Enneagram Instinctual Variants
In addition to the Enneagram type, people are also considered to be one of three instinctual variants (also called subtypes). The self-preservation instinct (dealing with oneself), the sexual (dealing with another person) and the social instinct (dealing with a group) can be most pronounced.
We strongly identify with one primary drive and with some secondary traits in another drive. On the occasion when two of the instinctual drives are equally dominant, it is noteworthy that the third drive is usually omitted. This perhaps still demonstrates the imbalanced use of the three very essential instinctual drives. The teaching of Instinctual Subtypes suggests that these fundamental instinctual drives need to be equally cared for and in balance in order to harness the energy needed to move toward transformation. The concept is that the energy expended in dealing with the instinctual drives' imbalance diminishes one's access to the energy necessary to move against fixation and toward transformation.
Self Preservation (SP) Instinct
People who have this as their dominant instinct are preoccupied with the safety, comfort, health, energy, and well-being of the physical body. In a word, they are concerned with having enough resources to meet life's demands. Identification with the body is a fundamental focus for all humans, and we need our body to function well in order to be alive and active in the world. Most people in contemporary cultures are not faced life or death "survival" in the strictest sense; thus, Self-Preservation types tend to be concerned with food, money, housing, medical matters, and physical comfort. Moreover, those primarily focused on self-preservation, by extension, are usually interested in maintaining these resources for others as well. Their focus of attention naturally goes towards things related to these areas such as clothes, temperature, shopping, decorating, and the like, particularly if they are not satisfied in these areas or have a feeling of deficiency due to their childhoods. Self-Pres types tend to be more grounded, practical, serious, and introverted than the other two instinctual types. They might have active social lives and a satisfying intimate relationship, but if they feel that their self-preservation needs are not being met, still tend not to be happy or at ease. In their primary relationships, these people are "nesters"—they seek domestic tranquility and security with a stable, reliable partner.
Sexual (aka "Attraction") (SX) Instinct
Many people originally identify themselves as this type because they have learned that the Sexual types are interested in "one-on-one relationships." But all three instinctual types are interested in one-on-one relationships for different reasons, so this does not distinguish them. The key element in Sexual types is an intense drive for intimacy and a constant awareness of the "chemistry" between themselves and others. Sexual types are immediately aware of the attraction, or lack thereof, between themselves and other people. Further, while the basis of this instinct is related to sexuality, it is not necessarily about people engaging in the sexual act. There are many people that we are excited to be around for reasons of personal chemistry that we have no intention of "getting involved with." Nonetheless, we might be aware that we feel stimulated in certain people's company and less so in others. The sexual type is constantly moving toward that sense of intense stimulation and intimacy in their relationships and in their activities. They are the most "energized" of the three instinctual types, and tend to be more aggressive, competitive, charged, and emotionally intense than the Self-Pres or Social types. Sexual types need to have deep intimacy in their primary relationships or else they remain unsatisfied. They enjoy being intensely involved—even merged—with others, and can become disenchanted with partners who are unable to meet their need for intense energetic union. Losing yourself in a "fusion" of being is the ideal here, and Sexual types are always looking for this state with others and with stimulating objects in their world.
Social (aka "Adaptive") (SO) Instinct
Just as many people tend to misidentify themselves as Sexual types because they want one-on-one relationships, many people fail to recognize themselves as Social types because they get the (false) idea that this means always being involved in groups, meetings, and parties. If Self-Preservation types are interested in adjusting the environment to make themselves more secure and comfortable, Social types adapt themselves to serve the needs of the social situation they find themselves in. Thus, Social types are highly aware of other people, whether they are in intimate situations or in groups. They are also aware of how their actions and attitudes are affecting those around them. Moreover, Sexual types seek intimacy, Social types seek personal connection: they want to stay in long-term contact with people and to be involved in their world. Social types are the most concerned with doing things that will have some impact on their community, or even broader domains. They tend to be warmer, more open, engaging, and socially responsible than the other two types. In their primary relationships, they seek partners with whom they can share social activities, wanting their intimates to get involved in projects and events with them. Paradoxically, they actually tend to avoid long periods of exclusive intimacy and quiet solitude, seeing both as potentially limiting. Social types lose their sense of identity and meaning when they are not involved with others in activities that transcend their individual interests.
How the Enneagram Personality System Works
Enneagram Instinctual Subtypes
The Enneagram ‘Tritype’ is based on fifteen years of research, hundreds of coaching sessions and tens of thousands of Enneacards Test results. This revolutionary concept significantly advances Enneagram study, revealing that we each use not just one, but three Enneagram Types in a preferred order.
Your Tritype consists of one Enneagram Type in each center of intelligence: Head (567), Heart (234) and Gut (891). Although one Enneagram Type is dominant, you also use two other types in a consistent order.
Tritype explains the distinct differences of those sharing the same Enneagram Type. For example, the 874 is a fast-paced, optimistic, creative, and emotional type 8 whereas the 826 is a more dutiful, loyal and helpful type 8.
Additionally, Tritype explains why those sharing the same Enneagram Types have a natural affinity for one another. For example, the 126, 216 and 612, are all focused on helping and being supportive of others regardless of which type is dominant.
The three types within your Tritype intersect, creating a unique defense strategy and focus of attention. The high side of this intersection is that it gives your life direction, focus and purpose. The low side of this intersection, is that it creates a blind spot which narrows your ability to accurately self assess which may keep you locked in self defeating patterns.
Most importantly, your Tritype combination identifies key aspects of your personality which when understood, can illuminate your path to greater self-awareness and a more fulfilling life.
How the Tritype works
Although one of these three Types is dominant, or your primary Type, the other two Types play a large role in your life. What is surprising is that these two other Types are not always the Types along the lines of connection (the lines connected to your primary Type).
For example, if you are a Type 9 you may or may not have Type 3 and/or Type 6 as part of your Tritype. You could have a Tritype of 9-2-6 or 9-3-6 or 9-4-6 or 9-2-5, 9-2-7 and so on. Each Tritype combination creates a different expression of Enneagram Type. If you are an Enneagram Type 4 you might have a Tritype of 4-6-8. This would mean you predominantly use Type 4, however, if the 4 strategies donï¿½t work you will next use the strategies of Type 6 and then Type 8. Your Enneagram Type 4 would still be in charge. However, when the 4 strategies fails to produce results and all permutations (wings and lines of connections) of Type 4 have been exhausted, you will then shift to use the dominant Type in each of the other two centers to manage problems and create solutions.
If your primary Type is 8, you might have a Tritype configuration of 8-7-4. The primary Enneagram Type for you would be Type 8, however, this Tritype combination indicates that you would most likely be a strong, positive person who seeks solutions (8), options (7) and meaning (4). What is fascinating is that if the strategy of Type 8 fails to give you the desired results of overcoming obstacles, you would then employ the strategy of Type 7 and then if needed Type 4.
The Tritype reveals the distinct differences of those sharing the same Enneagram Type. The Tritype also explains how individuals sharing the same three fixations may have more in common than those sharing the same Enneagram Type.
For example, if you were an 8-7-4, you would have secondary strategies that are very different than an 8-2-6. The 8-7-4 is a fast paced creative, feelingful and optimistic Type 8 whereas the 8-2-6 is a more cynical, loyal and helpful Type 8. Further, if you are the 8-7-4 Type 8, you may relate more to a 7-4-8 than another Type 8 that has a different Tritype.
Understanding the Tritype in practice.
Just as with your primary Enneagram Type you will experience the other Types in your Tritype in both positive and negative ways.
To understand how this works in practice, if someone with a Tritype of 8-7-4, finds that taking charge like an 8 isn't working, they may try to lighten up or be positive like a 7, and if that doesn't work, may search for meaning like a 4. The 8 fear of being disempowered is driving the process. If the 8 still feels disempowered and unable to direct their circumstances the 8-7-4 may feel over-extended and scattered (7) and painfully lacking (4). So this person has used the strategies of three Enneagram Types, one from each of the three Enneagram Centers (Head-Heart-Gut), in a preferred order of 8-7-4.
Another example would be a 4-6-8. Here we have a more aggressive and reactive Type 4 than say a 4-9-5, who would be more withdrawn, passive (9) and avoidant (5). Another example would be a 9-7-2. This would be the Type 9 with a very rosy and positive outlook desiring easygoing relationships. A 9-5-3 would be the kind of 9 who is more intellectual (5), perfectionistic and focused on efficiency (3) with less of an emphasis on maintaining harmonious relationships than other 9s.