27 Enneagram Subtypes: Self Preservation Instinct, Sexual Instinct & Social Instinct

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What is the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a personality typing system that describes how people interpret the world and manage their emotions. The Enneagram is based on the idea that each person has a unique personality structure that shapes how they see the world. The Enneagram describes nine personality types, each with their own motivations and fears that guide their actions and decisions.

Enneagram types

What are the 3 Basic Instincts and the 27 Subtypes?

The 3 Basic Instincts are our go to strategy for survival. These three basic instincts exist within each of the 9 Enneagram Types, so, 9 Enneagram Types times 3 Instincts, gives us 27 Subtypes.

What are the Three Basic Instincts?

Self-Preservation (SP): People with this subtype prioritize personal well-being and survival. An Enneagram Type Three with a dominant SP instinct might focus on career success to secure material wealth and societal status.

One-on-One or Sexual (SX): The SX subtype values intimate, one-on-one relationships where deep emotional and intellectual engagement is possible. These individuals are willing to confront challenging situations to better understand their partners.

Social (SO): The Social subtype is motivated by the desire for acceptance within their social circles. They strive to create a sense of belonging and are often tuned in to the needs of others. For instance, a Social Enneagram Type Four may have a keen sense for trends within their artistic circles.

enneagram 6 growth

How do the Enneagram Subtypes help us? 

Subtypes give us an insight into out relationship with the outside world. Naturally, there is tension between our inner world and our external world, and the tension arises out of our desires and fears. At the core is our instinct to survive and in some sense, subtypes can be thought of as survival strategies.

The Self Preservation Subtype focuses on objects and tasks that aid them directly in their survival. This means accumulating skills and resources so one can ensure their survival. 

However, humans are social creatures, we are not ‘lone wolfs’ meeting the challenge of survival all on our own. We live in groups and communities and face the challenge together.

Another strategy is to focus on group survival and that’s what the Social Subtypes prefer. They excel at relating to larger groups and are more group oriented. The advantage of Social Subtype is their breadth, they cover a lot of ground and will know many people however both time and attention are limited. For breadth, they sacrifice depth and that where the one-to-one Sexual Subtype excel.

Instead of focusing on fostering relations with the entire group, they prefer becoming deeply intimate with a few select people. And this too is a great strategy, because we will generally first help the people we are closest to over a well liked acquaintance. 

What is the Self-Preservation (SP) Subtype?

When we discuss self-preservation, we’re essentially talking about survival – how you secure your own safety, well-being, and material resources. For instance, someone with a primary SP instinct might emphasize financial stability or be particularly mindful of health.

What is the Sexual (SX) or one-to-one Subtype?

This instinct doesn’t solely relate to the romantic or sexual context. Rather, it’s about establishing profound, meaningful connections on an individual level. This could manifest as strong friendships, partnerships, or even professional relationships marked by mutual growth and vulnerability.

What is the Social (SO) Subtype?

Finally, the social instinct is about understanding your place within the group – how you connect and build relationships within larger societal contexts.

Becoming aware of these primal instincts gives us a deeper understanding of our behavioral patterns within the Enneagram context.

enneagram 5 desires

The Science Behind the Enneagram Subtypes

The Enneagram isn’t just a pop-psychology tool; scientific studies lend credence to its effectiveness and validity. Recent research has provided insights into brain activity patterns corresponding to different Enneagram types. Additionally, studies support the concept of instinctual variants or subtypes within the Enneagram framework.

What does Neuroscience reveal about the Instincts?

Recent advances in brain research show that primal instincts are often overlooked. Neuroscientifically, research indicates that the different parts of the body control our behavior, our emotions or cognition. For example the instinct for self-protection is linked to the ventral-mediated prefrontal cortex which helps to create a self-image and assess potential dangers and rewards. It is a part of several neurotransmitter systems that modulate the bonding instinct.

What is the difference between Subtypes and Wings?

Subtypes add another layer to our understanding of the Enneagram. Each person’s dominant instinct and their Enneagram type combine to form their subtype, which can offer deeper insights into their behavioral patterns.

Wings and subtypes are different, with wings providing secondary influences from neighboring types.

Can You Have More that One Subtype/Survival Instinct?

Everyone has a dominant instinctive subtype however that does not mean that the other subtypes don’t play a role. Each subtype is part of a subtype-stack with three priority levels are primary secondary.

  • Dominant = Over conscious 
  • Second = Neutral 
  • Underdeveloped = blind spot

What is the Subtypes Stack?

The Subtype Stack is your order of preference for each of the three subtypes. This is often communicated by displaying your dominant subtype first and then you second order of preference. Here are a few common examples: SX/SO, SX/SP, SP/SO, SO/SX, and so on.

What does SX/SO mean?

This means that the Sexual (SX) subtype is the dominant subtype, that the Social (SO) subtype is the second in order and that the Self Preservation (SP) subtype is least used and often underdeveloped.

enneagram 3 subtypes

What are the 27 Enneagram Subtypes?

Each Enneagram type has three subtypes, or instinctual variant, leading to 27 unique combinations that provide a more nuanced understanding of individual behavior. Recognizing your specific subtype can lead to enhanced personal growth and improved relationships.

27 Instinctual Variants With Definition And Description

The Enneagram Model presents a powerful, nuanced approach to understanding personality, which can be incredibly valuable in an organizational context. It’s a versatile tool, boasting nine primary types, further categorized into three distinct subtypes each, culminating in a total of 27 unique type-subtype combinations. This rich framework provides insightful dynamics for enhancing team collaboration, leadership development, and individual growth.

What are the Subtypes for Enneagram Type 1, The Perfectionists?

The first type, often called “The Perfectionist”, focuses on principles, integrity, and continual self-improvement. The subtypes vary based on the context of their focus:

  1. Self-Preservation Ones concentrate on personal integrity and independence.
  2. Social Ones involve themselves in societal reforms and improvement.
  3. Sexual Ones channel their energy into perfecting their relationships.

What are the Subtypes for Enneagram Type 2, The Helper?

Type 2, or “The Helper”, tends to prioritize the needs of others. Their subtypes are as follows:

  1. Self-Preservation Twos focus on caring for their own needs and their loved ones.
  2. Social Twos connect through their community or social network.
  3. Sexual Twos are intent on building intimate, personal relationships.

What are the Subtypes for Enneagram Type 3, The Achiever?

“The Achievers”, Type 3, aspire for success and recognition. Their subtype orientation looks like this:

  1. Self-Preservation Threes aim for success and status for their personal security.
  2. Social Threes seek approval and worth through social recognition.
  3. Sexual Threes pursue validation in one-on-one relationships.

What are the Subtypes for Enneagram Type 4, The Individualists?

Type 4, “The Individualist”, emphasizes identity and expression. Here’s how their subtypes pan out:

  1. Self-Preservation Fours find their identity through personal aesthetic and lifestyle.
  2. Social Fours distinguish themselves from their social group.
  3. Sexual Fours seek intense, often romantic, relationships to understand themselves.

What are the Subtypes for Enneagram Type 5, The Investigator?

Type 5, referred to as “The Investigator”, is known for their intense curiosity and keen insight. Their subtypes are distinguished by:

  1. Self-Preservation Fives focus on accumulating knowledge and resources for survival.
  2. Social Fives use their insight and knowledge to find their place in social groups.
  3. Sexual Fives establish deep connections with select individuals by sharing personal insights.

What are the Subtypes for Enneagram 6 Subtypes, The Loyalists?

The Loyalist, or Type 6, is characterized by their loyalty and desire for security. Their subtypes manifest as:

  1. Self-Preservation Sixes focus on safety, predictability, and trust.
  2. Social Sixes seek security within their social communities and systems.
  3. Sexual Sixes develop trustworthy, secure bonds with partners and allies.

What are the Subtypes for Enneagram 7, The Enthusiasts?

Type 7, “The Enthusiast”, is known for their joyous pursuit of new experiences. Their subtypes appear as:

  1. Self-Preservation Sevens seek safety and satisfaction through personal exploration.
  2. Social Sevens find fulfillment within social events and communal experiences.
  3. Sexual Sevens passionately pursue one-on-one encounters and shared experiences.

What are the Subtypes for Enneagram 8, The Challengers?

Type 8, or “The Challenger”, are marked by their desire for control and autonomy. Their subtypes are:

  1. Self-Preservation Eights focus on gaining control over their environment for personal security.
  2. Social Eights exert control within social dynamics, often in leadership roles.
  3. Sexual Eights seek intensity and control within their personal relationships.

What are the Subtypes for Enneagram 9 The Peacemakers?

Finally, Type 9, “The Peacemaker”, seeks peace and harmony above all. Their subtypes are represented by:

  1. Self-Preservation Nines pursue personal peace and comfort in their environment.
  2. Social Nines work towards harmonious relations within their social circles.
  3. Sexual Nines aim to create a sense of tranquility within their intimate relationships.

Enneagram subtypes can be powerful tools when we apply them to different facets of growth, such as personal, professional, spiritual, or relational aspects of life.

enneagram 9 in love

What are Counter-Types?

A Counter-Type is an Enneagram subtype that behave counter to their basic type’s typical behaviors. The core desire, core fear, vice, and passion are all the same, but the Counter-Type acts in a way that is different from how its type usually acts.

Sometimes it can look like a totally different type.

What are the Counter types for each Enneagram Type?

  • Enneagram Type 1 Counter-type (SX): Enneagram Type 1s don’t show their anger as much as the SX 1 counter-type, who express it more vehemently.
  • Enneagram Type 2 Counter-type (SP): Enneagram Type 2s can be very helpful, but the SP 2 counter-type is less likely to help other people.
  • Enneagram Type 3 Counter-type (SP): The SP 3 counter-type hides the successes of Enneatype 3 subtypes who want to show off their image. 
  • Enneagram Type 4 Counter-type (SP): The subtypes of Enneagram type 4 are very open about how they feel inside, except for the SP 4 counter-type, which is more reserved. 
  • Enneagram Type 5 Counter-type (SX): The subtypes of Enneatype 5 are distant, while the opposite type, SX 5, is more emotional and passionate. 
  • Enneagram Type 6 Counter-type (SX): Enneatype 6 subtypes show anger, so the opposite type, SX6, can go against their fear and jump into danger.
  • Enneagram Type 7 Counter-type (SO): Enneatype 7 subtypes look out for their own happiness. The opposite type, SO 7, can be more willing to give up their own happiness for the sake of others. 
  • Enneagram Type 8 Counter-type (SO): The Enneagram 8 subtypes don’t like to follow the rules, while the SO 8 counter-type wants to fight for others. 
  • Enneagram Type 9 Counter-type (SO): The subtypes of Enneatype 9 can look for ease and comfort, while the opposite type, SO 9, is often a workaholic.

The counter type usually has a different way of coping with their core issue than the other two subtypes of their type.

enneagram 2 growth

How Can Enneagram Subtypes Be Used For Growth?

Reflect on your personality and what you subtype stack is. Now with this in mind, consider how it might impact the different areas of your life.

How does it play out with friends, with romantic partners, at work, with family, when planning your future, when making decisions?

 Consider how it applies to the different areas of your life.

How do Enneagram Subtypes impact Personal Growth?

Enneagram subtypes play a significant role in personal growth as they provide a deeper understanding of how individuals engage with the world and develop in different areas.

The subtypes, which are categorized into social, self-preservation, and sexual/one-on-one, offer specific insights into an individual’s motivations, fears, and behaviors.

By exploring their dominant subtype, individuals can identify patterns and tendencies that may be hindering their personal growth. For example, someone with a social subtype may be motivated by a fear of rejection and may prioritize relationships and social connections.

Understanding this can help them recognize when they may be sacrificing their own needs and boundaries for the sake of maintaining social harmony. By being aware of their subtype and its impact on their growth, individuals can make more intentional choices, develop healthier patterns of behavior, and work towards personal development and fulfillment. 

How does your Subtype impact your Professional Growth?

Your subtype within the Enneagram personality system can have a significant impact on your professional growth.

For example, if you are an Enneagram 1 with a self-preservation subtype, you may be highly focused on adhering to rules and principles, which can make you an excellent employee or leader who ensures that tasks are completed accurately and efficiently. 

On the other hand, an Enneagram 2 with a sexual subtype might excel in a career that involves helping and supporting others, such as nursing or counseling. Their natural inclination to prioritize the needs and satisfaction of others makes them a valuable asset in teams or organizations that prioritize teamwork and collaboration. 

Lastly, an Enneagram 3 with a self preservation subtype may thrive in competitive environments, as they possess a strong drive to achieve success and recognition. They are often ambitious and highly motivated to rise through the ranks, making them well-suited for leadership positions.

Overall, understanding your subtype can provide insight into your professional strengths and help guide your career decisions for optimal growth. 

enneagram 2 relationships

How do the Subtypes impact Relationships?

Subtypes give us an insight into the types of relationships that are important to us with the outside world. In some sense, subtypes can be thought of as survival strategies.

The Self Preservation Subtype focuses on objects and tasks that aid them in their survival. This is a direct path of survival, however we, humans, are social creatures, we live and survive in groups.

The Social Subtypes prefer relating to larger groups and are more group oriented whereas Sexual Subtype is more focused on one-to-one connections. 

How can Subtypes be used for Spiritual Growth?

Subtypes can give us insight into what we do and why we do it. By understanding our dominant instincts and how they manifest in our lives, we can gain greater awareness and insight into our patterns of behavior and thought.

For example, those with a dominant self-preservation instinct may struggle with feeling too focused on material success or financial security at the expense of other aspects of their life, such as emotional fulfillment or deeper connections with others.

By recognizing this pattern, they can work towards cultivating a greater sense of abundance beyond just physical possessions or financial stability.

Similarly, someone with a strong social instinct may feel overly concerned with seeking validation from others at the expense of their own needs or personal growth; by becoming more aware of this tendency, they can work towards developing stronger boundaries and a deeper sense of inner security.

How to discover your subtype

For others their principal subtype seems very clear, and others the question may require more investigation over time.

People who know us can provide valuable feedback.

Sometimes the problem is complicated since each of us has three instincts. It’s possible that your Enneagrams can have all the instincts that they have.

List three major factors in your life. You can take a look at the list of nine name names of a given subtype. And so you’ll need to look at all three lists individually and not just look up your enneagram points.

Enneagram Personality Test

What is the Enneagram system and how does it relate to subtypes?

The Enneagram system is a personality typing tool that identifies nine basic types, each with their own distinct motivation, fears, and desires. Subtypes refer to the three variations within each type based on instinctual focus: self-preservation, social interaction or one-to-one bonding.

How are the 27 Enneagram subtypes determined?

The 27 Enneagram subtypes are determined by combining one of three instinctual variants with one of the nine basic personality types within this model in order to get a more nuanced understanding of individual personalities and motivations.

Can people have traits from multiple Enneagram subtypes?

Yes! It’s common for individuals to identify with behaviors or traits that belong in different subtype categories than their main subtype; also known as wing theories which suggest people may show tendencies from adjacent types when operating outside their natural state or under stress.

How can understanding my subtype benefit me personally?

Understanding your subtype (and others) can make you better-equipped to understand yourself, your loved ones, co-workers etc., enhancing communication skills & strengthening relationships while promoting personal growth & professional development overall through identification of strengths/weaknesses – perhaps even creating opportunities for personal coaching/mentoring as well if desired.

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Stefan Speaks AI
Stefan Speaks AI
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