The Power of our Basic Instinct
The Enneagram Subtype
The Enneagram model catagorises people into nine basic personality types. However, because we humans are complex beings, these nine types don’t actually give us the whole picture. Of course, it’s a fantastic place to start when it comes to understanding what motivates our behaviour. But, to get a truly comprehensive handle on why we act and react the way we do, we need to delve a little deeper. This is why each of the Enneagram personality types is further split into three sub-types.
These sub-types are based on our three basic instinctual drives, namely:
- Self-preservation – our need to be safe. This encompasses our need for material safety – such as food, shelter and warmth – as well as emotional safety, such as our relationships with our family.
- One-on-One – our need to connect with others. This instinct governs our friendships and intimate relationships, and our sexuality.
- Social – our need for place. This embraces our desire to have a valid place in society, a sense of belonging within a group, and within our larger community.
We all have all of these instincts inside us, but one is usually more dominant than the others. It defines the values and attitudes to which we are most attracted, and with which we feel most comfortable. The second most dominant instinct acts as a support for the primary one, while the least dominant represents the blind spot in our personality.
While these instinctual drives have a profound effect on our personality, it actually works both ways. Our personality also determines – to a large extent – the way in which we prioritise each of these instinctive needs. Examining how our Enneagram personality type combines with our dominant instinct gives us a much clearer picture of the inner workings of our overall personality.
The Three Instincts In More Detail
People whose dominant instinct is self-preservation are preoccupied with their physical well-being. It’s very important to them that they have enough resources – food, money, clothing, medical care and physical comfort – to meet the demands of their life. This is not as self-absorbed as it may seem, however, as ensuring others have the same resources is also important to them.
People dominated by self-preservation tend to be more practical and serious than those dominated by one of the other two instincts. They may be socially active, and have good intimate relationships, but can still feel uneasy if they feel their needs are not being met. They tend to be “nesters,” actively seeking out domestic security with a reliable partner.
One On One
Although all three instinctual types seek one on one relationships, they all do so for different reasons. Those who are dominated by this instinct are highly in tune with the chemistry, or lack of, between themselves and others. This is not only true in a sexual context, but also in terms of feeling excitement at being around interesting and stimulating people. One on one people are generally the most energised of the three instinctual types, and tend to be more competitive, aggressive and emotionally intense than those in the other two groups. Their primary relationships need to be intensely energetic to stop them feeling unsatisfied, and they will actively search for the same energy and urgency in their significant partners.
Many people think that those with a dominant social instinct are always the life and soul of the party. That they crave constant social interaction and are uncomfortable on their own. This is not actually true at all. Social types are highly aware of how their actions and attitudes impact the other people around them. They are highly skilled at adapting themselves to better serve the needs of the social situation in which they find themselves. Whereas One on One types seek intimacy, Social types seek genuine personal connections, wanting long-term contact and active involvement in the lives of others. They are engaging, warm, open and more socially responsible than the other two groups.
The Importance Of Understanding Our Subtypes
Our subtypes are the reason why there is so much variation in behaviour among people with the same main Enneagram personality type. Each one has its own distinct flavour, which influences our emotional energy and passion.
Because instincts are, well, instinctive, we are not always aware of them. This means we don’t always notice the impact they have as clearly as other people do. This is why understanding, coupled with conscious communication, are so important. Without them, even a small change in subtype emphasis can, over time, negatively impact our relationships. Becoming more in tune with our own subtypes – and those of the people closest to us – we can help avoid conflict and misunderstandings. When we understand our instincts, and how they affect our behaviour, it helps us live more balanced, healthier lives.
Each of the nine Enneagram personality type has three sub-types. Next week, we’ll unpack these in more detail.
If you’d like to find out more about Enneagram, and the amazing impact it can have on your team dynamics and productivity, contact Ellen Edwards on 082 940 2486, or email her at email@example.com.