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Enneagram Type 3 Instinctual Subtypes: SP 3, SX 3, SO 3

The core focus of Enneagram type 3

Enneagram type 3
The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.
- Vince Lombardi

Early in life we develop an initial belief about ourselves and a compensation for that self-belief.

  • Type 3 Initial Self-Belief: “I am not valued as I am.”

    Type 3 Compensation: "I must become accomplished and prove myself to gain value and regard in the eyes of others."

Over time this gets generalized beyond the self into a core focus that also shapes how we perceive and interact with the world at large.

  • Type 3 Core Focus: Esteem comes from being valued and having the positive regard of others. This requires that I not only package myself and perform in ways that will garner that recognition and positive regard but also find ways of measuring my success toward those ends.

    Personality characteristics that might arise from the type 3 core focus include:

    • Looks to external indicators for how well they're performing.
    • Packages and markets self-image that's admired by intended audience.
    • Pushes aside feelings that get in the way of achieving goals.
    • Sense of self-value comes from what they produce or accomplish.
    • Competes in arenas where there is someone to beat and someone to notice.
    • Chamelon-like shifts of image occur to match situational expectations.
    • Confuses self-presentation with who they truly are.
    • Avoids failure by avoiding pursuits where failure is a possibility.
    • Gives priority to goals and achieving them over other things.

Enneagram type 3 instinctual subtypes

Type 3 Instinctual Subtypes

The Enneagram instincts are self-preservation (sp), sexual (sx), and social (so). The sexual (sx) instinct is also called the intimate or one-to-one instinct.

The instincts are traditionally used to define three instinctual subtypes or variations of a basic type (e.g., SP 3, SX 3, and SO 3). One of these three subtypes is called the counter-type because it can look different from the basic type.

Below are brief descriptions of the three type 3 instinctual subtypes.

  • SP 3 - Security, Company Man/Woman (counter-type): security through hard work, material success, and accomplishments; seeks recognition from others through effort not overt self-promotion; can overidentify with work role and career.

  • SX 3 - Masculine/Feminine, Charisma: presents attractive and pleasing image to others; promotes and supports important others more so than promoting oneself; success of significant others becomes one’s own success.

  • SO 3 - Prestige, Achievement: adopts the persona and image that garners respect, approval, admiration, etc.; can confuse persona and image with who they truly are; enjoys the spotlight and achieving success, reputation, status, influence as they climb the social ladder.

While an individual may be identified with type 3 in general, that same individual may be more specifically identified with one of the three instinctual subtypes as well.

A more recent approach to using the instincts is instinctual variant stacking which can be used independent of Enneagram type.

What Enneagram authors say about type 3 instinctual subtypes

Enneagram type 3 names

Below are Enneagram 3 subtype description samplings from some popular or well-known Enneagram authors. Click on the sources after the descriptions to further explore these interpretations.

  • In the average range, Self-Preservation Threes feel that they must constantly work for security and stability and want to build up a base of material well-being.1

    In the average range, Sexual Threes are characterized by a powerful desire to be desired; not just sexual desirability, but an overall drive to be valued and wanted.1

    In the average range, Social Threes need recognition and reassurance that they are making progress, moving up in the world.1

  • Security in the Area of Self-preservation: Threes are caught up with money and material ownership as a way to reduce anxiety about personal survival. Threes work hard to produce the money and status that provides security.2

    Masculine or Feminine Image in One-to-One Relationships: Threes tend to adopt a sexually appealing image and are often aware of performing a role. Being recognized as physically appealing or as sexually potent is taken as a sign of personal value, and Threes can compete to be attractive in other people’s eyes.2

    Prestige in Social Groups: Threes are preoccupied with presenting a good social image. Their personal presentation will alter to assume the valued characteristics of the group. Threes want to lead the herd.2

  • Self-Preservation Threes: Have a preoccupation with acquiring material security as a way to calm core anxieties about survival. Concentrate on doing well, having enough, especially of the right things.3

    Intimate Threes: Mask themselves with an image of what a sexually appealing man or woman is. Image is based on community or cultural standards of desirability or a given partner’s expectations.3

    Social Threes: Often extremely status-conscious. Most confuse their inner self with the world’s badges, honors and totems. Measure themselves by money, position, awards or results.3

  • Type 3 Instinctual Subtypes by Beatrice Chestnut

    Self-Preservation Three: "Security"
    Wants to be admired by others, but avoids openly seeking recognition. Seeks a sense of security through being good, working hard, and being effective and productive.4

    Sexual Three: "Charisma"
    Focus is on achievement in terms of personal attractiveness and supporting others. These threes have a harder time talking about themselves and often put the focus on others they want to promote.4

    Social Three: "Prestige"
    Focus is on achievement in the service of looking good and getting the job done. They act out vanity through their desire to be seen and have influence with people.4

Enneagram Tests to Help Determine Instinct

Enneagram instincts

There are two approaches to using the Enneagram personality instincts.

The instinctual subtypes describe three variations of each of the Enneagram types: a self-preservation (sp), sexual (sx), and social (so) subtype.

Instinctual variant stacking can be used with or without reference to Enneagram type by determining an individual's preferential order for the the three instincts (i.e., sp/sx, sx/sp, sp/so, so/sp, sx/so, or so/sx).

  • Instinctual Subtype Test
    This test compares the three instinctual subtypes for a given type.
    Use when you know your type and want to find your instinctual subtype for that type.

  • Instinctual Variant Stacking Test
    This test ranks the three instincts to determine your preferential order of the instincts.
    Use when you want to know your instinctual variant stacking independent of type.

To learn more about Enneagram personality type 3 click here.

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