Our latest posts have introduced you to the basics of the Enneagram. Today, we’ll delve in deeper, exploring the Enneagram’s “Subtypes.”

The ordering of your Enneagram Subtypes (Self Preservation, Social, or Sexual/One-to-One) is a central aspect of how you show up in the world and understand yourself. The Subtypes are the key biological drives and fundamental values that influence your feelings and actions. You have all three of them within you; one, however, will seem to take precedence in how you express yourself. Knowing this about yourself, gives further understanding of the observable traits that work independently from personality type. It helps with understanding others and their motivations as well.


To uncover your most prominent Subtype, you must ask the question: 

Where does your attention go throughout a week?

  • Are you primarily attending to your material needs and life necessities for security or comfort? That is how a self preservation instinct shows up.
  • Are you involved in and enjoy interacting with others towards a common purpose throughout the month? If so, you might be leading with a social instinct.
  • Are you making sure you have deeper connections, spending energy towards bonding with special others in your life? A person who has the sexual instinctual drive would focus attention this way.


To further explain, the Subtypes help clarify the variation among people with the same personality type. I can have three Enneagram Type 6’s sitting in front of me and although they share very common characteristics of Type 6 personality, their instincts make them function differently from one another. Without getting into the nuanced version of each instinct within a type (totally 27 all together), let me explain the Instincts briefly.



Self preservation Instinctual types are preoccupied with getting and maintaining physical safety and personal comfort needs taken care of. They apply their energy towards taking care of their basic life necessities (maintaining a home, paying bills, grocery shopping). These individuals tend to be self sufficient and disciplined. Words associated with this type might be: self care, comfort, preserving, practical, appetite, ritual, calculating.



Social Instinctual Instinctual types are preoccupied with being accepted and belonging within the social system. They like to feel involved and enjoy interacting with others for a common purpose. These individuals tend to thrive within community and focus on their sense of accomplishment for a greater good. Words associated with this type include: navigating, amongst, cooperating, belonging, systems, participation, everybody.



Sexual (commonly called One-to-One) Instinctual types are searching for a deeper connection with one other. They focus their attention towards the quality and status of relationships with specific individuals. Their energy tends to go towards the maintenance of bonding to others they have an interpersonal attraction towards. Words associated with this type: transmit, attract, favorite, connect, mutual, between.


For further understanding and exploration, inquire about 1×1 Enneagram coaching or Enneagram Training for your team.