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?
Now that we’ve introduced instincts and subtypes, let’s have a quick chat about countertypes.
Countertypes are one of the reasons people mistype themselves.
Of the 27 subtypes (9 types, each with three subtypes), nine are known as countertypes. That is, one type from each group of three doesn’t match the stereotypical descriptions of that type.
Before we take a brief look at the nine countertypes and the types they can look like, just note that the stereotypes I refer to are how each type can be generalized, rather than being a well-rounded representation of that type.
As a quick reminder, a subtype is the passion of the relevant Enneagram type, mixed with the dominant instinct. Read more about them here.
The stereotype of the Enneagram One is the contained perfectionist - someone who is attentive to details, has an eye on quality control, and is reliable and hardworking. They generally do a good job of keeping their anger under wraps.
However the Sexual One can express their anger more easily than the other One subtypes. They are still self-critical, but are more critical of others and focus on fixing the world around them rather than themselves. Which is why this subtype is called the ‘reformer’.
Enneagram Twos are stereotyped as being helpful or giving, whether they want to be or not. They work hard to be liked and be indispensable to the people who are important to them. They take care of others with the hope their needs will be filled in return.
Not all Twos resonate with this version of helping. In fact the Self-Preservation Two is very cautious about who they connect with, knowing that investing in a person will demand a lot of their energy. They can appear more child-like and youthful, often seeking an “adult” to take care of them.
The stereotype of the Enneagram Three is the person in the sharp suit, making deals, driving shiny cars and regularly earning promotions and pay rises. They are comfortable delivering a performance to a few or many, and are seen as lacking empathy in their drive for success.
In stark contrast, the Self-Preservation Three is humble, modest and driven to be a good person. They don’t wear designer label clothes, and they might have a nice car but feel embarrassed to be seen driving it. They can still be workaholics, but as opposed to being seen as successful they want to be seen as being good.
They can be mistaken for Ones.
Enneagram Fours are stereotyped as the emotional drama queens who constantly complain about what they don't have. While their emotional depth is a strength, they constantly compare themselves to others, feel sad and let people know about it.
The Self-Preservation Four is very different. They internalize their suffering, appearing stoic, strong and enduring pain alone. They don’t share their feelings, pain or comparisons with others. They keep so much inside that they often appear happy while internally struggling. They are hardworking and quietly competitive.
Enneagram Fives are often stereotyped as private people who lock themselves away to avoid anyone or anything intruding on their private space. They are known for compartmentalizing their feelings, so they can navigate life from the safety of analysis and logic.
While the Sexual Five may look a little like the stereotypical description on the outside, their inner world is awash with emotions and romantic idealism. They have a far greater need for relationships and intimacy than other Fives. And they express their emotions through various artistic mediums - poetry, painting, song writing, and so on.
They can see themselves as Fours.
The countertype of the Enneagram Six is more widely known than most of the others. The fearful or phobic six is the Self-Preservation Six, who reacts to fear by going on the defensive. Making friends and alliances to protect themselves with.
The Sexual Six, or counterphobic Six, goes on the offensive, reacting to threats with agression. They aim to appear strong and intimidate others to avoid being vulnerable. They can be rebels, risk takers, or trouble makers, and often aren't aware of how fear drives their behavior.
They can be mistaken for Eights.
Enneagram Sevens are stereotyped as the hedonistic party animals of the Enneagram. Permanently optimistic and convincing everyone to have a good time. They constantly make plans to do what feels good to them and rope people into their adventures along the way.
However Social Sevens aren’t as focused on their own pleasure. They focus on being of service to heal others' pain, aiming to make the world a better place. They are drawn to professions that aim to reduce suffering such as doctors, nurses, chaplains, and therapists. They want to be seen as good, selfless and forgiving.
They can be mistyped as Twos.
Enneagram Eights often get stereotyped by others as confrontational and aggressive. They are direct, not afraid to go against convention or authority, and have no problem doing things their way, but aren't always aware of how their energy impacts others.
However, Social Eights have a calm, gentle energy as they focus on protecting and supporting people. They aren’t as aggressive or as dominating as the other Eight subtypes, and devote themselves to mentoring others or to social justice issues such as the protection of children, women or animals from exploitation or harm.
Enneagram Nines get stereotyped as slow paced, couch potatoes focused on their own comfort. While they are going with the flow, Nines can be very busy working on everything but what matters to them.
Social Nines are extremely busy, often workaholics, as they strive to actively participate in every group they are a part of - work, family and hobbies. They often find themselves in leadership positions because they are always acting in service of others. They appear friendly but don’t let anyone see how stressed they really are.
Countertypes give us a great snapshot into how people of the same time can look so different and have similar yet different underlying motivations. If you aren’t certain about your type, you might find it helpful to read a little more about the relevant countertypes and take a deeper look at your own motivations.