Hello again, Enneagram Paths friends. We are in interesting times, for sure. With the spread of a disease that’s shutting down states and countries across the globe, it’s more important than ever to spread love, care, patience, and self-awareness whenever possible. Take a moment and pause before reading on. Notice your body. Notice the sounds around you. Notice your feelings. Send love to all of these spaces and places.
You have permission to feel and think and say what you need to with close friends and family. Share your fear where it’s safe. Calm those that need it. Love one another. Find information from verified sources. It’s okay to be shaky, it’s okay to be fine. We’re here together.
Here, in this space together, I want to share a brief word on Subtypes and why they are significant during trying times. What are Enneagram Subtypes? In essence, each of the 9 Enneatypes breaks down further into 27 subtypes. Each type has a dominant Self-Preservation (Sp) instinct for survival, a Sexual/One-on-One (Sx) instinct for survival, or a Social Instinct (SI) for survival. I hope you catch the similar phrasing because it’s key for right now. Today, tomorrow, and in the days ahead, we’re all going to be facing situations that trigger our lizard brains and our basic human-animal need to survive.
“[The] limbic system of the brain has been implicated as the seat of emotion, addiction, mood, and lots of other mental and emotional processes. It is the part of the brain that is phylogenetically very primitive. Many people call it “The Lizard Brain” because the limbic system is about all a lizard has for brain function. It is in charge of fight, flight, feeding, fear, freezing-up, and fornication.” (Your Lizard Brain, Joseph Troncale, M.D. Psychology Today)
As you deal with disruptions, fear, change, uncertainty, isolation, or being in close quarters with loved ones for an extended period of time, you should expect your survival mechanisms to kick in. Make space for these tendencies to emerge and treat them with loving-kindness; they are only trying to help you.
But are your dominant Subtype tendencies actually going to help? This is where awareness comes in.
The wonderful thing that separates humans from animals is the ability to be aware of what we’re doing. Therefore, we can notice when our dominant Subtype begins to be triggered and lovingly ask ourselves, “How can I invite in different energy? Is this reaction truly good for me, or can I pause, and then choose something that would work better?”
In the coming weeks, I will be sharing blogs on all the 27 Subtypes, but for today read over the descriptions below and see if you can rank your survival mechanisms. What is the most dominant? What is the least? How can you grow in your less dominant areas? What are some ways that your normal triggered responses harm rather than help? What can you do to shift these patterns?
Self-Preservation: People with a Self-Preservation Subtype find that their attention and behavior are directed on procuring physical safety, resources, and comfort. They focus their energy on making sure they have shelter, food, clothing, money, and health—both for themselves and those closest to them. Self-Preservation Subtypes avoid danger if possible and try to maintain structure in work and daily living. They work hard to secure their future by thinking through plans, highlighting goals, and aligning with others who will be safe and dependable during emergencies or times of need.
Social: People with a Social subtype are usually concerned about the health and well-being of the social circle they find themselves in. They are also focused on finding and maintaining a good place within that particular tribe. Survival of the community is directly tied to the survival of the individual in their minds, and so they work for the flourishing of the whole. Their attention will be focused on belonging, relationships, and recognition, and they will feel threatened by anything that jeopardizes their role in society.
Sexual or One-to-One Bonding: This subtype’s behavior and attention are concerned with anything that has to do with the quality of a relationship with a specific individual. They are person-to-person focused — which makes sense if you think about how much effort it has taken from an evolutionary standpoint to procure a mate. Mating is the way we survive, though a Sexual subtype is not all about sex. This Subtype is also concerned with intimate friends and knowing key and influential people. They will have a longing to create connection, warmth, and intimacy with another person as a means of security.
4 thoughts on “Survival By Subtype”
I’ve known myself as an sp/so for awhile now, but this crisis has really brought it out in me. My initial thought was about food / resources / job security (will this negatively impact my business?) followed by the general welfare of my family members, friends, neighbors, and clients along the same vein (about their money, food, physical safety, etc).
I’m an Sp as well! Hello from the interweb😉 I’m finding the Sp useful for big stuff like having gut instincts about resources, in the smaller day-to-day, there is a lot of catching it and telling it to calm down, pauses, breathing, asking my body what it needs. We’re all doing our best! With love -Melissa
As a male sexual 4 (5’9” with a slight narrow build) I have never been the masculine type. Growing up I was always emotional and thoughtful. I had more deep relationships with girls (platonic) than I had with boys. For sure my sexual 4 looked very feminine and that made me an outcast. Growing up I worked physical construction jobs which ended up giving me a very physically fit and ripped body – all of a sudden I was able to out compete all the guys I knew growing up. So the competitive part of 4 really shows through in me. As my life goes on I am growing more comfortable with my nature; working now as a professional – I stopped being intimidated by other guys concerning how I represent myself; finding the Enneagram encouraged more self-acceptance.
I find the gendered descriptions in a lot of our language disadvantages so much in our lives. Your build was your build and still is, whether more slender or more muscular, your emotional connection with others was neither masculine or feminine, it just was! I’m so glad the Enneagram is giving you language to make space for the complex, unique person that is you! Sure, it’s totally normal to identify with a gender, and yet you have never been more or less of a male because of your personality or Type. Yay for you being you!!