All About Enneagram Subtypes

All About Enneagram Subtypes

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, the Enneagram workshop offered December 7, 2019 will explore these instinctual drives more thoroughly. Seating will be limited. Reserve your seat today!

The Enneagram: An Introduction

The Enneagram: An Introduction

Being a therapist, I value transformational work. Over the past 10+ years I have studied the Enneagram, a holistic system based on many ancient wisdom traditions combined with modern psychology. For me, it’s a model of personal transformation that leads to a path for growth.


The Enneagram is a geometric figure, stemming from the Greek for ‘nine’—ennea—and ‘figure’—grams, giving us the ‘9 pointed figure’. The actual origins of the symbol have been lost to history, though many of the abstract ideas, geometry and mathematical derivation suggest it has roots in classical Greek thought (Riso Hudson).


In the early 1900s, Greek-Armenian born teacher and philosopher Ivanovich Gurdijeff brought the Enneagram symbol to light. Through his teachings of psychology, spirituality and cosmology Gurdijeff enlightened students to their place in the world and purpose for life.


It wasn’t until the 1950s when Oscar Ichazo discovered the connection between the symbol and personality types that the wisdom of the Enneagram formed what we know of it today. Ichazo unlocked the connection to the 9 passions, based on the 7 deadly sins plus fear and deceit to further describe each persons tendency to ‘miss the mark’ in some way or, as a therapist I like to call it ‘distort’ our thinking, feeling and doing in ways that cause us to lose center.


In 1970, Claudio Naranjo, a noted psychiatrist who used gestalt therapeutic techniques, studied with Ichazo to further develop and teach the Enneagram which grew in popularity throughout the western world. From there, Don Riso and Russ Hudson, along with other authors, have spent countless hours developing further material to succinctly categorize the 9 personality types for us who long to grow in self discovery.


The Enneagram presents 9 personalty types and where each of us may recognize within ourselves behaviors from each type, there are defining characteristics of one that dominates.


What I love about the Enneagram is how holistic and thorough it is. Generally, when clients are new to the Enneagram, I urge them to gather the information, learn about the primary instincts, read about the types, take a test, but more importantly, sit with the information awhile, talk to others who know you best and see what resonates.


A helpful resource to start with is The Essential Enneagram by David Daniels.


If you’re interested in learning more, an Enneagram workshop will be coming soon to Star Meadow Counseling. Stay tuned for more information!




About the Author

Heather Mitchell is a licensed mental health counselor with Star Meadow Counseling. One of her career passions is studying and teaching the Enneagram as a tool for self-growth.