Instinctual variants

Copyright © Ewald Berkers

The instinctual variants of the enneagram, the self-preservation, sexual and social instincts.

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.

Self-preservation variant

People of the self-preservation variant are generally trying to be comfortable and independent. Their well-being is very important to them, so they pay much attention to their health, house and financial position. They are less interested in interpersonal contact, and are typically less spontaneous and don't show as much emotion as people of the other two subtypes of their enneagram type.

Sexual variant

People of the sexual variant are very much interested in one to one contacts. They are looking for intimacy and this may show in sexuality, though not necessarily. Being in a relationship is very important to them. They are the most passionate of the subtypes, being temperamental and having more energy. They have less of a problem with getting into a fight and care less about rules and responsibility.

Social Variant

People of the social variant prefer to be in groups or teams. They are more interested than the other subtypes in the position that they and others have in a group, and are consequently concerned with status. Wanting to be accepted, they try to fit in and be nice.

Instincts and Chakras

The three instincts are directly related to the three lower chakras. The self-preservation instinct to the Root Chakra, the sexual instinct to the Sacral Chakra and the social instinct to the Navel Chakra.





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Six interviews with world experts on the Enneagram, and in-depth experiential interviews with panels of individuals of each Enneagram type.

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How the Enneagram system works and description of the types.

The Wisdom of the Enneagram, by Don Richard Riso & Russ Hudson
The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types

Self-development recommendations and Enneagram type descriptions.

Personality Types, by Don Richard Riso & Russ Hudson
Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery

Detailed descriptions of the Enneagram types at various levels of mental health.

See longer book descriptions