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What are the Instinctual Variants (or Subtypes)?

The Instinctual Variants (often erroneously called “the subtypes”) are a third set of variations of the nine basic types that also account for differences and variability within the types. A major aspect of our human equipment lies in our instinctual “hard wiring” as biological beings, and three major instincts are an essential part of our human nature. We have a self-preservation instinct (for preserving the body and its life and functioning), a social instinct (for getting along with others and forming secure social bonds), and a sexual instinct (for extending ourselves in the environment and through the generations). As with other elements of our personality structure, one or more of these instincts usually becomes imbalanced in some way and to some degree in childhood, thus becoming a significant arena for various related “issues” to arise. (See Personality Types and the individual type chapters in The Wisdom of the Enneagram for more information about the Instinctual Variants.) See also the article on the Instincts on this website.

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