About the Instincts

In addition to having a dominant type, everyone has some combination of three instincts which influence how their type manifests. These instincts are extremely important, as they influence things such as what a person will focus on in their lives and what they'll neglect, which traits of their type that will be the most pronounced, and how they come across to others.

Despite the importance of the instincts, there is a lot of confusion over what the instincts mean. In short, there are three instincts (also called subtypes): Self-preservational, social and sexual. However, their names can be misleading. Many people erroneously think social means outgoing, prone to gossip and social-climbing. Similarly, many people think being a sexual-first means being more sexually active or more sexually appealing to others. Anyone can have these characters, and the blend between type and instinct makes a big difference in how the traits of each manifest.

Some issues with the Instincts

In general, the first instinct is the instinct that is most developed, whereas the third instinct is the one which is least developed. For example, I'm a so/sx/sp, so my self-pres instinct would be least developed. This is misleading, however, for a number of reasons. One reason why this is misleading is because the dominant instinct is the area where the most attention is focused, but also the area where one is most vulnerable to trauma. When the instinct gets traumatized, it can result in an intense avoidance of the things associated with the instinct. For this reason, the casual observer may have a hard time distinguishing whether an instinct is first or last. This requires a certain amount of perceptiveness. What you're going to want to look for is what the person is centered around. If the instinct is dominant, even when the instinct becomes frustrated by trauma, their concerns will still focus around that instinct in some way. When an instinct is under-developed, the person simply doesn't have it as a priority. They don't actively pursue that area or avoid it. Most of the time, they seem to not really feel its pull.

It should be noted that just how neglected the third instinct will be depends on the person. For some people, the third instinct may be present, but simply the least pronounced of the three. In others it will be nearly absent. A lot of that depends on the person, their health, and their age. Being sexual-last doesn't necessarily mean asexual, and being self-pres last doesn't mean being irresponsible. It simply isn't isn't as important to the person as the other two.

I've decided on this page not to give a breakdown of all the type/instinct combinations, but rather give an overview of the instincts and how they apply specifically to the types. There are some sites out there that talk about all the possible instinct/type combos but in general, I find that there are a lot of individual differences in the way the instincts intersect, and it's better to learn the general principles and decide for yourself how it applies.

Overview of the instincts

Instincts and triads

In general, the instincts tend to resemble the three triads of the enneagram. I suspect a lot of times when a person is mistyped by others, it's because they're confusing the presence of a dominant instinct with that person's dominant triad. For example, someone can seem "head triad-ish" but be a heart or gut type. In general, self-pres first types tend to seem like instinctual types, social firsts seem like head types, and sexual firsts seem like heart types.


This relates to matters dealing with the body, dealing with security, survival, and enjoyment of physical and material pleasures. Having financial security, good food and health are all of primary concern. When this instinct is frustrated, the person takes risks in these matters, takes a "gambler" approach to health and security. When it's last, the person can sometimes be neglectful in considering matters of health, long-term security, investments, etcetera.


Social first gives a general astuteness in observing the social dynamics and social spheres. In general, there is a concern for what people think and with belonging. In some people, this can indicate wanting high social status, wanting to have their finger on the pulse socially. For others, this can simply be an interest in social dynamics, with an attraction to fields like sociology and social psychology. There also is a pronounced interest in the good of society, an attraction to social issues, and a pre-disposition towards fields where one can make a difference in the larger social sphere. Social firsts are often attracted to fields such as teaching, social work and ethics. They also can be drawn to political activism. When this instinct becomes frustrated, there is an inclination towards social anxiety, and a tendency towards social withdrawl while secretly bemoaning one's lack of social connection. When one is social last, there is a greater difficulty in knowing how one is coming across socially, as well as a lack of interest in social formalities.


The sexual subtype gives an attraction to one-on-one relationships and intimate connections. It also tends to give one an awareness of sexual dynamics, a need to express oneself, and an expressiveness in facial expression and body language. There is a greater emphasis on being attractive, and a general interest in mating rituals, whether applicable to one's own life, or just being aware and observing them in others. When frustrated, there can be both a fixation on intimate connections and a profound fear of intimacy. When the sexual instinct is last, the person can put work or socializing before intimate connections, have a hard time reading signals or difficulty getting their own signals across.


Self-pres ones

Self-pres ones tend to have a considerable amount of anxiety. There is a tendency to be extremely nervous, particularly about matters of health and money. The pressure to be perfect manifests as needing to not make any mistakes practically, to account for every possible bad scenario, and to constantly be prepared. Setbacks materially are seen as a failure on their part to adequately prepare and thus not live up to the superego ideal of being the perfectly prepared individual. They can fret and worry over loved ones, but also become judgmental and critical when others do not share their strong drive towards covering the bases.

Social ones

Social ones tend to want to perfect and reform the social world. They tend to see what's wrong in the greater sphere, and put their energy into making change in the community. There is a strong idealistic streak to the social one, and they can become both very actively involved and forceful in their efforts to convert others to their vision. There can also be a considerable amount of rigidity in the social sphere, with strict notions of how people ought to behave, becoming fixated on the proper etiquette.

Sexual ones

Sexual ones tend to have a strong jealous streak, being insecure about the aspect of themselves that does not live up to the superego's ideal. This becomes projected onto the significant other as obsessive jealousy, believing the other will see how imperfect they are and leave them for someone who better fits the ideal. They also can be highly perfectionistic and critical of loved ones, readily becoming disappointed by them when they prove to be too human.


Self-pres twos

Self-pres twos may be more difficult to recognize as twos due to their independence, and concern over scarcity. They tend to feel entitled to getting their needs met, but also tend to focus their serving on providing for the needs of others. There's an emphasis on indulging one's pleasures and a desire for pampering that can resemble four or seven.

Social twos

Social twos tend to have a focus on being important in their social sphere. They can gravitate towards "important people" in their group. There can be multiple social contacts, wanting to be close to everyone, but also spreading oneself too thin socially. They can seem three-like in their desire to make social contacts and tendency towards ambition.

Sexual twos

Sexual twos tend to be very seductive, wanting to be as physically attractive to as many people as possible. However, since the two's fixation is on love, this can bring them into conflict. Whereas sexual threes and sexual sixes want to be physically attractive for its own sake, the motivation of sexual two will be to be physically attractive to find true love. This creates a tension for the two, as they want to be loved deeply for who they are as validation of their goodness and worthiness. When the sexual instinct is first, they may vy to be physically appealing all the while fearing they are only valued for their appearance, not for their inner goodness.


Self-Pres threes

This is the most workaholic of all the threes. They are most focused on constantly working to accumulate as much as possible to prevent any potential loss. There is an underlying fear of scarcity and desire for security. As a result, they throw themselves into non-stop work, unable to take a break or enjoy themselves, because of the fear that any lightening of their load is courting financial and professional disaster.

Social threes

The social three is focused on receiving social validation in whatever the chosen sphere of influence may be. There is generally some tendency towards the accepted icons of their culture--wanting nice clothes, eating at the best restaurants, having an appealing spouse and reputable circle of friends. However, this will be influenced greatly by whatever their valued social environment is. For example, a social three whose desired social environment is an urban art community will be less concerned with a house in the suburbs and a nice car, and more concerned with being knowledgable about the latest art trends, a loft in the hip part of town, and knowing where all the up and coming restaurants are. These are the threes who will be the most astute in observing social dynamics and will be the most concerned with how they come across to others.

Sexual Threes

Sexual threes focus is on being attractive to others. They most want validation by being thought of as attractive and appealing to others. Much of their focus will be on doing whatever is necessary to accentuate their attractiveness, and observing how appealing they come across to others. They will immediately notice who is responding to them and hone in on that person, as well as adapting themselves based on what people respond to. There is a subsequent fear of intimacy in this type, finding rejection unbearable, and tending to avoid any situation that might result in romantic failure.


Self pres fours

Self-pres fours have been called "dauntless" by Ichazo, although there has been some debate recently about whether this most applies to the self-preservation subtype or not. In general, the dauntless depiction is one that is risk taking, throwing caution to the wind, moving to new cities, fearlessly taking risks and pursuing options that can prove to be intense experiences for the four. In general, self-pres fours tend to be the most inclined to indulge their senses, especially when depressed. They also are the most focused and practical of all the fours, best able to promote their work and actualize their dreams.

Social fours

Social fours tend to have a high degree of social shame. The envy of four takes the form of constant comparison, and feeling like one doesn't measure up socially. There is something of a "velveteen rabbit" picture to this subtype of four. They tend to be the most self-conscious of all fours and tend to suffer internal conflicts between wanting to be themselves and wanting to be part of the group. Like social threes, they have a talent for observing social dynamics. Unlike social threes, this is less likely to aid in self-presentation and more likely to accentuate social anxiety. Their tendency to anxiously monitor their behavior and the responses of others can cause them to resemble sixes. The difference is in the motivation. Sixes monitor because they want to make sure they're secure. Fours monitor because they don't want them to make a faux pas that will cause them to feel ashamed. They also tend to be idealistic, and can be politically inclined, much like ones. They tend to be social critics, and the four drive towards creativity can be focused in this arena. There can also be a desire to be part of an intellectual or cultural elite, but a subsequent despair that they will never achieve this. There is a tendency to be attracted to subculture, as well as a tendency to flip-flop between feeling like social misfits and above the common crowd.

Sexual fours

Sexual fours tend to be the most forward of all the subtypes of fours when pursuing their attractions, as well as the most emotionally volatile. They are "uber fours"--fours in their most extreme and obvious state. They tend to have issues with competition, finding them rousting themselves out of self-indulgence when they see their rivals doing better than them, but also resenting having to "play the game" at all. Despite some speculation that Kierkegaard was a social four, I believe he was actually a sexual four--he was driftless and melancholy, a bit unfocused, until his fiercest rival became successful in an area of study very close to his heart. Most of his works are littered with direct and indirect quips at his rival Martensen. This is a classic example of the sexual four's attitude towards competition: thinking it's beneath them, until the source of their hatred is more successful, and then becoming fiercely competitive and productive, in an almost eight-ish fashion.


Self-Pres fives

these are the most reclusive of all the types of fives. There is a tendency to want to find a private space that no one will intrude upon. The home environment is considered a refuge, and the orientation is towards finding someplace that can serve as a barrier between themselves and the outside world. They guard themselves and their privacy fiercely, wanting a "safe space" that they can retreat to when overwhelmed. Self-pres fives tend to be the most removed and detached of all the subtypes of five. They will also be the most frugal and minimizing, although they can horde and collect whatever their object of interest is. For example, a five whose focus is on collecting comic books can have a bedroom filled with mint-condition comics that no one is allowed to enter, let alone look at or touch.

Social fives

Social fives tend to try to gain social status through their area of expertise. While normally unconcerned with conventions, they will be very focused on seeming knowledgable and accomplished in whatever their source of knowledge is. For example, the social five grad student that cares little for the normal social rituals may find themselves seeking status by talking at length about their research and appearing more intelligent and studious than anyone else. Social fives can form connections through their sharing of expertise, but they can also become uncomfortable in conversations outside their area of expertise, quickly reverting the discussion back to something where they may display their knowledge.

Sexual fives

Sexual fives are the most emotionally expressive of all of the fives. They can seem four-like in their tendency towards push-pull and their drive towards connection. Intimate connection is seen as an escape from the otherwise constant feeling of emptiness and nihilism that fives often suffer from. Because they are otherwise so disconnected, any feeling of connection is all the more intense. They can be extremely expressive in sharing information about their life, their emotional responses, and intellectual interests, but also like to see themselves as very private and selective. They can sometimes have a poor sense of boundaries with others but are nonetheless highly protective of their own boundaries. Whereas self pres and social fives may fear being intruded upon and establish boundaries pre-emptively, sexual fives tend to push for connection aggressively while reacting just as aggressively when they fear their own boundaries are threatened. This reaction is in part due to the aggressive nature of the sexual instinct and in part due to their internal conflict between the connection drive of the sexual subtype and the distancing needs of the five.


Self-pres sixes

These are the most visibly anxious of all the sixes. With the self-pres instinct first, the natural anxiety of six gets focused on things related to material well-being. Sixes typically don't have faith in their own judgment. When the six is self-pres first, the lack of faith is in their own ability to take care of themselves. These are the types most inclined to try to attract supporters, using warmth and an engaging and harmless persona as a way of disarming others. However, self-pres sixes can be hypersensitive to any sign of rejection, becoming aloof and defensive if they feel rebuffed in any way.

Social sixes

Naranjo refers to this type as "prussian sixes." Prussian sixes are a very serious, rule-bound type of six that can resemble ones. However, the current trend among enneagram fans is to see the prussian six as any type of six that is sexual last. Therefore, prussian sixes can be either sp/so or so/sp. Social sixes in general tend to be inclined towards their community, often politically involved. There is a very strong idealist streak in the social six, much like there is with social ones and social fours. Due to their idealism, group orientation and mixture of phobic and counterphobic traits, social sixes are frequently attracted to causes such as feminism, animal rights and environmentalism. Through these causes, they find they can serve the community, but also get a sense of security through a clearly defined group with an equally clearly defined enemy to combat. Their sense of loyalty to their social group is quite pronounced, and they are generally well known for their commitment to the organizations of their choice. However, they can become threatened by outsiders and/or dissent, as these blur the lines between who is on what side and give a sense of social insecurity.

Sexual Sixes

The emphasis for the sexual six is on strength and beauty. In general, the sexual six wants to appear strong, powerful and attractive. Much of the literature describes this as conforming to gender roles, with males opting to seem powerful and females opting to fit the fashion magazine standard of beauty. I disagree with this. I think sexual sixes, in general, want to be both strong and attractive simultaneously regardless of gender, and rather than subscribing to societal norms of what this means, may actually be oriented towards a counterphobic rebellion against the authority of gender norms. For example, the female sexual six that is both a feminist and a dominatrix by trade could be one incidence of this. Her sense of security comes through seeing herself as attractive, but also strong, in a way that nonetheless rebels against the authority of gender norms. In general, there tends towards a strong anti-authoritarian stance but also a sense of security through the merging of strength and attractiveness. It should be noted that the drive towards a merging of strength and attractiveness, and defying the conventions of mainstream sexuality, is by no means limited to sixes. However, it gives a good picture of one of the many ways the sexual six motivations may manifest.


Self-Pres sevens

Self-pres sevens tend to be rather hedonistic, wanting to enjoy the pleasures of food and drink. There is a tendency to disregard practical matters in an effort to avoid being deprived of their preferred indulgences. They tend to experience a bit of a push-pull between wanting to not deny themselves while wanting not to cause serious damage to their financial standing. The charlatan element of seven thus comes out as tending to "wing it" financially.They are classic entertainers, wanting to share their well-being with their friends and family, and tend to not just want to satisfy their own self-preservational needs but provide for others self-preservational needs as well. They also have an easier time focusing and concentrating, better able to see "the big picture" so that they have the money and resources for all their indulgences.

Social Sevens

In social sevens there is the tendency to want to plan and structure their social calendar. They don't want to be without social involvement, and the hedonism of seven comes across as an intense desire for social activity and for social outlets for their energy. They tend to be committed to their social activities, planning them well in advance, and sticking to their commitments, but also with an underlying sense of obligation (if not occasionally suffocation) at being tied down by the plans they make.

Sexual Sevens

Sexual sevens can resemble 4w3 especially the 7w6. There is a drive towards attraction, which can resemble the four's longing for the unavailable and what's missing. Sexual sevens tend to be highly charismatic, flirtations, and constantly in a state of infatuation. They get a "high" out of courtship rituals and "the chase." Unlike 4w3s, whose infatuations can become unhealthy and self-desctructive (think of "The Sorrows of Young Werther"), sexual sevens are less inclined to become focused on just one person during the courtship phase, but rather have the trademark seven short attention span, flitting from fascination to fascination, not wanting to put all their eggs in one basket. Once they have committed to the other person, however, it is unwavering, and the fickleness they displayed during the early stages of the relationship disappears. They are especially prone to idealizing the other person once in a relationship, and may be slow to end even an unhappy relationship.


Self-Pres Eights

Self-pres eights tend to be a more understated kind of eight. The forcefulness of their personality doesn't tend to come out as readily as it does with some of the other subtypes, but when it does, it's explosive and shocking. These are the sorts of eights that will seem easygoing until you cross a line, and then the aggressiveness of the eight personality becomes apparent, showing that they are a force to be reckoned with. They tend to be territorial, controlling of their home space, wanting to run a tight ship where everything runs smoothly. Much like fives, they see the outside world as threatening. They are oriented towards making sure they have provided for themselves and those in their charge. They can often be advocates of "tough love," believing it's the only way those they care about will be able to survive.

Social eights

Social eights tend to be quite committed to their social sphere and highly protective of those in their group. They tend to be bold, expansive personalities, but also have difficulties with trust, and once their trust has been betrayed, there is little chance of regaining it. They can be drawn to social battles where they can tangle with an opposing side and establish their dominance, especially if doing so can give a better life for those in their social sphere. They enjoy the intensity of struggles and challenges for the sake of the group. They can often feel like they have to restrain themselves too much in the group, feeling torn between their awareness of group norms and their own desire to assert themselves as boldly and aggressively as possible.

Sexual eights

Sexual eights are extremely attracted to intensity. Eights, in general, crave intensity, and intensity tends to also be the domain of the sexual subtype. The anger and aggression of eight meets the passion and drive for connection of the sexual subtype, creating a personality that is both very aware of their hidden vulnerability and very assertive in pursuing their desires. Since the sexual instinct is pre-disposed towards jealousy and eights often have trust issues, this can give a pronounced jealous and possessive streak, wanting to control the other. Having felt they finally found someone with whom they can let down their guard, they can become easily angered by any potential threat to that. They can be highly confrontational and tend to desire partners that can give as good as they get. They also are fiercely loyal to their partner. They can be the most aggressive type of eight, and take great pride in their tough demeanor, believing it to be the mark of a survivor.


Self-pres nines

These are the most routine-bound of nines. They'll have a certain food, a certain favorite television show, a certain preferred drink, and they're loathe to depart from that. The nine's escapist tendencies are shown through overindulging in favorite food and drinks. When they have a favorite thing, they will not only indulge to excess but will be highly resistant to changing that preferred thing. They're comfort-junkies. They also are prone to collecting and hording, wanting to make sure they always have enough and never have to do without.

Social nines

Social nines tend to be the most active and productive of nines. They can identify strongly with three, since they tend to stay active, be highly sociable and involved in various groups, committees and organizations. Social nines tend to feel ambivalent about their group affiliations, getting their identities mixed up in their social activities. Group activities also feed into the nine's need for routine, as it gives a structured way in which they can be involved, without having to take as much of the initiative. There also tends to be an internal conflict between wanting the acceptance of the group and stubbornly resisting taking on too many responsibilities.

Sexual nines

Sexual nines can have an intensity that often makes them look fourish. They have the passionate desire to merge with another and can idealize potential partners. They tend to merge with the other readily, losing themselves in relationships and fascination. Nines tendency towards fantasizing can take the role of fantasizing about potential relationships, although being basically indecisive and withdrawn, they tend to stay fantasizing and will avoid any direct action in pursuit of the fantasized object. They can be incredibly shy. When in a relationship, they often suffer from a loss of identity, because they become so absorbed in the other person.

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