Understanding Enneagram Subtypes: How Each Instinct Affects Your Type (Part 2)05 August 2021 / By Julianne Ishler Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on August 05, 2021
In part one yesterday, we covered everything you’ve wanted to know about Enneagram subtypes. You learned what the instincts mean, how they stack up, what countertypes are, and how to use your subtype to understand where your emotional energy goes.
Now that you know how to use your subtype for deeper awareness of your patterns, we’ve provided a general overview of what each Enneagram subtype may look like. Keep in mind that “general” is the key word here—you may not fit the bill completely, but this can provide some insight into exploring your subtype further.
Below is a look at how the passion or emotional pattern of your type crosses over with the instinct to form your subtypes, and thus, keep your ego protected.
Type One, The Perfectionist
Self-preservation (Anxiety): The true perfectionists of the Enneagram, they see themselves as highly flawed and focus on improving themselves as much as they can. They are often anxious, and worrisome, focusing on achieving high goals as a way to be good and do right. They also tend to be warm, composed, and self-sacrificial.
One-to-one (Zeal - Countertype): Their obsession with improvement is focused directly on others. They have high standards and an idealistic view of how things should be, wanting to perfect others and lead them to doing the right thing. As a countertype, they are more comfortable with expressing anger rather than containing it.
Social (Not adaptable): They focus on doing what’s right in the larger sense, often reforming society or organizations. Like the other Ones, they have high perfectionistic standards and see their place as helping systems and structures become more perfect. They’re especially driven by justice stemming from their beliefs and values of how things should be in order to be better.
Type Two, The Giver
Self-preservation (Privilege - Countertype): They are often described as “childlike” because they can be coy and charming as a way to gain attention and approval. They want to be taken care of but at the same time, can be hesitant about connecting with others or feel burdened by helping. They are sensitive and tend to be more withdrawn, fearing rejection.
One-to-one (Seduction): They channel their energy into building and attracting strong, intimate relationships so they can feel supported in return. They’re often referred to as “seductive” because they use their intuitive abilities to pick up on the needs of others to create strong bonds in hopes of getting their needs met.
Social (Ambition): The most intellectual of the Twos, they use their intuitive capabilities to attract and engage groups to fulfill a common purpose. This ambitious type sees relationships as the avenue to success and focuses on creating bonds to get ahead and earn recognition. They love feeling connected and influential.
Type Three, The Achiever
Self-preservation (Security - Countertype): Instead of flaunting their strengths and successes, they avoid the spotlight and self-promotion. They work hard to ensure they have material success like financial security for themselves and their family. Often described as “vain about not being vain” they want to be seen as a good, hard working person. Like any Three, they risk over-identifying with their work.
One-to-one (Charisma): Their competitiveness is focused on supporting others, as they see success through the lens of who they’re associated with. This charming, relational type focuses on creating an image that’s attractive to others (i.e. partners, coworkers, other family members). They may, at the same time, compete for attention with those in their lives and sacrifice their feelings in the process.
Social (Prestige): The most spotlight-loving of the Threes, they are competitive, proactive, and skilled at self-promotion. They want to look flawless and perfect to those around them by focusing on achieving high status and material success. They are keen at reading a room and knowing how to connect with others in order to “climb the ladder.”
Type Four, The Individualist
Self-preservation (Tenacity - Countertype): Often referred to as “the sunny Fours,” they do not outwardly project their pain, suffering, or emotional experiences. Many of them have a stoic strength and/or appear upbeat on the outside, yet feel anxious and sad on the inside. They might be less inclined to share their feelings or pain, yet want to seek deep connections.
One-to-one (Competition): They focus on their own experiences and suffering, tending to compare themselves with others. This either leads to an inferiority or superiority complex, with an underlying belief that they are lacking in some way. Expressive and a tad dramatic, they are the most vocal about their needs and feelings while also being sensitive to rejection. They can appear three-ish in their drive for competition and wanting to be the best.
Social (Shame): They are deeply attuned to their own suffering and even find comfort in it. With a strong desire to be understood, they’ll often share their experiences with others in hopes of attracting support and admiration for their strength. As emotionally sensitive beings, they seek to be an authentic truth teller of their own suffering, which they often express through storytelling or the arts.
Type Five, The Investigator
Self-preservation (Castle): The most “five-ish” of Fives, they are very protective of their privacy and boundaries. They don’t want or need much to get by, except for a private space to withdraw when things get overwhelming. They prefer to observe rather than engage and tend to guard their emotional world, often having a small but close circle.
One-to-One (Confidant - Countertype): The most emotional of the Fives, they seek out strong and intense bonds with another person. They are highly romantic and tend to look for the “perfect partner” who they can share their private world with.
Social (Totem): This Five has a thirst for knowledge and mastery of a subject. They align themselves with groups or cohorts who share an area of intellectual interest and form meaningful connections. While they may disconnect from their feelings, they tend to be deeply connected with their values.
Type Six, The Skeptic
Self-preservation (Warmth): They overcome their fear and insecurity by creating strong bonds with others. Loyal and warm-hearted, they also tend to be self-sacrificing and over-committed. At the same time, they often doubt and question things around them (sometimes themselves) and err on the side of caution.
One-to-One (Intimidation - Countertype): This Six responds to fear by coming off as strong, assertive, and intimidating to others. As a “counterphobic” type, they choose fight over flight, often taking bold risks or rebelling against people or systems. They seek safety through strength, however, they risk becoming detached from their true feelings.
Social (Duty): This diligent and rule-following Six often aligns themselves with an outside cause or mission. They feel protected by and loyal to an authority figure, though they can also be quite skeptical. They feel comfortable with a clear and established role in the group and avoid rejection by following the rules and creating a sense of belonging.
Type Seven, The Enthusiast
Self-preservation (Network): They love enjoying life with a close group of family and friends and are good at getting what they want to make life work for them. Often great conversationalists, they love sharing ideas, asking questions, and recognizing opportunities. They also seek pleasure and indulgence, though they tend to be more rational than the other Sevens.
One-to-One (Fascination): This Seven sees the world through rose-colored glasses, idealizing every possibility and adventure. They have a passion for life and tend to see the good in everything and everyone. People are drawn to their magnetic and charming energy, and they can be quite persuasive to get people to see their side of things.
Social (Sacrifice - Countertype): While other Sevens are self-indulgent, the Social Seven sacrifices their pleasure for the greater good, and can appear Two-ish. They desire to be in service to others and lift them up, while wanting to be seen as “good” and selfless.
Type Eight, The Challenger
Self-preservation (Satisfaction): As the guardian or protective type, these Eights focus on survival, comfort, and material security. When their buttons are pressed, they tend to become hot-headed and frustrated and will do whatever it takes to get their needs met.
One-to-One (Possession): The most rebellious and emotional of the Eights, they like to be at the center of things. They are passionate about their beliefs and like to have influence over others or serve a worthy cause. They can also have a hard time letting go of control.
Social (Solidarity - Countertype): They use their power and influence to be of service to others and causes they care about. They are fiercely protective and loyal to their core group and display a softer side than other Eights. However, they have trouble accessing their emotional world and letting their guard down.
Type Nine, The Peacemaker
Self-preservation (Appetite): They find familiarity in routines and prioritize getting their physical needs met (sleeping, exercising, eating). These rhythms provide escape or comfort which, when unaware, can cause them to lose touch with their inner feelings, needs, and desires.
One-to-One (Fusion): These Nines will merge with the attitudes, feelings, and beliefs of significant people in their lives. They tend to be less assertive and more relationship-oriented, looking to feel a sense of comfort and harmony by being “one” with other people. Because of their need for connectedness, they risk losing touch with themselves.
Social (Participation - Countertype): While most Nines prefer to observe, this Nine loves to engage and often takes on the role of the facilitator. They seek comfort by belonging to a group and tend to be supportive, warm, and happy-go-lucky, with an underlying need to be accepted. Like the other Nines, their desire to blend in can lead them to be out of touch with their needs.
Being aware of your instinctual patterns helps you wake up to your potential and live a more balanced life. Because these patterns are so ingrained in us, we may not always be aware of the impact or control it has over our lives. Working with your subtypes helps you see your Enneagram type on a deeper level that is rooted within you on the basis of survival. It’s these small differences between people of the same Enneagram type that can help you notice where your energy goes in order to rebalance it and live out the highest expression of yourself.
For more resources on subtypes, we highly recommend checking out Beatrice Chestnut’s book The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge.