, listen to see if you are reverting to description or comparison. Evaluation consists of a statement of what the value of something is, to you or to someone else. It can also mean extrapolating into the future to see what value could come from a continuation of the present situation, condition or trend. A point about the use of EVALUATION in the school and job setting: most often, evaluation as used in these settings is a statement of the value of the work done from the point of view of the system, whether that system is the school or the job environment. When you get an “A” in school or a commendation at the job, this is the system’s statement of your work’s value to the system. It may have little or nothing to do with the value of that work to yourself. Although it is definitely important to know where you stand in the assessment of the system you are a part of, it is at least as important to ask yourself, what is the value of this to my own life and goals?

To truly and thoroughly DESCRIBE a thing, a person, a relationship, an interaction, is at the very least a mind strengthening exercise. But if you go on, and COMPARE what has been described, in at least several different ways, and finally EVALUATE, you have given yourself a scope and view that will automatically lead to empowerment in all areas of your life. A daily half hour  spent practicing this triad on various aspects of your life and involvements will pay off in greater awareness and clarity in all aspects of your life.  

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This is one of the most basic and important triads. It describes what your three possibilities are in any interaction. This triad represents what amounts to basic human rights in any interaction. The problem is that in most cases people are not consciously aware of the existence of this triad, and therefore not only do not utilize all three possibilities themselves, but also unconsciously deny these rights to others. The denial of the basic right to these options ultimately leads to violence of one sort or another, whether actual physical violence, or internal violence in the form of repression of the human spirit and psyche.

Because these possibilities are not taught, most people tend to utilize only two, and usually fail to use or even recognize the third. Which two you favor in most cases is determined by your early childhood programming, imitating the way your parents interact. You can see by a looking at your own and other people's patterns, which point is being overlooked. For example, those who lack the understanding of REDIRECT tend to get stuck in situations they don't like but just hang in there anyway, until things become truly unbearable, at which point they either explode (a usually ineffective REDIRECT attempt), or run away (LEAVE); or they LEAVE right away, as soon as the going gets the least bit rough or uncomfortable. Those who favor the REDIRECT/LEAVE points are the ones who interupt with questions before hearing the full explanation, enter a game already in progress and want to change the rules or format right away, etc.
Children, since they are dependent on the adults around them, very often are in situations which they cannot LEAVE, i.e. school,  family, etc., and it is particularly important for teachers and parents to be sensitive to their needs within this triad and help them REDIRECT when appropriate, advocating for them if necessary or even arranging a LEAVE if that seems the best or only alternative. If forced to remain in a situation they find intolerable, and unable to REDIRECT or LEAVE, children will "LEAVE" to a fantasy world or by "blanking out," or develop "behavior problems" in a misguided attempt to REDIRECT. It is important to help children to learn to use all three possibilities when appropriate, and to keep all three choices open to them. As they get older, it is good to discuss how to protect these options by avoiding making agreements or entering into situations in which one or another of these possibilities is lost. Some examples of this would be a job situation in which suggestions for change or improvement are not accepted or encouraged, or a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship (or later marriage) in which one or both partners expect undivided attention and devotion from the other, thus limiting the LEAVE possibility (a LEAVE is not necessarily permanent - even getting away for a day or a few days is a LEAVE).

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 The Nine Points

  • Acceptance
  • Security
  • Expression
  • Adventure
  • Power
  • Exchange
  • Communion
  • Expansion
  • Freedom

These Nine Points name things which all people are interested in and want to experience. However, out of the Nine, in any one individual, three are ACTIVE, three are PASSIVE and three are NEUTRAL. The ACTIVE points are those which you feel the most desire for and will actively pursue in order to have them in your life. These are the three you feel you cannot do without. If one or more of these is missing or thwarted you will feel dissatisfied, frustrated and unhappy- the more so the longer it goes unsatisfied. When all three are being fullfilled, you feel that life is full and satisifying.

The three PASSIVE points are ones that you like, will go along with them if someone else instigates the activity, but will not generally put ACTIVE effort into pursuing.

The three NEUTRAL points are those that you feel the least interest in; you can take or leave them, they aren't that important.

How does knowing your three ACTIVE points help you?

  • By knowing consciously what three things you need in order to feel satisfied and fulfilled, you can arrange your life so that it allows those needs to find fruition. You can choose jobs or situations which will tend to assist you in fullfilling your three ACTIVE points. You can consciously plan to make space for each of them so that you attain balance and a sense of satisfaction with life.
  • Knowing your three ACTIVE points enables you to locate the problem when you feel life is unsatisfactory or lacking. You can pinpoint what is missing and thus make the changes necessary to remove the blocks to the fulfillment of that point or points.
  • By knowing the ACTIVE points of yourself and others, such as  friends,  work partners, or even prospective mates,  you can see how compatible (or incompatible) you are. If you have no points in common, the relationship will be virtually impossible. It would be hard even to communicate clearly - you would tend to constantly misunderstand each other. One or two points in common will show you the areas of common ground and the relationship will tend to revolve around activities which involve those points. If you get involved with someone with whom you have all three ACTIVE points in common, you will in all likelihood fall head over heels in love. You will probably be very compatible. A danger with this, however, is that you have so much in common that you may tend to forget the differences and individuality of your friend, and come to expect, him/her to be just like you.

Some Common Questions About the Nine Points

  • What's the difference between Exchange and Communion?
    Exchange is give and take - I'll give you this if you give me that; trading ideas, etc. Communion is a sense of we're all in this together, we share everything; Communion always wants company rather than to be alone.
  • What's Expansion?
    Essentially, Expansion is empire building. Always wanting to make it bigger and more "expansive" for example, in business (chain stores); groups (more members); or music (mass accepptance or mass production) etc.
  • Does Acceptance mean acceptance of others or wanting to be accepted?
    Both. A person with an ACTIVE Acceptance point wants very much to be accepted; this is primary for them, and they will rarely do anything outside of the norm for that reason. This is a hard one, because our American society is very Acceptance oriented, and also, especially in adolescence, Acceptance is part of growing up and becoming part of society. Basically, I would say, if a person picks Acceptance as one of three right off, it probably is one of their ACTIVE points. But if they pick four and are having trouble choosing, keep looking at the others to see how strong the drive is toward these others in comparison to Acceptance.
  • What's the difference between Adventure and Freedom?
    People often pick Freedom as an ACTIVE point when what they really mean is Adventure. Adventure is doing new things, seeing new places, meeting new people, doing things which involve risk or a gamble. Freedom is a refusal to be hemmed in, committed, tied down in any way. A person with an ACTIVE Freedom point may choose a stable career or a marriage because of one of their other points, but the Freedom point will inevitably make them miserable and probably lead to self-sabotage or desertion. Adventure with an ACTIVE Security point is very different from Adventure without an ACTIVE Security point. Without a Security point, Adventure will often take outrageous risks, even life-threatening ones. With a Security point, it is more likely to plan its adventures so that there are some limits on the level of risk involved. Still, it likes to be surprised. Power and Security when combined add up to control. A person with these two points ACTIVE will be very controlling, and probably fear any situation in which control is lacking or threatened.

A point can shift from ACTIVE to PASSIVE or NEUTRAL and be replaced by a different ACTIVE point. This is not a frequent occurence - it happens only when an ACTIVE point has been fully satisfied and fulfilled from that person's point of view, and the shift often brings about a major personality change. Family members and friends may feel that this person has taken leave of his/her senses, especially if the shift is to a very different point.

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This is a group of related triads which can be used in various situations to help assess your progress, your condition, or the effect of various actions or interactions. All of these assessments are relative to your own goals or statements of what you want. However, they can also be used by teachers in making evaluation of students' progress, or parents in evaluating children's decisions or plans, and in helping the children to do the same. HELPFUL/HARMFUL/INDIFFERENT can be used to assist in making choices among various courses of action possible by asking yourself whether the proposed action will HELP/HINDER/ or HAVE NO EFFECT on your goals or well being. This is also a useful triad when someone is in resistance to receiving assistance. Sometimes just by answering the question, am I tryring to HELP you, HINDER you or LEAVE you ALONE? (or do you want me to HELP, HINDER or LEAVE you ALONE?), the person's attitude and response may change and become assistive.

CLOSER TO MY GOAL/FURTHER/or NO CHANGE is very useful for stepping back from a project or involvement and making an overall assessment of where you stand. It can also be used, like HELPFUL/HARMFUL/INDIFFERENT to evaluate proposed actions or plans - will this plan or involvement bring me CLOSER TO MY GOAL/FURTHER/or make NO CHANGE in where I stand?

ASCENDING/DESCENDING/STAYING LEVEL and BETTER/WORSE/SAME are very similar. The first is more useful for assessing an ongoing involvement such as a conversation or a relationship. The second is useful for making comparisons to previous results or an earlier condition.

INCREASE/DECREASE/or STABILIZE is used to decide in what direction you want an interaction or involvement to move, then taking appropriate steps to bring about the INCREASE/DECREASE/ or STABILIZATION. This triad is often used after using one of the others for assessing where you are, how far you've come, or where you're headed - then you decide to INCREASE/DECREASE/or STABILIZE what's ongoing or what has brought you this far. For example, a teacher decided that having her students give oral book reports rather than written ones is causing their reading comprehension and retention to get BETTER, so she decided to INCREASE the oral reports and DECREASE the written ones.  


One of the shortcomings of modern medicine (which, by the way, is being counteracted today by the growth of the holistic health movement) is its focus on the PHYSICAL, as though the body were all there is to the human being. After Freud, some attention began to be paid to the PSYCHOLOGICAL aspects of health and how PSYCHOLOGICAL factors can affect PHYSICAL well-being. But still this is considered a relatively minor point in comparison to the focus on the body itself.

I believe that the three factors - PHYSICAL/ PSYCHOLOGICAL/and SPIRITUAL - are fully intertwined and that each has an effect on the others. Health comes about only when all three are functioning in a healthy and balanced way. It is only in recent history that the SPIRITUAL aspects of people have been so neglected. In reading the history of education, it became apparent to me that the SPIRITUAL side was always an important part of education. The same was true of health and healing. All ancient systems of healing dealt with the SPIRITUAL aspects of the sick person as well as the body. SPIRITUAL does not mean religious. Religions are various interpretations of the SPIRITUAL nature of people and the universe. But each person can form his/her own SPIRITUAL viewpoint, which fits his/ her own belief system and world view.

In looking at health, whether from the point of view of healing someone sick, or in maintaining good health and preventing illness, I believe it is vital to consider all three of these aspects and take steps to restore or maintain the person's health in all three. More and more modern practitioners are taking this point of view - Christianne Northrupp and Carolyn Myss, to name only two of many examples.

see also "The Three-fold Obstacle Course" on Poppa Neutrino's page

Three Types of Relationships NECESSITY/TAGGED/BUILT

NECESSITY relationships are based on one person's need for something the other person can provide. The child has a NECESSITY relationship with the parent (but not vice-versa). The student has a NECESSITY relationship with the teacher. The side with the need is essentially powerless in the relationship. An equal give and take is impossible within the boundaries of the NECESSITY relationship. (This does not mean there is not a different type of give and take or sharing possible outside the area of need). NECESSITY relationships are, by definition, limited in scope and time and should end and give way to BUILT relationships, and many would, if not for TAGGED relationships.

TAGGED relationships are those in which the participants have placed invisible "tags" of ownership on each other, and believe these tags to be statements of reality. "My" wife, husband, daughter, son, girlfriend, mother, etc. How can you own another person? Yet many people believe (mostly unconsciously) that they can and do, and their mates, children, etc., believe it too. The placing of a tag puts limits on the possibilities of a relationship, and on participants' possibilities outside the relationship; it also blinds the participants from seeing the totality of the person they've tagged. Whatever the sum of their past experience assigns to that particular tag is what they expect, and their expectations, projected onto the person they've tagged, limit that person's responses (if they are a willing player in the tagging) or eventually lead to rebellion (if they are unwilling).

Biological relationships carry tags which are heavily charged, culturally, reinforced by years of dependence (NECESSITY) and permanentized through a projected sense of obligation. I believe that children owe their parents honor and respect for the job they've done raising them, but not a lifetime of continuing to wear a tag and behaving under its edicts.

To the extent that they learn to communicate with each other and let go of projection and old expectations, parents and children can BUILD  new relationships as adults who are mutually "pulling" for each other's fulfillment in life. Children initially use tags mostly out of imitation, but partly also for the psychological security of feeling that if appropriately TAGGED, the adult will not prematurely abandon them in their dependency. They will thus tag anyone who functions as their provider, and the tag provides a psychological sense of safety. Ideally, the adults refrain from tagging the children in return, and teach and pre-adapt the skills needed to later let go of tags and BUILD tag-free, open-ended relationships.

BUILT relationships are based on mutual respect and support and a process of growing through an ever changing cycle of GIVING, TAKING, and SHARING. Truth-telling and exposure are indispensible to this process. Tags are destructive to the BUILDING of relationships. The tags put too many automatic limits on the possibilities for building. BUILT relationships are open and allow space for exploration by their participants, both within and outside the relationship. BUILT relationships need understanding and mutual agreements about how each person will individually grow and find fulfillment, as well as how they will grow together.

It is possible for the giver in a NECESSITY relationship to leave space for a BUILT relationship to develop when the NECESSITY relationship ends, but only if the NECESSITY relationship is kept as free as possible from TAGS, and ends as soon as the need ends. The giver can even use his/ her position to pre-adapt and teach the receiver about the possibility of BUILT relationships and how to go about starting and enhancing them.


These are three ways of tackling a problem or approaching life in general. PATTERN is routine, imitation, doing what you've done before or what you've seen others do. LOGIC is using rational thought and a reasoning process to figure out what obstacles must be overcome, what solutions could work, what the steps to success might be. This may include what others have done as a part of the solution process, but is not limited to following past patterns. Triads can be immensely helpful to this process. PERCEPTION is the creative or intuitive process by which a new solution, insight, or direction is discovered seemingly in an instant - an "Aha!" moment. PERCEPTION is blocked by following PATTERN, or being overly attached to routine. PERCEPTION goes beyond LOGIC, and sometimes seems to defy logical process, but "the proof is in the pudding." Test PERCEPTION by checking it out in action and assessing the results.


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Last revised: May 30, 2006