Acting on Instinct - Understanding your Enneagram Personality Subtypes - E-Mediate

Acting on Instinct – Understanding your Enneagram Personality Subtypes

In our last blog, we introduced you to the Enneagram subtypes, which are based on our three basic instinctual drives: Self-preservation, One-on-one and Social. This time, we take a deeper dive into how these sub-types manifest in each of the nine different personality types.

Type 1: The Perfectionist

In Enneagram Type 1s, the self-preservation instinct most often presents as anxiety. Ones are highly concerned about security and survival, and are anxious to be a good person and always do the right thing. They believe in imposing order (or their idea of it) on the world, and prioritise taking care of their families above all other needs.

Although Ones are friendly and sociable when in their own environment, they can find it difficult to adapt to new situations if they aren’t sure of the rules. This can lead to their social instinct manifesting as resentment or criticism.

Ones can come across as over-zealous as they strive for correct behaviour. Their one-to-one instinct frequently results in self-recrimination and jealousy, and they can be resentful of others who are better able than they to express themselves.

Type 2: The Giver

Twos excel in creating warm, friendly relationships with others. They devote much time and attention to meeting the needs of others, yet ironically, their self-preservation instinct makes them feel entitled and privileged when it comes to meeting their own needs.

Social approval and acknowledged accomplishments are how Twos feed their self-esteem. Their overriding ambition is to align with others and help them create important roles within their organisations.

Twos feel even brief one-to-one relationships have to offer approval, so they will go out of their way to be seductive – although not necessarily in a sexual way. If they don’t get the approval they crave, seduction can give way to aggression.

Type 3: The Performer

Threes equate self-preservation with security. They work hard in order to achieve material success, but run the risk of devoting so much time to providing a nice home and financial security that they lose touch with themselves or their loved ones.

A Three’s social instinct is hard-wired towards attaining prestige. Moving in the right circles and achieving a degree of power (in business or within their community) is very important. Sometimes this stems from a genuine desire to lead effectively, but can also simply be to create a certain image.

This striving for social success overlaps with a Three’s one-to-one instinct. This manifests as a strong desire to be powerful, charismatic and attractive. There is a strong focus on enhancing their femininity or masculinity.

Type 4: The Romantic

Type 4s don’t often seem to have a self-preservation instinct, as they are frequently completely dauntless, happy to take risks and jump into new situations without much apparent thought. Others view them as reckless, but 4’s manage to pull it off with an artistic, if unorthodox, style!

Socially, Fours oscillate between feeling shame and honour. It’s easy for them to feel inferior, and envious of others’ status, but they try to counter this by establishing a socially-acceptable role within their group, such as the peacemaker or emotional storyteller.

Fours overcome their inner feelings of inadequacy by being highly competitive. Their one-to- one instinct is to view someone else’s superior ability or strength as a challenge they have to meet. Success or failure in this regard influences how they perceive their own value.

Type 5: The Observer

Type 5s have a highly developed self-preservation instinct, and view home as the place in which they are safest from the world. They can be prone to hoarding, as always having enough supplies is important to them.

At a social level, Fives hunger for knowledge, but are prone to over analyse every nuance of their group or their greater society, fixating on the totems or symbols that characterise the people in it. This can alienate them from interacting and participating with others.

Although they value their autonomy, Fives treasure one-to-one relationships, seeing confidentiality and secret-sharing as a way into the private world of others.

Type 6: The Loyal Skeptic

In 6s, their self-preservation instinct means they don’t want to be left out in the cold. Early-life lack of warmth or feeling that their security is threatened can cause Sixes to be risk-averse in adulthood.

Sixes are bound by a strong sense of duty, and they have a strong need to be clear about exactly what their role is in their social group. Knowing where they stand, and what is expected of them, helps them overcome feelings of fear and rejection.

At a one-to-one level, Sixes overcome fear by sheer force of willpower, intellectual prowess or physical strength. This helps re-establish feelings of control and stability.

Type 7: The Epicure

Sevens place huge emphasis on family, and their self-preservation instinct manifests as a strong need to enjoy an abundant lifestyle with a big circle of friends and family. They love sharing ideas, having stimulating conversations and eating out.

Ironically, although Sevens love socialising with family, their social instinct is somewhat of a paradox. They sacrifice their own needs for the greater good of the group, and place limitations on their own expansiveness in order to fit in with group activities.

Sevens with a dominant one-to-one instinct are easily influenced by new people, ideas and adventures. However, they themselves have great powers of suggestion, and are highly adept at using their considerable charm to get people to do what they want.

Type 8: The Protector

When the self-preservation instinct is strong, Eights are able to channel their aggression into ensuring material security and physical survival. They are fiercely protective of their loved ones, making sure they have enough supplies to keep everyone safe.

Eights can feel powerless and hard done by, but a strong social instinct helps overcome this by motivating them to become part of a group, often in some kind of leadership role. They are very loyal, putting friends’ needs above their own.

Eights with a dominant one-to-one instinct like to possess a partner through forcefulness and self-assertion. However, their need for acceptance sometimes means they will surrender control to their partner.

Type 9: The Mediator

Type 9s submit to their self-preservation instinct by collecting material possessions. They have a strong appetite – for material abundance, comfort and food.

Nines’ social instincts lead them to make selfless contributions for the greater good. They are active participants in group settings, but tend to neglect personal priorities.

When a Nine’s one-to-one instinct is dominant, they have an overriding urge to merge – with a partner or some kind of spiritual entity. This can cause problems in day to day life, as personal boundaries frequently become blurred in their desire for union.

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