This blog post is part of our Fundamentals of the Enneagram series, which takes a deeper dive into all the Enneagram elements - wings, arrows, subtypes, centers of intelligence, growth pathways and more. For an overview of the series, start with our introductory post here, then read Subtypes and Instincts of the Enneagram: What are They, and How Do They Affect Human Behavior?
In our article on instincts and subtypes we introduced the concept of subtypes. But here is a brief refresher. If our “personality” represents the mask we wear everyday to protect ourselves from the world, then our subtype is “the mask of our mask.” So what part of the Enneagram system of personality could mask our core type from ourselves, making our motivations even harder to see?
Our instinct! When the energy from our passion blends with the energy from our dominant instinct, we get an energetic mix that drives each Enneagram type to behave in three different, sometimes very different, ways.
As a shorthand, subtype = passion x dominant instinct.
If you are doing the math, that gives us 27 subtypes within the Enneagram. And there are many lookalike types, because we can behave in very similar ways but for very different reasons. This is why it’s better to let people discover their Enneagram type for themselves, rather than randomly guessing based on their behavior.
And when it comes to using the Enneagram for growth and development, it’s helpful if we have identified the core motivators that are really driving our behavior, otherwise we can be reinforcing our personality rather than releasing it!
Over the next three articles we are going to explore the 27 subtypes by their Centre of Intelligence. Below we look at the subtypes of the three Body types, Eights, Nines and Ones. We’ll look at the subtypes of Heart types and Head types separately.
For each type, we’ll explore what happens when you combine the passion of the type with the dominant instinct, and what type they can be mistaken for. If you need a refresher on passions and instincts, read these articles:
And if you have a question, simply ask it in the comments below and I’ll get back to you.
Each subtype of the Enneagram Eight lusts after, or is excessive for, three different things.
Lust & Self-Preservation (Self-preservation 8)
The Self-Preservation Eight is good at making things happen. They focus on gaining material security, so they develop skills in negotiating, bartering and bargaining. They don’t need to talk much but when they do they are very direct and don’t explain themselves. They focus on protecting those who are close to them but have a very hard time expressing vulnerability and emotions.
While they have a big presence, their self-contained quiet nature can look quite Five-ish.
Lust & Social (Social 8)
The Social Eights focus on protecting people who are being exploited. They are loyal and friendly, but will still rebel against social norms. They don’t relate to being aggressive, as they focus on mentoring people and using their strength to lift others up. But if they see someone kick their dog, they will cross the road to have a word with them.
Lust & Sexual (Sexual 8)
The Sexual Eight is provocative, passionate and rebellious. They like to be the center of attention and to dominate a situation energetically. They are the most emotional, charismatic of the Eights, and have a lot of energy for relationships. They are quick to take action, without stopping to think things through.
This subtype is not often confused for another type, but can be mistaken for a Sexual Four.
Each subtype of Nine focuses on a different way to distract themselves (sloth) from their deeper agenda or purpose.
Sloth & Self-Preservation (Self-preservation 9)
The Self-Preservation Nine distracts themselves with physical comfort and routines. That can be eating, watching television and napping, it can also be refusing to start their day without their morning ritual of coffee, crosswords and affirmations. They are more comfortable spending time alone than other Nines.
As they can be more irritable than other Nines, they can look a little Eight-ish.
Sloth & Social (Social 9)
The Social Nine is one of the busiest types on the Enneagram, and can easily be workaholics. They distract themselves by focusing on groups, working hard to support the groups they belong to. They are warm, friendly and upbeat, but never show just how stressed they really are.
Sloth & Sexual (Sexual 9)
The Sexual Nine distracts themselves by merging with another person. Adopting their feelings, attitudes and beliefs, sometimes without realizing it. They find their sense of purpose in another person, instead of being grounded in their own. This Nine is shy, sweet and friendly, the most emotional of the Nine subtypes.
Ones use anger to be good or “perfect” in three different ways.
Anger & Self-Preservation (Self-preservation 1)
The Self-Preservation One uses their anger to constantly perfect themselves. They are extremely self-critical and worry constantly about things being in order. They are overly responsible but more focused on themselves than fixing others.
Anger & Social (Social 1)
The Social One uses their anger to be perfect. They research the right way to do something and then role model that behavior for others, often becoming teachers or working in some form of educational role, possibly for social causes. They can struggle to adapt to, or appreciate, different approaches.
As they can appear serious and intellectual, these Ones can look a little Five-ish.
Anger & Sexual (Sexual 1)
The Sexual One uses their anger to perfect others. They are more critical of others than themselves, although they are still self-critical with high standards. They can be ardent reformers, vehemently advocating for what they see as being right, whether that is for another person or society as a whole.
As you can see, there is a lot of variety within the subtypes of each type. And why people can behave in a similar way but for very different reasons. While it can be hard to see, it may be useful to take a deeper look at the way you have behaved in the past, and which subtype that you most closely resemble.