27 Sub-Types

- The type within a type

Historical View & Background:

In the ancient world, health, like beauty, was considered to be a matter of balance and harmony, the proper relationship of the parts to the whole. Aristotle suggested that it was only when true internal harmony was achieved, when each aspect of the psyche was performing what it was primitively meant to perform, that an individual had developed the internal conditions which enabled him or her to be excellent and to achieve true happiness. 

We do not have the knowledge of how to achieve this balance. We do not know how to achieve excellence or to be happy. 

In particular, we are flawed and fixated and do not have the knowledge of how to achieve liberation. We also do not know anyone who has this knowledge. Perhaps it once existed and has been lost to us. Perhaps it has always been the case that, as Socrates maintained, “virtue cannot be taught” although some degree of health, balance, and virtue can nevertheless sometimes be attained. 

Gurdjief, whose work in many ways prefigured the modern Enneagram of personality, believed that none of us use our energies properly; in particular, he emphasized the fact that all of us engage in what he called the “wrong use of centers.” We use our intellects perhaps, when feeling is called for, or perhaps we focus on feeling when we ought to move into action. Each of the Types of the Enneagram of personality engage in this wrong use of centers in Type specific ways, but the wrong use of centers extends to the various distortions of the instincts as well. So, for instance, an individual whose social instinct is dominant might try to use the energy of the social instinct to further the needs of the instinct for self-preservation. This utilization is inefficient however. Too much energy goes where it is not needed and not enough energy goes where it should. The "wrong use of centers" does not further the overall true needs of the individual.

General Description:

Claudio Naranjo defines what he refers to as the “essential core” of personality as an interference with Instincts by passion under the sustaining influence of a distorting cognition. Instinct, along with the intellect and emotions, constitutes the third center of human consciousness, and it too is constrained and bound by the influence of the dominant fixation.

Oscar Ichazo, the father of the modern Enneagram of personality, subdivided the instinctual center into three distinct individual centers, namely the instinct for self-preservation, the sexual instinct and the social instinct. Enneagram theorists have been working with these divisions ever since. These instincts are the most primitive portions of our being; they are that in us which is most akin to the other animals and they are affected by our fixations in ways that follow predictable patterns, in ways that are susceptible to analysis and description. 

The general pattern which seems to occur is that one of the three instincts becomes preferred and over-utilized; it mixes with the second most preferred instinct, while the third remains generally undeveloped. Thus, to offer an example, in the nomenclature which has developed around the Enneagram of personality, an individual is considered to have a dominant fixation, Type One for instance, and, (in addition to the favored wing, Nine or Two as the case may be), a dominant instinctual preference. 

Overall, there are six possible combinations of instinctual preferences; each one of these preferences manifests in ways that admit of some description. These combinations can be described independently of the dominant Types, as each ‘stacking’ preference will exhibit some commonalities across Types. Each of these combinations can also be described as channeled through Type, as there are some definite Type specific differences. 

Claudio Naranjo describes the dominant instinct as a “weakness which looks like a strength.” By this, he seems to have meant that, as the dominant instinct is overdeveloped, it certainly will attend to the needs associated with that instinct; in this sense it appears to be a strength. But, as the instinct is unbalanced and guided by a fixated personality, it is not being properly utilized, and, in this disturbed state often does not actually best serve the overall interests of the individual who is in its grip. 

Those individuals who are dominated by the instinct for self-preservation often have a grounded or practical quality; they frequently develop a high degree of self-sufficiency, discipline and maturity. Many self-preservation variants devote themselves to programs for self-improvement and, of all the variants are probably the most “focused.” All of these qualities can clearly be beneficial, but when the personality is unbalanced, LEVELS a dominant self-preservation instinct can manifest in an obsessive concern with questions of health, such as a focus on diet or exercise which might be punitive or otherwise excessive. Some self-preservation Types, when unbalanced, worry too much about health, mortality, finances or security. In fact, as life is ephemeral and safety an illusion, worry in general, of whatever sort, is a frequent manifestation of a dominant instinct for self-preservation. 

When the instinct for self-preservation is last in the instinctual stacking, the individual will often be somewhat ungrounded or seemingly “immature.” Such individuals often have a hard time focusing on issues such as financial security or the commitment to the development of practical skills. Sometimes, issues of health are ignored. In the more extroverted types, individuals who are self-preservation last, often find it difficult to develop “inwardness.”

The sexual instinct focuses on attraction and excitement, or, what, apart from the self, seems to promise to expand and intensify life. The life of the self is found in the life of the other. As its name would indicate, individuals who are dominated by the sexual instinct are concerned with sexual fulfillment in the obvious sense of that term, but sexual variants are seldom interested in sexual merely as a physical act. In fact, a belief that sexual is just another physical drive for physical pleasure is a pretty good sign that an individual is not a sexual variant. Sexual variants generally have romantic longings for the ideal partner and hence have high expectations and ideals. By extension, the sexual instinct can manifest in a desire for intensity of many different sorts, but the primary manifestation will generally be a concern with finding the ideal partner, as the sexual variants tend to feel somehow incomplete or unfinished without a relationship to ground them.

On the high side, sexual variants often bring a certain passion and experimentalism to their lives; they are generally willing to take risks in order to attain their ideals. Sexual variants are also usually willing to sacrifice for those who matter most to them; they have an expanded sense of what constitutes the self and tend to merge with those they love. On the down side however, sexual variants tend to struggle with issues of neediness and dependency, as they tend to feel that they need relationships in order to reclaim lost or inaccessible portions of the self. In addition, the merging tendency, when taken to extremes, can lead to an inability to protect important boundaries. And the desire for intensity of experience can lead sexual variants to take unnecessary risks, to be somewhat impatient and to grow bored or frustrated with mundane reality. When the overall personality is unbalanced, thrill seeking or self-medication sometimes enter the picture, and can lead to various forms of addiction.

When the sexual instinct is least developed, the personality can lack a certain charisma and momentum. Such personalities often do not form truly intimate relationships, as they don’t feel driven to do so; consequently, their personal relationships can suffer from a lack of attention. As there are aspects of ourselves which we can only see when in close relationship to others, those whose sexual instinct remains undeveloped might find it difficult to cultivate some forms of self-awareness.

The social instinct focuses on the group, hierarchy, status, the big picture; it essentially focuses on connecting to that which is larger than the self. Individuals whose social instinct is dominant need to feel a sense of “belonging.” They need to feel as though they have found a place in the group; they need to feel as though they are making their own contributions. Individuals whose social instinct is first tend to be the warmest of the variants. They generally have lots of “connections” whether to friends, acquaintances, family members or professional colleagues. Social variants are the most likely to feel a sense of social responsibility to the needs of the group and to work to serve those needs.

On the high side, social variants are the most likely to sacrifice their narrow interests in service of that which is larger than themselves. They extend themselves toward others and often have a sort of generosity with their time and energy. They are aware of group dynamics and underlying emotional currents. On the down side however, social variants are the most prone to feelings of social shame; as they are the most acutely aware of the opinions of others, they suffer the most when they feel a sense of social rejection. Social variants can therefore suffer from self-consciousness. In less balanced personalities, this can lead to a need to conform to the standards of the group in order to achieve acceptance. Social variants can sometimes fail to focus on the needs of the self as they are searching for their identity in terms of the larger whole. 

When the social instinct is least developed, the individual is going to find it difficult to see why it is important to form social connections or to cultivate multiple relationships. This, in turn, can lead to a certain amount of social isolation. And, as we all must find a niche in the larger whole, those whose social instinct is least developed, can find it difficult to negotiate the needs of the social realm which make this possible. Those whose social instinct is last in the instinctual ‘stacking’, find interdependence difficult and dependence on others barely tolerable. But all human beings are interdependent, and sometimes, dependent - when they are, for instance, young, weak, sick, old or dying. Those whose social instinct remains undeveloped are trying to attain a type of independence and self-sufficiency which is not possible for human beings. This “false independence” almost certainly leads to unnecessary suffering and impoverishment of experience.

What is behind the scene?

If we don’t understand the Sub-Types, we have not understood Enneagram at all! The combination of the Three Sub-Types and the nine passions makes a unique system of 27 Types, which is the absolute minimum knowledge for every teacher in order to be able to present the Enneagram. But can we easily remember the 27 characteristics, along with their issues and names? It is a huge task.  

Therefore, I found it useful to divide the 27 Types in three groups, which are my own categorization:

1- The Counter-Types, 
2- The Mainstream Type 
3- Variations of the “Mainstream Type.” 

Please remember that the above nomenclature is my own empiric and not common to the Enneagram world. It describes how I subgroup the 27 Sub-Types. 

I found it useful to start with Counter-Types, because they are the true exceptional Types within the 27 Variants and they cause us huge confusion among the Types. For example, a Self-Preservation Three has very little or almost nothing to do with a Type Three, at least in its general appearance or its behavioral surface.  A counter-vanity Type, as Naranjo called them, is in many ways more like a Type One, and all the Self-Preservation Type Threes I have ever seen are lovable and “correct” types of people, true achievers of good intentions. They don't even know where to search for vanity in themselves, as they encounter the Enneagram!  They are typically more one-ish than any Type One I’ve ever seen. Staying with this example (Type Three),with regard to the other two Variants, the Sexual Three and the Social Three, the social three is what I would call the “prototype” (or “mainstream”) of the Threes, and the Sexual Three is the one that I describe as “with some differences” to the prototype.

In this way we have a matrix of 3 X 3, which is easier to remember and also easier to teach. 

How to Find Counter-Types within Enneagram:

In the following diagram we can see how the Counter-Types are located within the Enneagram Map. 

1.	Orientation Towards the Location of Counter-Types in Enneagram 

Interestingly, we find here yet another regularity and symmetry within the Enneagram that we have perhaps not seen before. Here we find that Types that are usually not connected to each other are suddenly within one group. This symmetry is also quite easy to remember, because it is just like counting down the Types numbered from One to Nine. 

The first three Enneagram Types present their Self-Preservation form in their counter-types; the next Types, consisting of Type Four, Five, and Six, present their sexual form as the counter-type; and the last remaining Types present their social Variant as their counter-type. 

How is this way of categorizing the Variants useful?
An example: The Self-Preservation Three

This Type’s characteristic is called “Security.” Combining this name with the general name of Type Three, which is “Achiever,” makes it “Security Achiever.” Again, this term is solely used to demonstrate a particular way of understanding of this Type and is not common in the Enneagram world. 

The passion of Type Three is vanity. The counter-type, which we also can call the counter-vanity Type, has all the characteristics of the antonym of the word “vanity”:

humility, meekness, modesty, self-consciousness, shyness, timidity, unself-confidence.

In the counter-type of Type Three, we can see most of these qualities. They believe, for example, that they never lie. Above all, though, they lie to themselves that there is such a thing as vanity (in themselves). 

Type Three in general sells himself or herself very well. But where is the “selling” aspect of the counter-type of Type Three? They sell security! They seem to be at ease, and often people go to them for advice or help. Although sometimes they are shaking inwardly, outwardly they show that they have everything under control. They are able to do this because they “lie” to themselves that this is occurring—essentially, ignoring it. This can make them look somewhat arrogant. This is similar to the boast of counter-phobic Sixes—this ignorance of themselves creates such a fake world that, like all Type Threes, they move very far from their core. They give security to everyone else but are insecure in themselves. 

They also know how to walk on a path that doesn't lead to risks, because they are security sellers. Because they are ignorant to their own inner quaking, they don't feel their fear, somewhat similar to counter-phobic Sixes. They do the right things, say the right words, to make everybody pleased with them.   

In Naranjo SAT classes, a Self-Preservation Three explained to us: 

“I was also shocked to understand that the power to give security to myself and be able to go and get things—has something to do with vanity of being powerful.” 

The question is: what is wrong with being like that—correct and lovable and achieving security for themselves and others?  She answered that it is a crazy idea to present oneself as being perfect but underneath feeling so insecure, and not feeling valuable because one’s sense of value comes only from the outside.

This Type works hard to gain the value of being loved—these counter-vanity Types are always making such big efforts! They might even be called workaholics. 

Now, comparing them to the Social Threes, which I call the Mainstream Type, we see that Social Threes act with more pretense: they work much less hard than the Self-Preservation type to get love.  It is as if they have their own “department of propaganda” that they believe in and project out onto the world. This is the great difference between the two types. 

Now, imagine if your first Instinct is Self-preservation and your second Instinct is Social—there would be such discrepancy in your own character! 

So, the Social Three would within my categorization be the “mainstream type,” which means that it is the Type that we usually think of as representing Threes. 

The Sexual Three would be the Type with “some differences” to the Mainstream Type. In this case the vanity and the attraction is towards the mate, and that is still a mainstream issue but with some differences. 


With the knowledge we gather from the Counter-Types, we can understand how they are dramatically different to their co-Types. They use the same passion, but inversely. With this knowledge, we can gain insight into how the passions can present themselves in tricky ways.

All what we need

Picture I

Picture II