S1E6: Enneagram Subtypes, Our Survival Instincts


Along with your Enneagram type, you also have an instinctual nature to lean towards one of three particular subtypes. In today’s episode, I’m sharing each of those subtypes, plus exploring how each Enneagram experiences each subtype!

Welcome to The Enneagram Girl Podcast, hosted by Alicia Larkey, a Certified Enneagram Life Coach & Relationship Coach. If you feel overwhelmed in your relationships and want to start feeling seen, heard, validated, and hopeful, you’re in the right place. Through thoughtful exploration and explanation of your Enneagram type, you’ll become more confident in your behaviors, emotions, intentions, and reactions.

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If you don’t know you Enneagram type, make sure you check out my typing guide!

What are Enneagram Subtypes?

Subtypes are your basic survival instincts and this main part is going to be easy to remember because there are only three of them: self-preservation, social, and one-to-one (also known as Sexual, but not for the reasons you think)

We all relate to each one of these three subtypes, but there is one main subtype that is the most dominant for each of us. We are using this instinct to feel safe in what is going on in the world around us. This is where most of our energy tends to go. 

So when our subtypes are different, especially in marriage and when it comes to your needs, it’s so important to understand each other’s subtypes. I find that miscommunication can really stem from here specifically.

So you can really gain insight into yourself and your partner by digging into this work and learning your subtypes. Remember, knowing if you two have different dominant subtypes can really give you a lead in to understanding each other better. 

You also will use one of the three subtypes the least. This is often referred to as a blind spot. But we will dive into that another day. The main point is to start exploring this part of your growth work to see if you can spot some areas you can work on. And the bonus is to help you understand your partner better too, especially if you want to improve the communication and connection in your relationship.  

Truity.com says this about subtypes, “The best way to find your Enneagram Subtype is to notice where your attention goes when you’re out and about in the world.”

Self Preservation Subtype

The self-preservation subtype is an instinct toward survival essentials. These are things like food, water, personal safety, well-being, and comfort. 

If self-preservation is your subtype, you’re probably more focused on your security. You’re highly aware of health and safety and how you’re physically feeling in different situations and environments.
You might be focused on the environment of where you are… things like temperature, aesthetics, or the layout of the space. 

Too much focus, however, on one’s personal safety and comfort can sometimes turn into isolation. So this is one of the many things we want to understand about self-preservation. 

Social Subtype

The social subtype is an instinct towards a group, like group support or community. Belonging is important to a social subtype… they tend to be most concerned with the aspects of a group and their place or role within that group. 

They need a defined community… Maybe even like a political party, a cause, a church community, a school group, or a business network. This is important to this subtype. 

And they are highly aware of the health of their relationships within their circle. If there is conflict in their group or in their relationship, then they are more likely to be affected even physically.But, too much focus on the social realm can lead to neglecting one’s own personal care, or even the other important relationships in their life like their spouse or family. This is one of the areas we want to pay attention too with a social subtype. 

One-to-one Subtype

The one-to-one subtype is an instinct for having a few deep, close relationships. The depth and connection of the relationship is a very big deal for a one-to-one subtype.

They value being loved, heard, and important to the other person in those relationships.

This includes their spouse or partner, and even very close friends. 

Their physical well-being is more affected when they’re feeling alone or rejected by one of those people they are super close to… and they feel safest and most secure when they are getting quality time with the most important people in their life. 

However, too much focus on only those relationships can turn into codependency and neglect of one’s self care.

Which subtype is starting to resonate with you?

Now that you’ve heard a short description of each one of the 3 main subtypes… which one is starting to resonate with you? Are you feeling like one of these subtypes might be more dominant for you? Are you feeling like you might have a blind spot in one of these areas? 

Remember, I’m barely scratching the surface on how these fully show up in our lives and the ways they can improve our lives or hold us back from what we really want.

How Subtypes Show Up by Enneagram Type

Let’s go even deeper by seeing how each of these instinctual subtypes shows up specifically for each Enneagram Type.

Remember, if you haven’t learned your Enneagram Type, you’ll want to learn that first and then come back to this part of the podcast.

Type One

A Self Preservation Type Ones tends to have a more intense planning mentality. This translates into family life as well. They are structured, and desire to control the chaos. They can be critical of many things like appearance, finances, home life and more. These types are the true perfectionist type and can be anxious. I want to encourage Self Preservation Type Ones to remember that no one is asking you to be perfect. It is okay to breathe and rest in your imperfections and know that you are whole as you are. . 

When a One practices being less critical of themselves, they will also then be less critical of those around them. That is super important to understand because it can help improve your relationships too.

Social Type Ones have a teacher mentality and view the world (and their relationships) through the lens of right or wrong, correct and incorrect. In a marriage or other close relationship, the danger for the Social One is that they may see their role in the relationship as helping the other quote/unquote “live the right way”. I want to encourage you Social Type Ones to imagine that there are many possible ways to do something.. not just your one right way. You can lean into that friendly, more laid back side of you to connect, even when things are set up precisely. 

Finally, we are talking about Enneagram Ones who are One to One subtype. They tend to focus more on their partner’s flaws and maybe pass over some of their own. These types are often seen as the Reformers of the world. I want to encourage you one-to-one Type ones to become aware of what might trigger the feeling of anger in you. You will want to take responsibility for your reaction, as opposed to only focusing on blaming your partner for whatever the challenge is about. .

Remember that your reaction can contribute to the problem becoming even worse, or helping the problem get better.  

Type Two

Self Preservation Type Twos have a childlike need for attention and love. They are naturally good at pouring into others, but sometimes they’re doing it to ensure they feel worthy of receiving that attention and love they need. They can sometimes appear as needy, without demanding anything.  When they’re not getting the attention and love they need from a partner, they might feel angry and become obsessed with finding attention in other ways, like with their friends or serving in places like the classroom often. What I want to encourage Self Preservation Twos to do is to practice boundaries with their time and attention, and realize they deserve to be loved for who they are and not just what they do or how they serve. And work on giving yourself that attention and love you crave. 

The Social Two is a persuasive leader and comfortable in a power position, which can flow into their relationships. This Two is generous in serving, often in groups, and loves having an important place in the group, community, or family. Sometimes, this is as a distraction to how they are feeling inside. They might also be serving to secure loyalty in their relationships or in their positioning within the group. Because a social Two is so hard-working and passionate, I want to encourage you to prioritize rest, especially for yourself, or a vacation. Trust that you can take a day off and focus on just you.

And finally… hiiiii my fellow one-to-one Twos! MY PEOPLE! We believe love is the end all be all, everything we need in this entire world to breathe and survive. LOL! Being needed by our few close relationships is our jam. We love to be, perhaps, a little aggressive with our seduction and charm because being close to our person, our people, our besties is everything to us. We struggle with boundaries (meaning we sometimes have none) LOL. And being rejected by one of these super close people can feel like a prison a pain. So seriously, I want to encourage you other one-to-one Twos to do the work. Our growth path is to learn that we are still valuable even if we are rejected within a relationship. Even when we can’t and shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all to that other person, we are still worthy and valuable. We need to be that for ourselves. 

And as a side note, some One-to-One Twos have trauma wounds or addictions because of past deep hurts, so I want to encourage you to do personal work like life coaching or therapy if needed.

Type Three

Self-preservation Threes are typically family-oriented and like to get things done. As great providers, they value working hard for the people that rely on them, but sometimes that’s at the expense of intimacy within their relationships. They like to achieve ALL their goals and don’t naturally know how to slow down. I want to encourage self-preservation threes to set boundaries, especially with work and their schedule, as this type needs to be careful of letting workaholism harm their personal relationships. Focus on the people in your life with the care you give to work and accomplishing things. 

Social Threes have a desire to look flawless in the eyes of others, even when it comes to their performance as a spouse or friend. These types can be extra competitive and have a harder time with failure or criticism. I want to remind Social Threes that they are loved, admired, and respected even when their imperfections are showing or things in their life are not perfect. You do not have to adjust who you are to the room you are walking into. I want to encourage Social Threes to take a rest when they need a break, and not question their worthiness when taking those breaks. 

The One-to-One Three can be sensitive to the perception others have of them and whether or not there is praise from those they love. They have the capacity to run themselves into the ground to please people. They want to feel desired and gain affection, and are often image-conscious. I want to encourage One-to-One Threes to practice being vulnerable with their closest people, and to find ways to truly rest in who they are, not just how they show up. Without rest, a one-to-one Three will continue to exhaust themselves in pursuit of finding worth in their appearance or accomplishments, without deepening their relationships. .

Type Four

Self-Preservation Fours are comfortable sitting in other people’s hard and painful emotions. This can be heroic in some ways because they can sit with these challenging emotions, like grief or pain, that might make other people feel uncomfortable. However, at times, Self-Preservation Fours can seem unavailable in their marriage because they are spending so much of this emotional energy looking for their next “hero mission.” …or a person to support. And even though a Self-Preservation Four can handle any dark emotions others may have, they feel like no one can handle theirs or that it would make others uncomfortable… so they often avoid communicating what’s really going on deep in their heart. So I want to encourage you Self-Preservation Fours to begin opening up to the possibility that someone else really does want to know you as deeply as you want to know them.

Social Fours are the more romantic type and want to be in a loving relationship where they can heal together alongside their partner. They are comfortable being vulnerable in their melancholy, suffering, and even lamenting. They will focus on their place within social groups, more than the other fours because they don’t want to be disconnected. Social Fours tend to feel less worthy, or even envious of others, and will compare themselves to others, which causes them deep shame and an assumption of being rejected. I want to encourage you Social Fours to practice speaking your truth to counter the lies of shame. You are not the deficiencies you feel you have. Be open to the possibility that you don’t have to live under what might feel like a black cloud.

The One-to-One Four is a deep feeler and more passionate like a type 8. They are more comfortable in conflict if needed and want the love and need the approval of the people in their closest relationships. The One-to-One Four is not afraid to ask for what they need, and would benefit from having a safe space to vent. I want to encourage you One-to-One Fours to process your deep feelings in a more private way, such as with a trusted therapist, a journal, or even an Enneagram Coach… as opposed to only often with your partner. This can help give the relationship some breathing room.  

Type Five

Self-Preservation Fives enjoy the company of a few trusted people, but they are very intentional about how they’re spending their social energy. They will need extra time to rest their mind before and after social events… and they might not stay very long. The Self-Preservation Five is good at setting boundaries, but sometimes that can look like walling themselves off from others, especially a spouse. I want to encourage you Self-Preservation Fives to spend less time in isolation and share your energy with the people you love most.

A Social Five is often great at sharing their knowledge on specific interests and their values, but may be less willing to share their space, their time, or their resources. They love teaching and educating, and they relate deeply to others who share their same interests and ideals. A Social Five however doesn’t overshare and they deeply value their privacy. Sometimes it can feel hard to feel like you don’t fully know a Five. I want to encourage you Social Fives to communicate your interests more intentionally with the people you love, rather than only sharing with those who have the same interests as you.

One-to-One Fives are very passionate and deep, but are reserved and want to share their life with another person in a more private way. They can sometimes romanticize their relationship and become intensely focused on their partner and their partner only. I want to encourage you One-to-One Fives to realize a partner cannot meet all of your needs and ideals. But, that doesn’t mean your partner isn’t as invested in the relationship as you are.

Type Six

Self-Preservation Sixes have a need to process their fear with a trusted person, as there are a lot of fears and doubts spinning through their minds. They will often turn to their spouse to help them with this. A self-preservation Six feels secure and protected when they have close, loyal friendships. Sometimes this even looks like a surrogate family to them. I want to encourage a self-preservation six to learn to practice trusting your own gut instinct and not question yourself for every single decision. Notice how often the decisions you make really do turn out great.

Social Sixes are most socially aware and tend to focus on a group. They prioritize finding a group to belong to like a political party, a church family, or even a company softball team. They focus on what’s right or wrong within the group, who is “good” and “bad” within or outside of the group, and what the systems and expectations of the group are. They tend to ruminate with their own inner committee over these things. I want to encourage Social Sixes to learn how to disagree with people they are close to without the consideration of severing relationships.

One-to-One Sixes tend to be more rebellious and anti-authority. In marriage or close friendships, they can come off a little intimidating or aggressive. They are often on the “Fight” side of “Fight or Flight.” This comes from their fears, but it sometimes can come across as intense or confrontational. This can make others who are in a relationship with them feel unseen or not as important. I want to validate the fear and pain that a One-to-One Six feels. But I want to encourage One-to-One Sixes to trust that their friends, spouses, and those they’re reaching out to for support are only there to comfort, love, and help them. And they can trust that.

Type Seven

The Self-Preservation Seven is practical and may create and maintain a network of allies for resources, fun and opportunities. This type of Seven tends to worry more, be more talkative and and even be more hedonistic. They might splurge or run away from the discomfort in their lives instead of facing it and finding lasting solutions. Others tend to admire these types because of the fun and drive, and the Self-Preservation Seven will use their charm to get what they want. I want to encourage you Self-Preservation Sevens to look outside of self towards serving others and possibly being more present to more moderate lifestyle with some balance and sustained growth opportunities.  

Social Sevens run the risk of burnout because they keep themselves overscheduled, and even enjoy helping others by serving others in various ways. They take responsibility for their group/family and want to be seen as good because of the sacrifices they make, which can often have them running on fumes. They may come across as critical to others as they try to reign themselves in. They sacrifice their own happiness to avoid painful feelings like anger and are usually unwilling to dive into the deeper feelings so they won’t get lost in them. I want to encourage you Social Sevens to realize that the frenzied pace can damage your family relationships or your health. Seek balance and find trusted sources to open up to about those deeper feelings you might need to process. 

One-to-One Sevens are assertive, enthusiastic, and light-hearted. They are idealists who like getting lost in imagining a bigger, better life than the ordinary reality they are living. Because of their tendency to dream about the future and be in their head space, they might have trouble in areas like finances or relationships where their person might not feel really loved by them. The spouse may feel that the Seven is pursuing their passions and dreams to the neglect of the relationship or a more secure real future. I want to encourage you One-to-One Sevens to bring yourself into the present more often, especially in your relationships. Being at peace with your current reality doesn’t mean your giving up on your idealistic hopes. Create mindfulness practices and practice gratitude for the right now. 

Type Eight

With the Self-Preservation Eight, we can see someone who is a great provider for the family and oftentimes likes to defend those who are weaker. They are tender-hearted, but will not put up with someone else’s nonsense. They don’t have an overt need to talk extensively and they like to process quick decision-making on their own. I want to encourage you Self-Preservation Eights to find ways to curb your anger like through physical exercise. You also want to make sure you are giving your spouse enough attention, less-judgement and allowing them access to your heart and warmth. 

Social Eights like to be of service to others including protecting those they care about. They can be hyper-focused on the groups in their life like their culture, workplace groups or family. In a marriage/friendship they can tend towards being bossy, and less accepting of their spouse’s independence. I want to encourage you Social Eights to listen to your partners needs and respect them. I also  encourage you to make sure you have time to focus on your emotional well being as well as the others you serve. 

One-to-One Eights are charismatic and have a need for strong connection and influence, especially with the people most important to them. They can be more rebellious and loud than than the other eights as they want to capture the attention of others. I want to encourage you One-to-One Eights to work on boundaries in your relationship by being less demanding or dominating and settle into that fun, optimistic side of you. It is safe to slow down and let the other person take up space and grow in your patience.

Type Nine

Self-Preservation Nines love their alone time and like to hold tight to routines and pace of life. They can even be seen as being in a “turtle shell” because they like to preserve their energy.  They can become unaware of how little quality time they give to the important people in their lives. Family members of a Self-Pres Nine may need to reach out to remind them to engage and connect. I want to encourage you Self-Preservation Nines to learn to build a connection to your feelings, desires and the power you have inside of you. Do physical activities to wake you up and help you participate in your relationships. 

Social Nines love being part of the fun and energy of the group process. But, they have a tendency to merge with others for what they perceive as positive reasons. They may even be workaholics as they spend lots of energy on behalf of their group/family, to keep everyone happy, so they can have peace. This can cause resentment because they are playing small and prioritizing the group’s needs above their own. I want to encourage you Social Nines to get 1-2 hours each day by yourself to recharge. I also encourage you to awake to your own needs and set your own goals and expectations of yourself, aside from the group.  

One-to-One Nines tend to be more gentle and shy people who go along with their person’s wants and needs because they believe that is what they want also.. They can be reliant on someone else to tell them what should be important to them – so they need to put in the work to find their own identity. Creating boundaries and engaging their body in exercise are important practices.  I want to encourage you One-to-One Nines to avoid merging with other people’s choices as a way to never directly be responsible for anything that causes strife. Learn to have the courage to process your own inner conflict and pain and become more assertive in expressing your own opinions and strength. 

Become Aware of Your Dominant Instinct

Our goal in learning about your subtypes is to become more aware of your DOMINANT instinct… the one that you see showing up most often in your life. At the same time, you also want to become aware of which one is your BLIND SPOT, meaning, which one of these is the one that you are embodying the least? 

The purpose of understanding subtypes is to be able to create a balance with all three of them… your self-preservation instinct, your social instinct, and your one-to-one instinct. This, in turn, is going to help you in your relationships and all the other areas of your life.

These areas of your life will have more balance and peace because you YOURSELF will now have more balance and peace from doing this work.

Connect with Alicia




Email: alicialarkey@gmail.com

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