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?

Let’s continue our exploration of the 27 Enneagram subtypes by looking at the Head types: types Five, Six and Seven. 

First up, a quick reminder on what subtype is. A subtype is formed within our personality system when two core drives are mixed together, creating a blend of the two. The primary drive, from our emotional center, is our passion and it is still the most obvious in terms of our deeper motivations. But it’s expression is shaped by an instinctual drive for survival from the gut or body center.

Which is why, subtype = passion x instinctual drive.  

Let’s take a look at how these show up in types Five, Six and Seven.  

If you need a refresher on passions and instincts, read these articles:

Understanding the Passions of the Enneagram in Everyday Language

Subtypes and Instincts of the Enneagram: What are They, and How Do They Affect Human Behavior?

Enneagram Five

The Enneagram Five’s passion of avarice focuses on shutting down the heart and keeping it closed from giving and receiving. This gets expressed in three ways.

Avarice & Self-Preservation (self-preservation 5)

The Self-Preservation Five protects their heart by creating physical walls, withdrawing into a small room or house and having everything they need within those walls. They minimize their needs to make living in a small space feasible, but having a place of refuge is crucial. They are warm and friendly, but have a time limit on how long they can spend with someone. 

Given their warmth and logical side, they can appear Six-ish at times.

Avarice & Social (social 5)

The Social Five focuses on being knowledgeable and sharing that expertise with people. They use information to keep emotions at bay, and hence focus on learning and specializing in a few core topics. Talkative and social, they are extremely intellectual, getting more involved in the life of the mind than in relationships.

Given their social nature, they can appear Seven-ish or Three-ish

Avarice & Sexual (sexual 5)

The Sexual Five focuses on finding the ideal person to have the perfect relationship with. They won’t open up until someone has passed their “tests,” but staying closed makes it hard to build a relationship. These Fives are very emotional on the inside, and often communicate through artistic mediums, such as music, poetry and art. 

Given their strong connection to their emotions, these Fives can feel Fourish (but still look like Fives). 

Enneagram Six

The Enneagram Six’s passion of Fear gets expressed very differently when combined with the three survival instincts. 

Fear & Self-Preservation (self-preservation 6)

The Self-Preservation Six conceals fear by being warm and friendly. That helps them gather the allies and protectors they need around them to feel safe. They are the most anxious and doubting of all the Six subtypes. Their constant uncertainty and doubt leads them to question everything, including themselves.  

Given their warmth and anxiety, they can look One-ish or Two-ish at times.

Fear & Social (social 6)

The Social Six protects themselves from fear by finding a good authority and following their rules. That authority can be a person, but it can also be a system or an ideology. As they rely on their chosen system to keep them safe, they are more intellectual, dutiful, responsible and efficient. 

These Sixes can appear more One-ish or Three-ish

Fear & Sexual (sexual 6)

The Sexual Six confronts fear. They see the best way to deal with fear is by always being on the offensive. They can be strong, aggressive and intimidating, wanting to make themselves scary to anything that might be threatening. Given their approach to fear, they are often rebellious troublemakers. 

As these Sixes can easily tap into anger, they can be confused for Eights.

Enneagram Seven

Sevens express gluttony, that insatiable need for stimulation, in three different ways.

Gluttony & Self-Preservation (self-preservation 7)

The Self-Preservation Seven is a glutton for ensuring their physical and material needs are taken care of. They are good at networking and having friends who can help them meet their needs. They are excellent at spotting opportunities and swiftly taking advantage of them. Practical and pragmatic, they are good at making things happen as a way of avoiding pain and suffering.

As they prioritize networking and success, they can appear like Threes and Sixes at times. 

Gluttony & Social (social 7)

The Social Seven avoids gluttony and it’s selfish tendencies, instead wanting to be seen as good, selfless and not taking advantage of people. They want to create a world without pain, and often choose professions that support that, such as therapists, chaplains, doctors and nurses. 

These Sevens can be mistaken as Twos given their drive to help others. 

Gluttony & Sexual (sexual 7)

The Sexual Seven is the most idealistic and enthusiastic of the Sevens. They are dreamers, living in a world of their own imagination, seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses.  These Sevens use gluttony to imagine the world as being better than what it is, to help them avoid the pain of reality.

Given their intensity, busyness and optimism they can be mistaken for Eights or Nines at times. 

What’s next?

Don’t worry if you haven’t quite figured out your subtype. There’s a lot to consider and it's really hard to see our own behavior from another’s perspective. Instead of trying to see yourself in the descriptions, use a notebook to keep track of some of the actions you felt “compelled” to do. It won’t look like a life-or-death situation on the surface, but underneath you won’t even stop to think about whether you should do it, only that you must.

You will need to track these actions after the fact, so at the end of each day or week, make a note of what you did and the feeling that was behind them. Those feelings can range from excitement, worry, sadness to anger and more. And if you are really keen, make a note of what that action was trying to get for you. Was it about your physical health and safety or gaining material resources? Was it about belonging to a group or being in service? Or was it about connecting with people one-on-one or competing with them in some way? 

After a few weeks, review your notebook and look for patterns. Which instincts were activated most often? Which feelings were driving them? And what were they helping you to achieve?

This sort of self-reflection takes time, but it can be an excellent way to bring insight to our own behavior and see ourselves in a new light. 

Samantha Mackay

Samantha Mackay is a certified Enneagram and leadership development coach who believes work should be energizing, not draining. She combines the Enneagram with her experience of recovering from burnout twice to help leaders and teams thrive during stressful times. Connect with Samantha at