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click image to enlarge

I recently attended a phenomenal weekend workshop with Helen Palmer and Terry Seracino entitled “Observing the Hidden Barriers in Relationships”.  It focused on the Enneagram personality system and specifically the three subtypes that play out in our relationships. The weekend was rich in exercises, witnessing and experiencing how these inner habits of focus can play out within our interactions.  I thought some of you may be curious to learn a bit about these subtypes; so here we go.

“Our conditioned Enneagram type structure is defined by a pattern of thought supported by an emotional habit (historically called the passion of the heart) which plays out in three critical behaviours called Subtypes that affect our relationships as well as how we spend our time and energy.”

These three subtypes can also be referred to as instinctual energy and I will give a brief overview here taken from the notes of the weekend workshop.

Subtype 1 – Self-Preservation

Attention style:   inward, singular

  • Personal survival
  • Safety
  • Security
  • Comfort
  • Adequate basic resources
  • Home/food/healthcare/finances

Subtype 2 – One to One

Attention Style:   focused, one-to-one

  • Intensity
  • Intimate relationships
  • Bonding with special others
  • Union
  • Closeness

Subtype 3 – Social

Attention style:   outward, panoramic, inclusive

  • Community/group
  • Role
  • Status
  • Belonging
  • Participation

We can subconsciously spend energy on our main instinct until we bring attention to it and learn to free our conditioned energy and create neural plasticity.

With 9 Enneagram Types and 3 instinctual energies we end up with 27 subtype behaviours.

The subtype behaviours can be more powerful transformers than the passion of the type itself.

A gold mine for growth/transformation: When brought under self-observation, Subtype behaviours can be choice points for positive change in relationship.

If I bring this into my own relationship to look at the strengths that my husband and I bring to each other, it looks like this.

I am Social

  • Look at the good of everyone
  • Handle many tasks
  • Like networking and connection with everyone
  • I bring new experiences, spontaneity
  • My excitement and enthusiasm is infectious
  • Always look for what’s out there….

He is Self-Preservation

  • Focused in the present, grounding
  • Has depth focus to details
  • Simplicity
  • Brings a calm and quiet
  • Creates a safeness to express my emotions without over reacting
  • The foundation of our home/finances/security are looked after

Of course the exercise continued to review the challenges brought about by each type and then looked at tips for improving the relationship from each person’s point of view.

There is always more to explore, which is stimulating to me and of course as a Social Subtype, I want to share the learning with everyone!  You can learn more by going to Helen Palmer’s website by clicking here.

I’d love your feedback! Have you explored the Enneagram subtypes?  Please feel free to leave a link back to your own blog if you have one via the commentluv feature here on the site.

Until next time,






4 replies
    • Karen says:

      Thanks Cathy – I love all the insights that come from looking at different angles. We are a complex creation aren’t we?! I also love the photo – kept looking on line for an image to use for this and none were just right or else they had a copy right protection so, I remembered the shots that Suzy Farhoud did and decided to share our own photo!! Watch for a next workshop around this topic for sure!

  1. Sharon says:

    Karen I am finally reading your wonderful Post on the Enneagram and its sub-types. Love how you added in the picture of yourself and your soul mate. Amazing how opposites attract and bond in this lifetime and with the enlightening tools we have at our disposal we awaken to making the Journey one of learning, understanding, accepting and joy.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Sharon for taking the time to read this post knowing how full your schedule is!! I was thrilled to have this photo to go along with the personal example included in the blog. The amazing thing is to experience where we are so similar and where we are so opposite! The subtypes definitely exemplify the opposite aspects or shall we say complimentary aspects!!! I am with you – love the enlightening tools to bring the full understanding, love and JOY! Cheers!


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