Instinctual Subtypes

TNE Core Faculty member Peter O’Hanrahan describes the Instinctual Subtypes.

What are subtypes?

Our evolution as human beings has required three basic survival strategies, known as the basic instincts:

  • Self-preservation – responding to perceived threats and needs
  • Social – creating social structures within communities
  • One-to-one – primary relationships or coupling; also known as the Sexual subtype

In Enneagram terms, the word “subtype” describes how the three basic instincts are expressed in everyday life, influenced by an Enneagram type’s driving emotional energy or passion. While we each embody all of the basic instincts, one tends to dominate. This explains much of the variation among people of the same type, as all of the nine Enneagram types have three instinctual variations, totaling 27 subtypes – each with a distinct flavor.

Why do they matter?

Our subtype pattern can influence our daily experience even more than our Enneagram type. We don’t often notice its impact as clearly as others in our lives do, especially when they are a different subtype. Without understanding and conscious communication, even small differences in subtype emphasis can create relationship challenges over time. So by becoming more awake to your own subtype – and the subtypes of those close to you – you can help prevent misunderstandings and conflict with others whose preoccupations differ from yours.

Some people see their primary subtype quite quickly, while for others it’s a matter of study over time. Those who know us well may offer useful feedback, since we don’t always see ourselves objectively. For further exploration, check out our upcoming classes that explore Instincts & Subtypes.

peter o'hanrahan headshot
At the meeting of spiritual archetype and biological instinct, the Enneagram subtypes help us identify our path in life.
Peter O'Hanrahan
TNE Core Faculty
comfortable woman

Self-Preservation Instinct

Governs our needs for material supplies and security, including food, shelter, warmth and family relations

A group of friends takes a selfie on a rooftop with green hills in the background.

Social Instinct

Governs our needs for belonging and membership within the larger group and community

happy older couple

One-to-One Instinct

Governs our sexuality, intimate relationships and close friendships, and the vitality of the life force within our bodies.

Self-Preservation Subtypes

Social Subtypes

One-to-One Subtypes