Enneagram Type 8 Instinctual Subtypes: SP 8, SX 8, SO 8




The core focus of Enneagram type 8

Enneagram type 8
Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

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

  • Type 8 Initial Self-Belief: “I am disempowered as I am.”

    Type 8 Compensation: "I must be direct in going after what I want and stand strong against being controlled or taken advantage of."

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 8 Core Focus: Empowerment comes from being in control and not being controlled by people or rules. This requires that I confront obstacles and people that are in my way and move directly toward what I want. Don't show weakness in a world that takes advantage of innocence and vulnerability.

    Personality characteristics that might arise from the type 8 core focus include:

    • Takes action decisively and sometimes impulsively
    • Fills up the space around them with their presence and big energy
    • Speaks directly and bluntly when making a point
    • Often guards against vulnerability by denying softer emotions
    • Naturally assumes role of leadership when there's a power vacuum
    • Directly confronts others to reveal the truth of a situation
    • Protects or seeks justice for those unfairly taken advantage of
    • Anger arises in service of making things happen/getting things moving
    • Prefers to make their own rules rather than follow others' rules



Enneagram type 8 instinctual subtypes

Type 8 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 8, SX 8, and SO 8). 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 8 instinctual subtypes.

  • SP 8 - Satisfactory Survival, Satisfaction: takes a direct approach in getting what they want; gets frustrated and intolerant of obstacles that get in the way; accumulates territory and material resources to assure satisfactory survival.

  • SX 8 - Surrender, Possession: rebelliously asserts their “truth” or “way” in place of the rules or norms; wants others to surrender control, wants to dominate others and surroundings; can have difficulty letting go of what’s been “possessed” or taken under their control.

  • SO 8 - Friendship, Solidarity (counter-type): seeks advantage and influence through associations and alliances; defends those under their protection from injustice, unfairness, and harm; appears more friendly, generous, and less aggressive than other type 8 subtypes.

While an individual may be identified with type 8 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 8 instinctual subtypes

Enneagram type 8 names

Below are 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 Eights focus intently on practical matters and "bringing home the bacon" so that they will have enough money and power to ensure their well-being as well as that of their loved ones.1

    In the average range, Sexual Eights are passionate about whomever they care about and want to feel that they have had a major impact on the lives of those in their sphere of influence.1

    In the average range, Social Eights express their intensity through the powerful bonds that they make with others; they enjoy making pacts with those who have proven themselves trustworthy.1

  • Satisfactory Survival in the Area of Self-preservation: Eights focus on control of the mechanics of personal survival and space.2

    Possession/Surrender in One-to-One Relationships: Eights want to possess the heart and mind of the mate. Surrender is the desire to give up obsessive needs for control to a partner who is completely trustworthy.2

    Friendship in Social Relationships: For Eights, friendship is the trust extended to those whom you protect and by whom you are protected.2

  • Self-Preservation Eights: Generally seek control over their immediate environment and may worry about survival. Tend to value things over people. Maintaining order and material security are important.3

    Intimate Eights: Want stability, loyalty and predictability in close relationships. Since life is dangerous they want to choose close allies carefully.3

    Social Eights: Often loyal to a group and conceive of friendship as a pact of mutual protection. May be the group’s protector or provider.3

  • Type 8 Instinctual Subtypes by Beatrice Chestnut

    Self-Preservation Eight: "Satisfaction"
    Expresses the passion of lust through a focus on getting what they need for survival. They have a strong desire for the timely satisfaction of material needs and an intolerance for frustration.4

    Sexual Eight: "Possession"
    Expresses lust through rebellion and the need to possess everyone’s attention. They are intense, charismatic characters who want to have control and influence. Instead of seeking material security, they try to get power over things and people.4

    Social Eight: "Solidarity"
    Expresses lust and aggression in the service of others. A social antisocial person, this is the coutertype of the Eights, a helpful Eight who appears less aggressive and more loyal than the other two Eight subtypes.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 8 click here.


Click here to learn more about the nine Enneagram personality types, type variations, type origins, and how the types use the Enneagram symbol.

Click here for additional Enneagram tests on type, wing, instinct, and centers.



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