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 of people. 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 additional aspects of a person’s personality, depending on the situation.

There is a lot to look at when it comes to personality. Several different factors influence the traits and behaviors of each type. Examining how our instincts also affect how we interact with the world around us begins with understanding Enneagram Subtypes, or in other words, the instinctual variants of each type.

What Is An Enneagram Instinctual Variant?

As you may already know, there are nine different Enneagram types, essentially nine different personality types. There are three subtypes within each of those personality types called instinctual variants. The three instinctual variants, or Enneagram Subtypes, are self-preservation, sexual, and social instincts.

The three Enneagram Subtypes refer to how we interact with others and our world. Understanding Enneagram Subtypes provides further insight into how individual persons deal with life, people, and situations depending on their instincts.

Enneagram Subtypes helps us better understand how a person functions in that specific area of life:

  • The Self-Preservation Instinct helps us understand how a person prioritizes safety and security for themself.
  • The Sexual Instinct provides insight concerning why some people focus on intimacy, closeness, and shared experiences within their relationships.
  • The Social Instinct explains the patterns and behaviors of individuals that prioritize socializing and the good of a group.

These instinctual variants are also three basic survival strategies known as basic instincts. Further, Enneagram Subtypes help explain how individuals that are the same type may respond differently:

  • Self-Preservation focuses on minimizing threats to their needs and safety.
  • The Social Instinct focuses on social structures within our communities.
  • The Sexual (One-to-One) instinct focuses on primary relationships or coupling.

Finding Your Dominate 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 is always one core personality type and dominating instinctual variant.

How To Know Your Enneagram Subtype

One way to figure out which subtype is the primary influence in your life is to pay attention to where your attention is focused as you are out in public or in a group setting. The next time you’re at a party or in a social environment, notice how you interact and what you prioritize. Awareness of the things you pay attention to can be telling about your main instinctual variant.

Suppose you immediately notice the environment, everything from the music and lights to the layout, decorations, and even the room’s temperature. In that case, 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 create a close bond, this could signify having a dominant Sexual instinct.

You may have the Social Instinct as your dominating enneagram subtype for those aware of where their friends are, blend in with a group, or focus on having a good time.

Enneagram Subtypes Chart & Overview

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

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

The chart explains the name of each instinctual variant and a word that emphasizes their biggest priority or attribute. Here is a chart to help organize the Enneagram 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 ensuring 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. This subtype likes being prepared, even down to the smallest of details. This type will also avoid showing their anger but will often feel very frustrated when disrupted.

Social: Inadaptability- The Social Reformer

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

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 as helping others do things right or to be perfect.

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

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

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 shows 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 oneself.

Enneagram 2 Subtypes

Enneagram 2 Instinctual Variants:

Self-preservation: Privilege- The Nurturer

This subtype is excellent at creating personable and warm relationships with people. Much of their attention will go towards nurturing, supporting, and helping others. This aspect can sometimes make them feel entitled concerning their desires. Unfortunately, this can result in a prideful attitude or even false modesty.

Social: Ambition- The Ambassador

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

They will become an essential 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 making connections. This subtype 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 3 Instinctual Variants:

Self-preservation: Security- The Company Man/Woman

Type 3’s have a remarkable ability to work hard, maintain a good image, and perform well. They have high drive and energy to accomplish goals such as getting a lovely home and achieving financial security. This subtype will seek material success. However, this subtype can also struggle with becoming too involved with their role at work and potentially losing their true self.

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 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 want an image that is appealing to others and focus on pleasing the people around them. 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.

Enneagram 4 Subtypes

Enneagram 4 Instinctual Variants:

Self-preservation: Dauntlessness- The Creative Individualist

These people struggle between wanting material security and feeling detached from it all. 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 with a more creative or artistic style.

Social: Shame/Honor- The Critical Commentator

This Enneagram subtype often feels a sense of deficiency in some social situations. They will often feel envious of 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 their 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 self-motivate towards personal goals and agendas. These types can recognize the strength or power of others and see it as unique competition. Their values 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 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 Enneagram 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 often connect more easily with others through areas of expertise. 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 and are often perceived as being extremely reserved.

They 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 usually 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 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 familiar boundaries they know well. They enjoy having a sense of certainty and safety, though they often think it is difficult to find.

Social: Duty- The Social Guardian

This Enneagram subtype needs to 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 think it is their calling and burden to do their duty. These people are logical and rational and find safety in following the guidelines of a system.

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

There are two ways this Enneagram subtype overcomes or avoids fear. The first is through willpower, physical strength, and bravery. It could also be through the power of a person’s intellect. The other way they handle self-doubt and fear is by using one’s perceptiveness and idealism to create beauty in their environment. 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 Enneagram 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 work 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 perceived as self-interested, so they will often sacrifice their 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 Enneagram subtype uses their aggressiveness in physical survival and material security. They are highly protective of their family and friends and will often create their territory to take care of themselves and those they love. They are usually good with business and getting things done. This type will either win or die trying.

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

This subtype focuses 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.

Enneagram 9 Subtypes

enneagram 9 subtypes

Enneagram 9 Instinctual Variants:

Self-preservation: Appetite- The Collector

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

Social: Participation- The Community Benefactor

These 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 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 connect 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 Subtypes References: