Enneagram Subtypes | A Helpful Guide For Understanding The 3 Instinctual Variants

The Enneagram can be a helpful way to understand yourself and other people better.  This system is a way of organizing and explaining different personality types that people have. Enneagram Subtypes provide another layer in understanding each of the 9 Enneagram types; these subtypes are called instinctual variants.

Enneagram subtypes, or instinctual variants, refer to 3 different areas of the personality type. These are the self-preservation instinct, the sexual instinct, and the social instinct. Each of these will bring out different aspects of a person’s personality, depending on the situation.

There is definitely a lot to look at when it comes to personality and the different aspects and factors that help determine which personality type each person is. There is even more to it when we look deeper into how this personality type influences how we interact with the world around us. The first thing to understand about enneagram subtypes is knowing what exactly an instinctual variant is.

What is an Enneagram Instinctual Variant?

As you may already know, there are 9 different Enneagram types, essentially 9 different personality types. Within each of those personality types, there are 3 subtypes which are called instinctual variants. The 3 instinctual variants, or subtypes of enneagrams, are self-preservation, sexual, and social instincts.

Each of these refers to a different aspect of the personality, how we interact with others, and how we interact with the world around us. It helps us further understand a person based on their personality and gives us a better insight into how they deal with life, people, and other situations in the world.

The self-preservation instinct or subtype helps us understand how a person deals with oneself. The sexual instinct involves how a person deals with another person. The social instinct helps to explain how a person deals with a group. Each of these subtypes helps us better understand how a person functions in that specific area of their life.

These instinctual variants are also 3 basic survival strategies and are also referred to as basic instincts. Again, self-preservation is how we respond to perceived threats and our individual needs. The social instinct helps us create social structures within our communities. The one-to-one instinct helps us with our primary relationships or in coupling.

The Dominating Instinctual Variant

It’s important to understand that each person has a dominating instinctual variant. Though we may reflect the values and behaviors of various variants or personality types, there always seems to be one main personality type and dominating instinctual variant.

One way to figure out which subtype is the main influence in your life is to pay attention to where your attention is focused as you are out in public or a group setting. If you’re at a party, the main things you pay attention to can be telling about your main instinctual variant.

If you find yourself noticing the environment immediately, meaning everything from the music and lights to the layout, decorations, and even the temperature of the room, you may have the self-preservation instinct as your dominating instinctual variant.

If you focus on finding 1 or 2 people with whom you can connect more deeply in a group setting or feel more energy as close bonds are created, this could be a sign of having a one-to-one dominant instinct. For those aware of where their friends are, blend in with a group, or focus on having a good time, you may have the social instinct as your dominating subtype.

Enneagram Subtypes Chart & Overview

Before we jump right into discussing each subtype, let’s look at an overview of each of them. There are 9 different Enneagram personality types and 3 subtypes for each, giving us 27 subtypes. Each subtype has a particular theme.

Knowing your habits and preoccupations in social scenarios will help you know which subtype is dominant for you and, therefore, help to specify your personality type and subtype further.

The chart explains the name of each instinctual variant and a word that emphasizes their biggest priority or attribute. Here is a quick chart to help organize each of the enneagrams and subtypes visually:

Enneagram Type Self-Preservation Instinct Social Instinct One-to-One Instinct
Type 1: The Perfectionist Anxiety- The Pioneer Inadaptability- The Social Reformer Jealousy/Zealousness- The Evangelist
Type 2: The Giver Privilege- The Nurturer Ambition- The Ambassador Seduction/Aggression- The Lover
Type 3: The Performer Security- The Company Man/Woman Prestige- The Politician Masculinity/Femininity- The Movie Star
Type 4: The Romantic Dauntlessness- The Creative Individualist Shame/Honor- The Critical Commentator Competitiveness- The Dramatic Person
Type 5: The Observer Home- The Castle Defender Totem/Symbols- The Professor Confidentiality- The Secret Agent
Type 6: The Loyal Skeptic Warmth- The Family Loyalist Duty- The Social Guardian Strength or Beauty- The Warrior
Type 7: The Epicure Family- The Gourmand Limitation/Sacrifice- The Utopian Visionary Suggestibility/Fascination- The Adventurer
Type 8: The Protector Satisfactory Survival- The Survivalist Friendship/ Social Causes- The Group Leader or Gang Leader Possession/Surrender- The Commander
Type 9: The Mediator Appetite- The Collector Participation- The Community Benefactor Union- The Seeker

Enneagram 1 Subtypes

Enneagram 1 Instinctual Variants:

Self-Preservation: Anxiety- The Pioneer

Self-Preservation type 1’s will often focus on making sure that everything they do is perfect or as perfect as possible. They are the true perfectionists of this enneagram. Unfortunately, these people usually see themselves as being very flawed individuals and, as a result, will try to improve themselves.

These people are typically the most anxious and worried. They want to have things under control and foresee any potential risks or issues that could arise. These types of people like being prepared, even down to the smallest of details. This type will also avoid showing their anger but will often feel very frustrated when they are disrupted.

Social: Inadaptability- The Social Reformer

These people are comfortable with having a secure and solid social role and a clearly defined set of rules. They enjoy and emphasize doing things the “right way.” This can make it hard for them to adapt to new situations or find new ways to do things.

It can also cause them to criticize or resent anyone who may act or behave “incorrectly” or do things in the “wrong way.” These people see their role to help others do things right or to be perfect.

One-to-One: Jealousy/Zealousness- The Evangelist

This subtype also enjoys having a clear set of rules and standards outlining correct behavior. This type has rigorous self-control, which can lead to over-zealousness in everything at times. They need to keep a partner’s attention so they won’t blame themselves.

It is also common for this type to feel jealousy toward a partner or those who seem more self-expressive. This type will focus on making other people more perfect. This type is known to show more anger and zeal than the other type 1’s. There is more focus on perfecting others and making sure others are doing things correctly than on oneself.

Enneagram 2 Subtypes

Enneagram 2 Instinctual Variants:

Self-preservation: Privilege- The Nurturer

These types of people are great at creating personable and warm relationships with all types of people. Much of their attention will go towards nurturing, supporting, and helping others.

This can sometimes lead to them feeling entitled when they are getting their own needs met. Unfortunately, they can have a prideful attitude or even false modesty.

Social: Ambition- The Ambassador

This type will often gain their self-esteem through visible accomplishments as well as through social approval. This subtype will be in tune with and empathize with other people’s needs.

They will become an important and indispensable part of organizations because of this. Rather than being the center of attention, these people find it most important to be allied with the right people.

One-to-One: Seduction/Aggression- The Lover

Type 2’s have a great capacity for being interpersonally attuned and for making connections. This subtype specifically uses those skills to win the approval of a select group of people in one-to-one relationships.

They can use body language and certain speaking tones that some may consider seductive, though not always in a sexual sense. In more aggressive styles of this subtype, this can also lead to them wanting more personal attention and recognition.

Enneagram 3 Subtypes

enneagram 3 subtypes

Enneagram 4 Instinctual Variants:

Self-preservation: Security- The Company Man/Woman

Type 3’s have a great ability to work hard, maintain a good image, and perform well. These are placed in the area of seeking material success for this subtype. They have high drive and energy, which is used to accomplish such goals as getting a nice home and achieving financial security.

This subtype struggles with becoming too involved with their role at work and potentially losing their true self in the process.

Social: Prestige- The Politician

This subtype’s drive for success is usually involved with gaining social approval. They want to know the right people and gain power in social groups, whether in community groups, government, or even business.

This type can make themselves appear to be more of a leader than they are through image-making or forms of propaganda, or there can actually be genuine social leadership. They are focused on having the right image and knowing how to climb the social ladder. They are concerned about their appearance in the eyes of others.

One-to-One: Masculinity/Femininity- The Movie Star

This subtype also wants to create a successful image. They feel their charisma and personal power come from being an attractive man or woman. This subtype tends to stay in a sort of performer role, no matter whether it’s in personal relationships or on the stage. They want to have an image that is appealing to others and are focused on pleasing the people around them.

Enneagram 4 Subtypes

Enneagram 4 Instinctual Variants:

Self-preservation: Dauntlessness- The Creative Individualist

This type is courageous. They aren’t afraid to pack up and move, jump into a new situation, or even take risks. Their actions may seem reckless to others, but they work well as they have a more creative or artistic style. These people struggle between wanting material security and yet also feeling detached from it all.

Social: Shame/Honor- The Critical Commentator

This subtype often feels a sense of deficiency in some social situations. They will often feel envious towards those with status or who have an appearance of belonging. They will often feel like they need to find a resolution to the tension between social expectations and being your true self. This subtype needs to be able to have an acceptable social role.

One-to-One: Competitiveness- The Dramatic Person

Competition is a good thing for this subtype. It can help them overcome those feelings of inner deficiency and help them be self-motivated towards their own personal goals and agenda. These types of people will see the strength or power of others and see it as a personal challenge. Their personal value will often rise or fall in comparison to others.

Enneagram 5 Subtypes

Enneagram 5 Instinctual Variants:

Self-preservation: Home– The Castle Defender

This type sees their home as their own castle, a place to feel safe and hide from the world. This type will go to great lengths to defend their “castle” and is concerned with having enough supplies.

They are good at establishing boundaries with other people and know when they need to be alone. They like to minimize their needs, find refuge or a safe place, and then have supplies and everything they need within that refuge.

Social: Totem/Symbols- The Professor

This subtype is hungry for knowledge, and they often become experts in the specific areas or topics of interest to them. They enjoy gaining knowledge and connecting with others who have similar intellectual interests.

They are often more connected to those with whom they are connected through areas of expertise rather than those close to them daily. They emphasize analysis and interpretation, which can stop them from participating with others.

One-to-One: Confidentiality- The Secret Agent

This subtype often shares their deepest thoughts and feelings from within themselves with others in one-to-one relationships. They have a secretive quality or can be seen as being extremely reserved.

They also will often experience conflict between needing to connect with others while also maintaining autonomy. They are usually more in touch with their emotions but won’t show it much on the outside.

Enneagram 6 Subtypes

enneagram 6 subtypes

Enneagram 6 Instinctual Variants:

Self-preservation: Warmth- The Family Loyalist

This subtype is often more fearful than others. They will often overcome this fear by making connections or agreements with other people. This is done through personal warmth as this type does not want to be left alone.

If this type experiences a lack of warmth or even a threat to their personal security early on in their life, this can create a fear within them that keeps them from taking risks and making them feel the need to stay within boundaries they know well. They enjoy having a sense of certainty and safety, though it is hard for them to find it.

Social: Duty- The Social Guardian

These types of people need to know and understand their role in society or within a group. They need to know the rules and have clear agreements with others. They often feel unsure about whether or not they belong.

They feel it is their calling and burden to do their duty. These people are often logical and rational and find safety in following the guidelines of a system.

One-to-One: Strength or Beauty- The Warrior

There are 2 ways this subtype overcomes or avoids fear. The first is through willpower, physical strength, and bravery. It could also be through the strength of a person’s intellect. The other way to handle self-doubt and fear is by using one’s perceptiveness and idealism to create beauty in the environment around them. Doing this helps the person to have a sense of stability and control.

Enneagram 7 Subtypes

Enneagram 7 Instinctual Variants:

Self-preservation: Family- The Gourmand

This subtype has a life full of family and friends. They are usually talkative and amiable people. They enjoy sharing good conversations and ideas with others and planning projects or cooperative efforts. They are good at seeing opportunities when they come and know how to get what they want through planning or working with others.

Social: Limitation/Sacrifice- The Utopian Visionary

This type struggles between needing friends and projects to express social idealism and a love of life. They will often find themselves working towards the greater good of a group or society even though it takes sacrifice and working with others.

They are good at seeing opportunities but don’t want to be seen as self-interested, so they will often sacrifice their own desires to be helpful to others.

One-to-One: Suggestibility/Fascination- The Adventurer

This type is considered the “idealistic dreamer” and often needs to imagine something better than the world around them. They love new ideas, adventures, and people. These people are often very enthusiastic and optimistic. They usually see things as they could be instead of how they truly are. They also have great power of suggestion.

Enneagram 8 Subtypes

Enneagram 8 Instinctual Variants:

Self-preservation: Satisfactory Survival- The Survivalist

This subtype uses their aggressiveness in physical survival and material security. These types of people will either win, or they’ll lose fighting anyway. They are extremely protective of their family and friends and will often create their own territory to take care of themselves and those they love. They are usually good with business and getting things done.

Social: Friendship/Social Causes- The Group Leader/Gang Leader

This subtype is focused on protecting, supporting, and guiding anyone, they are connected to or see as needing support. They can often be assertive and rebellious but will be more gentle when taking care of others.

They are often found in a leadership role of a group and will work towards the good of that group. Their loyalty to friends and social causes are more important than their personal feelings or needs.

One-to-One: Possession/Surrender- The Commander

This type wants control over their partners or significant others. They will often use forcefulness and self-assertion to accomplish this. They can sometimes be unable to adapt. They tend to be rebellious and enjoy being the center of things. They enjoy having power over others and tend to be more provocative and passionate as well.

Enneagram 9 Subtypes

enneagram 9 subtypes

Enneagram 9 Instinctual Variants:

Self-preservation: Appetite- The Collector

This subtype is great at creating a sensible infrastructure and patterns in life. They like familiar routines as well. They often become blind to personal needs and fill these with material consumption, often making them collectors. Material abundance and comfort are important to them but often comes before other ways of personal growth.

Social: Participation- The Community Benefactor

These types of people work hard to support their groups and do this to find belonging and comfort. They like to feel as though they are a part of things. They are fun, light-hearted people who work hard to do what it takes to be accepted by a group or community.

They also blend in well with their friends and social groups. They often make great leaders, are very selfless, and forget about personal priorities when taking care of groups first.

One-to-One: Union- The Seeker

This subtype has trouble keeping personal boundaries and focusing on themselves. They are seeking to be with a partner and, as a result, can often easily be pulled outside of themselves.

They will often align their personal desires and attitudes with other important people in their lives. They tend to be sweet, gentle, and less assertive people. They will often take on the opinions and feelings of others without realizing it.

Do you want to continue learning more about your type and how you are connected to other numbers, such as your wings?  Check out the post, All 18 Enneagram Wings | Helpful Descriptions for Every Type.

You will also enjoy the following posts:

Understanding Enneagram Stances | How It Influences Your Interactions With Others

The 3 Enneagram Triads + Advice For Responding To Emotions For Each Type

Enneagram Subtype References: