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What is my Enneagram instinct?

Enneagram instinctual subtypesEnneagram instinctual variants

The Enneagram instincts refer to three survival instincts: the self-preservation (sp) instinct, the sexual (sx) instinct, and the social (so) instinct.

There are two approaches to using the instincts with the Enneagram personality types. Determining your instinctual preference depends on which of the two approaches you want to use: subtypes or variant stacking.

More often than not these two approaches are mistakenly combined. This can lead to a great deal of confusion because the two approaches are describing two different things: subtypes describe three different variations of each type while variant stacking describes six possible preferences for the three instincts without regard to type.

Instinctual Subtypes

With the traditional approach there are three instinctual subtypes for each type: the self-preservation subtype (sp), the sexual subtype (sx), and the social subtype (so). Three subtypes for each of the nine Enneagram types results in twenty-seven different instinctual subtypes.

As an example, while a person may identify as type 1 in general, that same person might identify more specifically with one of the three subtypes: sp 1, sx 1, or so 1.

Instinctual Variant Stacking

The more recent approach of instinctual variant stacking has you determine an order of preference for all three instincts. You do this independent of Enneagram type.

For example, if someone's most preferred instinct is self-preservation (sp), their second preferred instinct is sexual (sx), and their least preferred instinct is social (so) then their stacking is "sp/sx" (the least preferred instinct is omitted from the shorthand). Enneagram type has nothing to do with determining stacking although it can be used in conjunction with it (e.g., sp/sx 1).


Which instinctual approach would you like to use?


Determining Enneagram Type and its Variations

This is one of many pages available on this website that help you determine your basic or primary type, your preferred wing, your instinctual subtype, your instinctual variant stacking, and your tritype. To get help finding the various aspects of type visit the Enneagram typing page.

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