Subtypes are Instinctual

The 3 Subtyes of The Enneagram relate to our biological drive for survival. These survival strategies are also known as the basic instincts of life.

As we each make our journey through life, we rely on our instincts to tell us how to react to the world. The Enneagram divides these instincts into three categories.

  • Self Preservation – a focus on finding safety and guarding a sense of security
  • Social Interaction – seeking a sense of belonging in a group
  • One-to-One or Sexual – prioritising individual relationships

Everyone uses all three of the basic instincts from time to time, but our circumstances lead us to rely more heavily on one over the rest. The instinctual variant, or ‘subtype’, we most commonly lean on combines with our main personality type to create a personality subtype.

What do our personalty subtypes tell us?

The primary personality types are relatively stable over time, but subtypes might make themselves more apparent only under certain circumstances. Commonly, events which require us to defer to our instincts might be times of stress or change. Understanding how we react to these circumstances makes us better able to handle them when they come along. This is especially important in navigating interpersonal relationships, since uncertain times are ones which can put a strain on our relationships if we are not well equipped to process our emotions.

Making sense of our subtypes should foster patience with ourselves as we handle tricky situations. It can also help us understand how our tendencies gel with those around us. Ultimately, a holistic connection with our personality type and subtype helps us move towards more harmonious way of living.

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Self-Preservation Instinct

This instinct might seem self-involved, but it does not necessarily exclude others. Self-Preservation instincts are all about protecting one’s ability to survive. This includes guarding a sense of safety as it relates to the family, home, or resources.

Social Instinct

If someone relies most on their social instincts, it means their place in a social network is of great importance to them. They are driven by dreams of acceptance, adoration or belonging, and are primed with a sharp awareness of group dynamics.

One-to-One Instinct

One-to-One or Sexual instincts are focused on individual relationships, prompting a person to soak up energy from a select few people in their lives. Courting, bonding and intimate contact are at the forefront of these connections, to differing effect depending on the person’s other attributes.