3 Survival Strategies – Subtypes of the Enneagram {Enneagram Series #21}

What’s your go-to survival strategy?

  • Self-care and being alone?
  • Meeting up with a crowd of friends?
  • Spending one-on-one time with someone you love?

Learn the subtype for your Enneagram number.

Enneagram Subtypes

How Do You Survive?

As with all the groupings on the Enneagram, nobody is exclusive to just one group. We each experience all these strategies.

But one survival strategy is is usually most dominant, one is our second choice, and one is akin to a blind spot.

Knowing your primary preference can prevent misunderstandings with those who have different drives. It can guide your relationships to more balance. And it can show you new directions to experiment to overcome blind spots.

While the Enneagram is often broken into groups of threes, this set is different. These three survival strategies, or instincts (called Instinctual Subtypes), exist in EVERY type, all 9 numbers, driving the way we behave, feel, and think.

The three subtype names are:

  • Self-Preservation (Need for protection)
  • Social (Need to belong in a group)
  • One-on-One (Need to be uniquely desired)

Since each of the 9 numbers can be one of these 3 types, there are 27 subtypes to choose from.

If you are a type 2 for instance, you can be either a Self-Preservation 2, a Social 2, or a One-on-One 2, each looking very different from the others.

Introduction to the 3 Subtypes

Here’s a brief introduction to subtypes. To learn more, read here or here.

• Self-Preservation

Everyone has a natural self-preservation instinct to survive. But the people in this group are very aware of their needs for physical safety and comfort, including food, shelter, and physical health. They may wonder what their next meal will be or if the bills will be paid.

When they enter a room, they may first notice if it’s hot or cold; if the lighting is too bright or dim; if there is food available or not.

• Social

We also all have a social instinct to relate to other people. This type, though, has a higher social awareness of belonging, being liked, and feeling safe with others, especially as members of a larger community. They want to be involved and interact often with others.

Upon entering a room, they are aware of the social status of the other people, who is talking with the host, who has the power or prestige.

• One-on-One

While we all enjoy connecting with someone special, the people in this group focus the most on intimate relationships, close friendships, and intense experiences.

When entering a room, they focus on finding the most interesting person to them and follow their attractions.

The 27 Names for the Subtypes

Here is a list of the names of the 27 types.

To learn more, read and click through each Enneagram Instinctual Subtype here

Enneagram Subtype Names

Spiritual Practice #15—Three Christian Prayer Practices

As we learn to practice solitude, silence, and stillness, it’s helpful to have a specific practice. In The Sacred Enneagram, Christopher Heuertz aligns solitude, silence, and stillness with three historic Christian prayer practices that are useful to all types as we connect with God.

1. Centering Prayer

This ancient practice is a way to move from conversation with God to communion with God. Sit in silence with God, giving him your undivided attention, without thinking about prayer requests, confessions, etc. When you notice that your mind has wandered off (and it will), gently return to your intention of simply being with God, feeling his love surround you.

It’s recommended that you practice this prayer twice a day, for 20 minutes per session. But realistically? If you spend only 5 minutes a day sitting still with God in Centering Prayer, you will be enriched through time with him.

2. The Examen

The Ignation prayer of Examen is a prayer to help us stay aware of God’s presence and movement in our life. It walks you through different movements of prayer for reflective thanksgiving of God’s presence in our day. Or as Father Dennis Ham puts it, to think through your day as if you’re rummaging through a desk drawer to find something. 

3. The Welcoming Prayer

This prayer practice invites us to welcome life as it comes to us, consenting to the Spirit’s presence in all the things that show up at our door.

This is the original Welcoming Prayer.

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment because I know it is for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control.

I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and His healing action and grace within.

– Mary Mrozowski 1925-1993

Learn more about the Welcoming Prayer here.


Can you easily identify your subtype? Please share in the comments.

Enneagram for Spiritual Growth

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Previous: What’s Your Coping Style? Choose Your Response  {Series #20}

Next: Each Type on Their Day Off and Week 3 in Summary {Series #22} 

6 thoughts on “3 Survival Strategies – Subtypes of the Enneagram {Enneagram Series #21}

  1. blankfloyd

    I have to say I’m a little disappointed in myself as I read the definitions and or feelings about certain types. It seems that I often fall into the shallow types of categories…

  2. blankAnita Ojeda

    I’d say my subtype is preservation (with social being the lowest most of the time). I struggle with communing with God—my mind often wanders, so I’ve gotten in the habit of journaling my prayers to keep focused.

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