What are subtypes and instincts in the Enneagram?

To understand yourself more effectively, there are tools available for noticing.

When I say 'notice' I mean, looking for patterns and ways of relating that could be helpful or harmful. Others will say how powerful it is to move from living by default to living by design.

As I do more in-depth work with individuals, couples and teams in my coaching, I am coming to value the Enneagram Instinctual Subtypes Tool even more. Because it helps people identify even more specifically with their particular default system and then what they can do to move more intentionally into the life by design posture.

So here is how you can understand it with an overview.

What Enneagram Type Am I?

If you do not know your Enneagram Type then begin here

Remember this is not a tool to box you, but instead to help you identify with your way of coping with the world. Finding your type can be a rich growth process in itself, and many of us are using the Enneagram as a map to show us our patterns and our blind spots.

Take the Free Enneagram Test

And then take the Free Instincts Test

What Are Instincts?

To understand Instincts more you can read from the most well known Author on Instincts, Beatrice Chestnut. She describes them in detail here

We have a dominant instinct: Self-Preservation, Sexual (also known as One-To-One), or Social. Sometimes it serves us, but often we don’t use our dominant instinct well. We often overuse it or underplay it. Thankfully that isn't the end of the story and we can grow in our instincts.

Once you have done your Enneagram & Instincts Test, you can get some thorough one page descriptions at The Personality Cafe link here and you type in your Enneagram Type and the highest instinct that you got in your Instinct Test.


If you feel like this resonates then I give people two more steps

Go and listen to some Art Of Growth Podcasts on Panels of your particular Number and Instinct. You can find them here . As you listen, you are listening to see if that instinct and those on the panel sound like you. If not, then listen to the other instincts in your same Type.

How to Grow

Once you are ready for some growth tools according to your Enneagram and your Instinctual Subtype, then I encourage people to listen to the Instinctual Subtype that is your most repressed (so the one that you got the lowest percentage in the Instincts Test)

The Team at Art Of Growth write a short summary here about how to grow using your Instincts. Even though this blog was general... even me understanding my dominant subtype as social was so key when I read this one paragraph explanation.

The Social Instinct has concentric circles. Close relationships, a positive network that is less close, and a further realm of acquaintances and loose connections. The issues in the outer circles shouldn’t use much energy unless you are doing something constructive to serve that domain. Yet, we find ourselves getting pulled there. Social media is a good example of things that can pull us away from our closest and most important relationships and into a world of shallow distraction. See if you can begin putting more energy in those circles closest to you.

The Sexual Instinct has a lot of “forward energy” and “toward movement” to it. It seeks change, growth, excitement, and energy but can overdo the intensity with people or take risks with relationships, money, or health because that energy isn’t being used to create something new, beautiful, good for the world. See if you can slow down and savor what is immediately in front of you today.

The Self-Preservation Instinct has a close protective container feel to it. It desires to feel protected, healthy, well, and resourced. This can cause more anxiety than is good for the health and wellbeing of the type. Expand your generosity with your time, money, energy, and watch it increase. Meditate on the deep trust in you that knows we live in a universe of generosity, not scarcity. What would it look like to open up again?

I would LOVE to know if this has been helpful for you. What is your Enneagram Type? Instinct? What are you learning from this?

Let's grow together.

Love Vanessa

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