Enneagram Subtypes and Instincts

The Enneagram, with its nine distinct personality types, provides incredible insight into our diverse motivations and behaviors. 

Yet looking only at those nine types is like viewing an iceberg from the surface – it’s merely the tip, and there is a whole world of depth underneath. When we explore Enneagram subtypes and instinctual drives, we uncover a richer, multidimensional understanding of ourselves and others.

Subtypes reveal nuances within each type, allowing us to better understand our core motivations, fears, and patterns. The social instinct compels us towards relationships, while sexual focuses on intensity in one-on-one bonds. Self-preservation longs for security and stability. Instincts add a layer of flavor and shading to the types, making us more self-aware and discerning in our interactions.

Diving below the surface of the nine types can create those “aha” moments of enlightenment. We recognize ourselves and those around us with greater clarity and compassion. Self-knowledge leads to self-improvement as we learn to navigate our subtype’s gifts and pitfalls. 

The Enneagram’s depth empowers us to grow into our best selves. Join us as we explore what lies beneath the surface of your personality type, and how understanding subtypes and instincts can enrich your relationships, personal growth, and sense of meaning in life!

Internal: What Are Enneagram Subtypes?

While the nine Enneagram types capture our core motivations and fears, each type has subtle variations known as subtypes. Subtypes reveal nuances within each type’s patterns of thinking, feeling, and behavior.

Subtypes come in groups of three for each Enneagram number. For example, Type Twos have subtypes known as the Helper, the Giver, and the People Pleaser. Type Fives have the Investigator, Observer, and Thinker subtypes.

Knowing your subtype provides additional precision in understanding personality and growth areas. The differences between subtypes are not huge, but they highlight important flavors within the overall type.

Subtypes stem from Centers of Intelligence in the Enneagram system – the gut, heart, and head. The three subtypes of each type reflect the distinct lens of each center.

For instance, Fives with a head-center bias tend to be more cerebral and analytical. Fives with a gut bias are more intense and combative. Heart-biased Fives are more detached and observational.

While our core type remains constant, we can learn to access the wisdom of all three centers. Subtypes help us understand how each center shapes our motivations and perceptions.

By illuminating these nuances, subtypes make the Enneagram even more powerful for growth and relating well to others. When we understand both our type and subtype, we gain an even clearer window into self-awareness.

Subtypes for Each Enneagram Number

Type 1:

  • Perfectionist – Precise and fastidious in pursuit of the ideal.
  • Reformer – Motivated to improve the world through fixes and solutions.
  • Rationalist – Objective analysis guides decisions.

Type 2:

  • Helper – Finds meaning in meeting others’ needs.
  • Giver – Expresses love and care through generosity.
  • People Pleaser – Highly attuned to others’ expectations.

Type 3:

  • Performer – Passionate about accomplishments and success.
  • Motivator – Driven to inspire and lead teams to victory.
  • Image-Aware – Concerned with reputation and prestige.

Type 4:

  • Romantic – Idealizes meaningful relationships and aesthetics.
  • Individualist – Values authentic self-expression.
  • Artist – Channels emotional depth into art.

Type 5:

  • Investigator – Intellectually curious and analytical.
  • Observer – Detached perspective avoids bias.
  • Thinker – Theoretical and idea-oriented.

Type 6:

  • Loyal Skeptic – Questioning combined with commitment.
  • Questioner – Insatiable curiosity and contrarian thinking.
  • Duty Fulfiller – Finds security in responsible habits.

Type 7:

  • Epicure – Engages the senses and lives in the moment.
  • Entertainer – Brings fun and joy to others.
  • Optimist – Hopeful focus on possibilities.

Type 8:

  • Protector – Uses strength to defend themselves and others.
  • Leader – Takes charge and directs groups.
  • Boss – Desires control and independence.

Type 9:

  • Mediator – Calming presence that connects people.
  • Peacekeeper – Harmonizes groups and avoids conflict.
  • Comfort Seeker – Prioritizes wellbeing and relaxation.

External: What are Enneagram Instincts?

At its core, the Enneagram describes nine distinct ways of relating to the world, driven by our core desires and fears. Instincts add another layer of insight tied to three fundamental areas of motivation: self-preservation, social, and sexual. We all have each of these instincts, but one tends to be dominant and shape our personality.

The Self-Preservation Instinct

Of the three instinctual drives, self-preservation is oriented around security, survival, and meeting our basic needs. This instinct compels us to seek stability and comfort and avoid harm. At its core is a desire to ensure we have the necessities to stay safe and healthy.

Self-preservation manifests in being drawn to material security and resources. We focus on providing for ourselves and our loved ones through finances, property, assets, and “nesting.” Comfort is essential to us – we enjoy good food, a comfortable home, and other luxuries.

This instinct makes us safety-conscious, often risk-avoidant, and cautious in new situations. We prefer predictability and are wary of uncertainty. Self-care in terms of rest, health, and lifestyle stability helps us manage stress.

While the need for security drives this instinct, it can also keep us stuck. We may resist change, avoid risks needed for growth, or neglect relationships and passions that enrich life. At its best, self-preservation brings needed stability and self-care. Taken too far, it traps us in our comfort zones.

Knowing this instinctual drive provides insight into our core motivations and fears. We can find a balance between safety and a willingness to embrace change when it aligns with our purpose. Understanding self-preservation illuminates a path to self-awareness.

The Social Instinct

The social instinct drives us to seek connection, belonging, and community. This instinct focuses on relationships and roles within groups. There is a core desire for inclusion, being part of something larger than ourselves.

This instinct motivates us to invest time and energy into our relationships and social circles. We care about our standing and contribution to groups we identify with. Staying connected through communication also matters.

At its best, the social instinct fosters teamwork, camaraderie, and service to causes greater than ourselves. We support our communities and gain meaning through shared values. However, taken too far, it can lead to losing a sense of self, becoming too dependent on status, or compromising values just to fit in.

With the social instinct, there is often an idealistic streak – a vision of how community could be. We notice when groups fail to live up to their highest potential. This instinct also correlates with extroversion and preferring collaboration over working alone.

Understanding the motivations of the social instinct provides insight into our relationships, team roles, and ideals. We can better recognize when this drive leads to healthy bonding or merely conformity. Ultimately it shows us how we can best contribute our gifts to the collective good.

The Sexual Instinct

The sexual instinct drives us to seek intimate one-on-one connections and shared meaning with another person. This instinct craves intensity, chemistry, and exclusivity in relationships.

The sexual instinct is oriented around deep personal bonds, not sexuality per se. It motivates us to open up fully and be completely known by another. There is a desire for co-creation and ” merging” through shared passions and creativity.

This instinct draws us to people we feel a magnetic pull towards. We desire to explore the depths of relating to that person alone. Casual relationships often feel dissatisfying compared to relating intimately. Meaning is found through this private intensity.

A downside is this instinct can lead to jealousy, possessiveness, or losing perspective in the throes of attraction. Taken too far, it can become addictive and undermine other relationships or priorities. At its best, it forges bonds of unconditional acceptance.

The sexual instinct reveals our longing for transformative relationships. It uncovers who we are when ego barriers come down. Ultimately, it drives human closeness and vulnerability that create our most meaningful moments. Understanding this instinct leads to deeper connections.

Subtypes vs. Instincts

The Enneagram subtypes and instincts both provide additional nuance to the nine core types but in different ways. While subtypes look inward at minor flavors within each type, instincts look outward at how we relate to the external world.

Subtypes reflect variations in how the type characteristics manifest in thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. For example, Helper Twos and Giver Twos express their core motivations in slightly different ways but are still Twos at heart.

In contrast, instincts capture inherent drives and motivations oriented around relationships, security, or intensity. Our dominant instinct shapes behavior across types. A self-preserving Two will still care about helping but do so while prioritizing creating security.

While a subtype is like an accent that gives a unique spin on the essence of a type, instinct is like a filter over the type describing what we’re focused on attaining. Subtypes are internal – instincts are external.

It’s possible to have any subtype and any dominant instinct. For example, you could be a self-preserving Performer Type 3 or a socially-oriented Thinker Type 5. Your subtype and instinct combine to give a fuller picture.

Understanding how these two concepts differ allows us to take a more multidimensional view of personality. Subtypes help us recognize nuances within our type. Instincts reveal what energizes or drains us based on our orientation to others. Together they provide a richer understanding of self and others.

Using Your Enneagram Using Subtypes and Instincts for Growth

Knowing your Enneagram subtype and dominant instinct is useful, but the real value comes in applying this self-knowledge to personal growth. Here are some tips:

  • Observe how your subtype tendencies emerge in daily life. Reflect on how you can direct those motivations in healthy ways.
  • Notice when your dominant instinct leads to imbalance or neglect of other areas. Strive for integration across relationship, security, and intimacy needs.
  • Share about your subtype and instinct with trusted friends. Ask for feedback to increase self-awareness.
  • Consider how you can leverage your strengths and manage blind spots. For example, social subtypes can improve teamwork but must avoid losing touch with self.
  • Find role models who share your subtype/instinct and emulate their maturation over time.
  • Join Enneagram communities to connect with those of the same type and orientation. Shared experiences build insight.

Dive Deeper into Your Enneagram Path with AlignUs

Learning about your Enneagram type, subtype, and instinct is just the beginning. True growth comes from applying this knowledge to become your best self.

Here at AlignUs, we offer personalized guidance to help you unlock the gifts of your type. Our growing online community connects you with others who share your passion for uncovering the hidden depths of their Enneagram path.

We provide a space to explore and discuss the nuances of your type in a safe, non-judgmental environment. Whether you’re just starting out or already well on your way, AlignUs is here to guide you along your journey.

Are you ready to go beyond surface-level type descriptions? Visit us online today to get started! Together, let’s uncover the power of your Enneagram type.

Don’t know your Enneagram Type yet?  Click here to take the test. (place the enneagram test link on the click here)

For more resources on the Subtypes and Instincts, click here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *