Have you taken Enneagram tests, read books, attended workshops, but are still unsure of your Enneagram type? Don’t worry–you’re not alone. The Enneagram is an extremely rich and complex system and to simplify it, it is often described as a personality system that outlines nine distinct habits of attention and personality profiles. But this is really just the tip of the iceberg.
The Enneagram system includes wings, subtypes, arrows, countertypes, levels of development, and more. Mastery of the system takes years, and incomplete knowledge often leaves people confused and feeling like “the Enneagram didn’t work for me.” Most of the time, the real issue is that you weren’t exposed to the complete Enneagram.
If you’ve gone around and round trying to figure out your type but feel like your personality is hard to peg, it might be because you don’t know about the Enneagram subtypes. Below I offer a high-level review of the 27 subtypes and common ways that the subtypes are sometimes mistyped.
An Introduction to the Enneagram Subtypes
In the Enneagram, the subtypes are one of the most critical, yet most widely misunderstood, elements of the system.
What is an Enneagram subtype?
The subtype speaks the combination of your “instinct” and your primary Enneagram type. Your “instinct” is your innate sense of how the world works and your place in it. This isn’t a conscious choice you’ve made, it is more like a default setting.
The three distinct instincts are called:
- intimate (sometimes called the one-to-one or sexual instinct).
These three instincts offer more clues into where your attention goes and what your worldview focuses on.
The dominant instinct is where your attention gravitates. Metaphorically, you can think of a stool with three legs. One of the legs is shorter, and this causes you to lean in more here. In the Enneagram, this is your dominant instinct.
Your dominant instinct is not necessarily where you have the most success. It is where you have the most concern. For example, a self-preservation instinct may have deep concerns about financial security, a social instinct may feel discomfort in groups, and an intimate instinct may avoid relationships. This is because these are “heavy” topics for people with this dominate instinct. Their attention gravitates there because the topic feels important and, at times, thorny.
These three instincts apply to all nine of the primary Enneagram types, so when combined with the primary type, there are 27 distinct personality profiles. This distinction is where a lot of confusion comes from – people are trying to find themselves in one of 9 personality profiles, but they should be trying to find themselves in one of 27.
Most general Enneagram writing refers to and describes only one of the three subtypes for each primary type. But as you will see below, the subtype personalities differ a lot.
Finding Your Enneagram Type
Rather than trying to find your Enneagram type, a faster path is often to try to eliminate the primary types you know you are not and then to have a close look at the remaining subtypes.
For example, if you feel you identify quite a bit with Type 1 but also have some Type 6 characteristics, you can look at the three Type 1 subtypes and three Type 6 subtypes to try to find your match.
Below we review the 27 subtypes.
(seeks improvement and perfection/avoids leaving things as they are)
Type 1 Perfectionists/Reformers are typically realistic, conscientious and principled. They strive to live up to their high ideals. This person sees the world in black and white, right and wrong, perfect and imperfect. It is difficult for them to leave things in an imperfect state.
Type 1 Self-Preservation Subtype: “Worry”
This person focuses the drive to improve on themselves. Their attention goes to behaving well and correctly. This is someone who is very anxious about doing the right thing, feeling this will shield them from misfortune, disaster, and blame.
Mistyping: Often confused with a Type 6 because they relate strongly with anxiety.
Type 1 Social Subtype: “Non-Adaptability”
This person focuses the drive to improve on their environment. This is someone who wants to be a shining example of correct conduct and can become irritated that others aren’t conforming.
Mistyping: Sometimes confused with a Type 8 because they want to control their environment and because they can have themes of anger or irritation.
Type 1 Intimate Subtype: “Zeal”
This person takes the drive to improve and points it towards their intimate partner and inner circle. This is someone who can be very impatient with those close to them and can have an intensity to them as if to say “this must change now!”
Mistyping: Occasionally confused with a Type 8 because their anger can be direct and intense.
(seeks satisfying the needs of others/avoids own needs)
Type 2 Helpers/Givers/Lovers are typically warm, concerned, nurturing, and sensitive to the needs, preferences, and desires of the people around them. They proactively look for ways to be helpful, useful, and likable. They have difficulty with personal boundaries and saying “no.”
Type 2 Self-Preservation Subtype: “Privilege”
This person has more of a drive to be likeable than a drive to be useful and can have an almost childlike presentation. This is someone who can feel insecure about self-reliance and can cultivate relationships in which others will take care of them. This subtype can seem more self-referencing than the other Type 2s, sometimes with a “me-first” attitude.
Mistyping: Sometimes confused with a Type 3 because of the drive for attention.
Type 2 Social Subtype: “Ambition”
This person expresses the drive to be useful and helpful in groups, companies, and social settings. This Type 2 is often comfortable in the limelight and in a leadership position (though preferring to remain the power behind the throne). This is a more adult “power” Type 2.
Mistyping: Sometimes confused with a Type 3 because of the drive to be successful and the focus on work/professional achievement.
Type 2 Intimate Subtype: “Aggressive/Seductive”
This subtype expresses a drive to be helpful, likable, or desirable to particular individuals in an effort to establish power in the relationship. This can look like the classic “femme fatale” or “home fatale.” This is the almost “too adult” Type 2.
Mistyping: Sometimes confused with a Type 3 because of the focus on image and appearance.
(seeks success/avoids failure)
Type 3 Achievers/Motivators are typically energetic, optimistic, self-assured and goal-oriented. Gifted at focusing on goals and achieving them, Type Three personifies the “human doing” rather than human being. This person is highly productive, efficient and can be extremely motivating to others. They want to be the best in any situation and can be overly concerned about the opinions of others.
Type 3 Self-Preservation Subtype: “Security”
This person focuses on success and achievement in a more understated, humble way than the other Type 3s. This is someone who wants to be recognized as successful but considers it bad manners to brag. There is a large emphasis on security, and this can be a very anxious person.
Mistyping: Sometimes confused with a Type 6 because of the identification with anxiety and the drive for security.
Type 3 Social Subtype: “Prestige”
This person proactively seeks to be recognized as successful and generally likes the attention of others. This person can be both socially brilliant and a social chameleon, shapeshifting to try to be the “best” in every environment.
Mistyping: This type can be confused for many other types because the personality aligns around a role (and while this is true for all Type 3s, this subtype may present it more intensely). A Social Type 3 might try to appear as the “best artist” or the “best scientist.” The desire to be the best is how a Social Type 3 can often identify themselves.
Type 3 Intimate Subtype: “Charisma”
This person directs the drive to succeed and achieve towards intimate relationships or towards promoting someone or something besides themselves. This is an attractive, sometimes seductive person who offers enthusiastic support to others.
Mistyping: Occasionally confused for a Type 2 because of the focus on supporting others.
(seeks individuality and authenticity/avoids the ordinary)
Type 4 Individualists/Artists/Romantics are original and authentic, with intense feelings spanning the entire emotional spectrum. They have felt great emotional highs, deep emotional lows and can feel everything in between on a daily basis. Drawn to what is missing, Type Fours spend a lot of time thinking about what they don’t have and experiencing longing.
Type 4 Self-Preservation Subtype: “Tenacity”
This is called the “Sunny” Type 4 because this is someone who is more emotionally stoic and suffers in silence. There can almost be a subconscious sense that “if I suffer enough, I will find happiness and contentment.”
Mistyping: This type can sometimes be confused for a Type 7 because of their sunny and cheerful external presentation.
Type 4 Social Subtype: “Shame”
This is called the “Sad” Type 4, and this person more openly expresses shame and feelings of inadequacy. This is someone who experiences the world of emotion intensely and chronically undervalues themselves.
Mistyping: Rarely mistyped but sometimes confused as a Type 5 or Type 3 because of strong wing influences (wings are another element of the Enneagram).
Type 4 Intimate Subtype: “Competition”
This is called the “Mad” Type 4, and this person is driven to express emotional intensity through competition and an attempt to establish themselves as superior. This type has been described as the angriest type on the Enneagram.
Mistyping: Sometimes be confused with a Type 8 due to identifying with the anger or Type 3 due to identifying with competition.
(seeks self-sufficiency/ avoids external demands)
Type 5 Observers/Thinkers/Investigators are typically introverted, curious, analytical, and insightful. These are the owls of the Enneagram with a very boundaried approach to life. This person is quite observant and curious but generally likes to observe from a distance, slightly out of the group. They are constantly asking the question “Should I engage?” or “Should I withdraw?” Their instinct is to withdraw.
Type 5 Self-Preservation Subtype: “Castle”
This is the most guarded, remote, and introverted of the Type 5s. This person tends to avoid social contact the most and lives frugally even if they have plentiful resources.
Mistyping: Rarely mistyped but sometimes confused as a Type 4 or Type 6 because of strong wing influences (wings are another element of the Enneagram).
Type 5 Social Subtype: “Totem”
This can be a more outgoing, socially engaged Type 5, but engagement is done in a clearly structured, boundaried setting and usually around a shared interest/hobby/pursuit. This is a person who may be more attracted to ideas than to people.
Mistyping: Rarely but sometimes confused with a Type 7 because this person can be extraverted and engaging (though in a boundaried way).
Type 5 Intimate Subtype: “Confidant”
This is someone who appears very reserved and at times robotic externally, but who has a rich imagination and is the most emotional of the Type 5s. While the habit of attention remains focused on issues of scarcity and boundary setting, this person feels more intensely (and at times romantically) than the other Type 5 subtypes.
Mistyping: Sometimes confused with a Type 4 because of their rich, intense emotional interior experience.
(seeks security/avoids danger and the unknown)
Type 6 Loyalists/Doubters/Skeptics are typically responsible, reliable, trustworthy, and value security and loyalty. Type Sixes are the African gazelles of the Enneagram—scanning and on high alert for danger at all times. This person can quickly and easily identify what could be dangerous or problematic in a situation and begins preparing for that outcome.
Type 6 Self-Preservation Subtype: “Warmth”
This person expresses the drive for security through forming friendships and warm relationships. They often seek a protective force, someone who they feel they can rely on for safety, stability, and decision-making. This is an energetically warm Type 6.
Mistyping: Sometimes confused with Type 2 because of their warmth and focus on others.
Type 6 Social Subtype: “Duty”
This person expresses the drive for security by aligning with systems and guidelines for conduct. This is a person who finds safety in authority figures and systems (political, religious, family) and often has an underlying fear of disappointing the authority figure. This is an energetically cool Type 6.
Mistyping: Sometimes confused with Type 5 as they can seem rational, logical, and removed.
Type 6 Intimate Subtype: “Strength/Beauty”
This person expresses the drive for security through cultivating an inner sense of strength. They move against fear by rushing into it. They can be inconsistent: strong, yet weak, decisive, yet indecisive, secure, yet insecure. This is an energetically hot Type 6.
Mistyping: Often confused with Type 8 due to their bold, direct presentation.
(seeks the positive/avoids the negative)
Type 7 Enthusiasts/Adventurers/Generalists are typically energetic, lively, adventurous and optimistic. These are the experience junkies of the Enneagram—curious and positive, they are drawn to try almost anything they haven’t done before. This person has a very easy time imagining what could go right and what could be fun and positive. Processing negative emotions is difficult for them.
Type 7 Self-Preservation Subtype: “Keeper of the Castle”
This person expresses gluttony and a drive for new experiences by finding opportunities to leverage and expand their network. Earthy, practical, driven, and sometimes self-interested, this is a person who has a large network of friends and contacts.
Mistyping: Occasionally confused with Type 3 due to focus on networking, achievement and “go-getter” attitude.
Type 7 Social Subtype: “Sacrifice”
This person expresses gluttony and a drive for new experiences by consciously trying to control their urge for more. This is someone who often puts the needs of the group ahead of their own needs. They can be generous, idealistic, and often naive.
Mistyping: Often confused with Type 2 due to focus on others and putting themselves in a role of service to others.
Type 7 Intimate Subtype: “Fascination/Suggestibility”
This person expresses gluttony and a drive for new experiences by embellishing reality to see it as much more positive and vivid than it actually is. This is a person who is “trapped in sunshine” and can have great difficulty processing negative information. They experience the world with intense fascination and enthusiasm.
Mistyping: Occasionally confused with Type 4 due a sense that something is always missing and that their interior world is more vivid than reality.
(seeks power/avoids vulnerability)
Type 8 Leaders/Challengers/Protectors are typically resourceful, self-reliant, self-confident, and protective. Tough, direct, prepared for combat and comfortable with confrontation, this type instinctively understands power dynamics. Justice is usually a theme for Type Eights. Expressing vulnerability is not easy for them.
Type 8 Self-Preservation Subtype: “Satisfaction”
This person expresses lust and aggression on the most basic level. Strong, powerful, direct, and productive, this is a person who likes material comfort, good food, good drink, and good company. There is an instinct they must act to fulfill their needs.
Rarely mistyped but sometimes confused as a Type 7 because of strong wing influences (wings are another element of the Enneagram).
Type 8 Social Subtype: “Solidarity”
This person expresses lust and aggression in a more muted way and is the least angry of the Type 8s. This is a person who is nurturing, protective, loyal, friendly, and highly concerned about injustice.
Mistyping: Sometimes mistyped as a Type 2 due to the nurturing, protective focus on others.
Type 8 Intimate Subtype: “Possession”
This person expresses lust and aggression through open rebellion. This is the most emotional and least conventional of the Type 8s. This is a highly charismatic, magnetic person who energetically takes over their environment.
Mistyping: Occasionally mistyped as a Type 4 due to their emotional nature.
(seeks harmony/avoids conflict)
Type 9 Peacemakers/Mediators are typically receptive, good-natured, supportive, and soothing. Type Nines are gifted at understanding the viewpoints of others and are so good at leaning into other people’s agendas and perspectives, they sometimes lose their sense of themselves. This is a person for whom tranquility is a main focus, and they tend to be very conflict-avoidant.
Type 9s often have great difficulty recognizing themselves in the Enneagram because they identify with all the types. All Type 9s subtypes may mistype as (due to the focus on others), Type 1, or Type 8 (due to strong wing influences).
Type 9 Self-Preservation: “Appetite”
This person expresses a drive for harmony and merging through physical comfort including good food, drink, a comfortable environment, and regular routine activities. This person projects their attention away from their deeper needs and directs them to more basic, survival-level things. This is the most introverted of the Type 9s.
Mistyping: Occasionally mistyped as a Type 5 due to their modest desires and simple, direct way of living.
Type 9 Social Subtype: “Participation”
This person expresses a drive for harmony and merging through groups and group participation. This is someone who is friendly, talkative, social, and often devotes a considerable amount of time and energy in supporting their chosen group. This is the most extroverted of the Type 9s.
Mistyping: Occasionally mistyped as a Type 7 due to their lively energy and social nature.
Type 9 Intimate Subtype: “Fusion”
This person expresses a drive for harmony and merging through connection with a few intimate others. This person relies on relationships to get a sense of being or belonging. It can feel very threatening to be alone.
Mistyping: Occasionally mistyped as a Type 4 due to their emotional sensitivity and sense of longing.
As you can see, with 27 Enneagram subtype personality profiles, there are a lot more options to sort through, but it is a lot more accurate too. If you work with a trained Enneagram typing expert or find a very thorough online test, there will be clarifying questions designed to address the key motivation and help you align with your true habit of attention.
Can you be more than one subtype?
You may see elements of yourself in all three subtypes. The question is more “which aligns with you the most?” You can think of the subtype as a pie chart. Most of us are 50% or more of one of the three subtypes. This is your “dominant” subtype. The order of subtypes is called your stacking.
By way of example, I’m a Type 7 intimate/social/self-preservation subtype. This means my primary subtype is intimate followed by social. I relate the most to the intimate Type 7, I relate somewhat to the social Type 7 and I relate the least to the self-preservation Type 7.
Stackings can also vary. Some people are fairly evenly “stacked” so they might feel they are 60% self-preservation, 20% intimate, and 20% social. Or they might be more unevenly stacked and feel they are 60% self-preservation, 35% social, and 5% intimate. It is a deeply personal exploration, and you assign your own stacking.
For more on the subtypes, I invite you to read “The Complete Enneagram” by Beatrice Chestnut. This is one of the best resources I’ve found for understanding the rich body of knowledge surrounding the Enneagram subtypes. And if you are still unclear on your type, contact me for a Zoom/Skype typing interview. These interactive interviews can be very helpful in uncovering your thought patterns and determining both your Enneagram type and subtype.