The 3 Enneagram Instincts and How they Can Transform your Life

You are born with three instincts.  We could not survive without them. However, there is an instinct we over-rely on. The middle one is our strength, and the third one is our blind spot.

The three instincts are:

·         Self Preservation

·         Social

·         Sexual

Discovering your Enneagram instincts and learning how they transform your life can take you to a new level of consciousness.

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 Self Preservation:

Self-preservation is a subtype concerned about survival, the safety and well-being of themselves and their family. Self-preservation folks often are worried about having enough money, a safe and comfortable place to live, and access to medical care.

People who identify with this subtype are always looking out for danger and making sure they are ready for whatever comes their way. When they sense danger, they look inward to solve problems.

Self-preservation folks are in touch with their physical needs. They notice when they are hungry. They make sure they eat regularly.  They never forget to eat. They make sure they go to the doctor and make sure their family members take care of themselves.

People of this subtype will make sure they will have enough money and other resources for their retirement. They will make sure bills get paid on time. 

It drives them crazy when a spouse spends too much on credit.  They want to make sure that credit cards get paid down every month and that their family is spending within its means.

Welcome team in the lobby of a building.


This subtype is always searching for groups and communities to participate in.  It is important for them to feel part of a group and know their role.  They are great observers and can discern who has the power to get things done.

They take an interest in knowing the norms, procedures, and hierarchies of groups that are important to them.

This subtype has a particular orientation to people, social acceptance, honour, status, popularity, and recognition.

They compare themselves to others and will sacrifice for the good of a group. When they are facing a problem, they look to the group to resolve the concern.

Being in a social subtype does not mean you are an extrovert.  You can be an introvert and still place great importance on the group.

For social types, the group is always more important than the individual.

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Sexual (One on One)

This subtype is always looking for intimacy and intense one on one connections. When a person who identifies with the sexual subtype goes into a room, they are attracted to people with powerful energies.

When they are with the other person, their attention becomes focussed on that individual. They are connected energetically, emotionally, and mentally.

People of this subtype like to show off like a peacock. They want to stand out from others.  They encourage reactions from others, to not be overlooked.

It is easy for them to feel alone, incomplete and preoccupied about how others see them. They want to be beautiful and strong.

When this subtype is in a relationship, they bring intensity and self-sacrifice into the relationship.  

They are always looking for their other half. This sexual subtype does not feel complete unless the person is in a close relationship.

When they are trying to resolve problems, they look toward their primary relationship to resolve issues.

People with the intense sexual subtype make sure they look their best every day. They do their best to look sexy and strong.


Want to learn more about the three Instincts? Click Here

Balancing Your Instincts

Discovering your dominant instinct, healthy instinct and blind spot can help you to become more balanced. Noticing the strengths of each of the three instincts can help you to notice how you show up in the world.

Middle Instinct:

An excellent place to start is working on your middle instinct, which is probably your healthiest. Notice how you are responding to the world through this instinct. How are you benefiting from this instinct?  What is still getting you in trouble?

If your middle instinct is self-preservation, you probably take good care of yourself and your family.  You eat well and get plenty of sleep. You make sure you have adequate insurance to prepare yourself for surprises that may happen. You prevent problems from occurring before they happen.

If your middle instinct is social, you are in groups where you can excel.  You make a great leader because you know how to bring out the best in others.  You know how to get things done because you know who you need to get things done. You are not afraid to ask the right people for what you need.

If your middle instinct is sexual, you are attracted to strong, healthy relationships. You don’t get overly concerned about your looks.  You can enjoy time alone and are not afraid to be in groups.

Dominant Instinct:

Next, work on your dominant instinct, which you probably overdo. For example, if you identify with self-preservation, you are probably over-concerned about your security and well-being.  You probably worry too much about all the possible things that could go wrong.

Suppose you overdo your social instinct. You probably over-identify with the group and ignore your own needs.  You will give away too much of yourself to meet the needs of the group. You may feel insecure, always worried that you do not have enough power in the group.

If you overdo your sexual instinct, you may be overly concerned about whether you are beautiful or strong enough. You will tend to compare yourself with others, always wanting to look better than others.  You may have a great fear of being alone.

Blind Spot:

Finally, it is good to explore your third instinct, which is your blind spot.  If your blind spot is self-preservation, you probably forget you have physical, emotional, and mental needs. You may spend more than you can afford. You may not be ready for your retirement. You may not eat well, causing you to have health problems.

If your blind spot is social, you may be utterly oblivious to the impact you are having on the group. You may get in trouble for not respecting the norms, and being blind to the needs of the group.. You may act like the lone ranger and cause a lot of irritation and anger.

If your blind spot is sexual, you are at risk of getting into an inappropriate relationship, such as someone already married or too young. You will have powerful energy with little self-awareness leading to unhealthy and abusive relationships.

 Transformation through Your Instincts:

Once you discern your instincts, you will better understand your Enneagram type. When you add the instincts to the nine Enneagram types, you then have twenty-seven subtypes. For example, a sexual six shows up differently from a social six.  A self-preservation eight shows up differently than a sexual eight.

As you get healthier in your three subtypes, you get healthier in all nine Enneagram types. 

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Want to Learn More about How Enneagram Types Impact What You Observe in Your Self (And Others)? Click Here

Discovering your dominant instinct can help you to observe yourself in action without judging yourself.  It will give you clues to what to look out for in your behaviour. With practice and patience, you can begin to get more balanced in your three subtypes.

Learning your subtype can help you be more precise in identifying the Enneagram type you most identify with, helping you to make sense of how you show up in the world.

 Discovering your instincts can help you to be clear about the unhealthy behaviours that you want to change.

The path to being your best self takes time. After discovering your type and your primary instinct, you begin a journey of self-observation.

Over time you will eventually stop unhealthy behaviours and replace them with new attitudes and behaviours that bring out the best in you.

With the help of the Enneagram, you can learn to be more present, keeping open your three centers of intelligence the body (sensations), the heart (emotions) and the head (thoughts).

The Enneagram is all about helping you to stay connected with your better self; this is a lifelong journey because the learning never ends. As you continue to get healthier, you will stay more present, helping you to live a more joyful life.

I am Roland Legge, an Identity Coach here to help to understand your Enneagram instincts and how they can transform your life.  You can join my private newsletter list for Free Monthly Advice and access your Free Online Enneagram Test

Originally posted on — used with permission

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