By Steve Purdom, Type 3, SP/1:1/SC

A separate and important part of the enneagram is the Instinctual Subtypes.  There are 3 subtypes which are called Self Preservation, One on One and Social.  For most people these are unconscious and yet all pervasive.  Ichazo, recognized by many as the founder of the enneagram,  described the 3 subtypes as “three fundamental reactions of our organism to sustain life.”   They are indeed three distinct approaches to long term survival.  Each Instinctual Subtype represents 1/3 of the truth.  The best option for survival is to have all 3 subtypes fully developed and available to us.

In general, we do have and use all 3 subtypes but one is usually dominant and the second subtype is strong but the third is underdeveloped.  There are people who seem to move fluidly from SP to 1:1 to SC  and these people approach problems with more flexibility and more options for decision making and resolving conflict.  Our goal should be to have equal access to all three subtypes.

Today, I want to focus on Self Preservation as a subtype.  It is the ultimate subtype for survival but again it contains only 1/3 of the truth.  The individuals with this subtype concentrate their efforts on obtaining food, clothing and shelter.  Their primary goal is comfort and security.  They tend to be individualistic, self sufficient (in their eyes), and do not believe in dependency on social organizations for themselves or others.  They might well be Libertarians in our political system.

Comfort includes temperature, touch, and general well being.  Furniture, linens and personal clothing must accommodate this need.  There is some degree of correlation between SP types and Kinesiology.  Many SP’s report having a favorite blanket made from soft comforting material, such as fine wools.

In modern society, security includes freedom from violence but also financial security which translates into: 401K plans, job security, savings accounts, and even health insurance and bill paying.

A compulsion to hoard is problematic for SP individuals and toilet paper is a common item to hoard.

One of my personal interests is how Instinctual Subtypes interact with each other.  For instance where are the conflicts between SP and SC subtypes?  In general, the SP wants to stay home, have a good meal, sit in their favorite comfortable chair and is not very interested in socializing.  The SC subtypes feel that their security comes from social contacts and they may have an extensive rolodex that they want to maintain and expand.  The SC person will push to go to meetings, parties, or gatherings of almost any type which will put them in conflict with their stay at home SP partner.

The 1:1 subtype wants time with their partner that has intensity and, even though all of us can understand this need in a dating relationship, the SP will revert to home, hearth, food and their general comfort.  The 1:1 may feel abandoned even though that is not the intent of the SP and would welcome sharing their security and comfort.  Indeed, many SP individuals report that the way they show love is by making sure they meet their partners self preservation needs even if that is not what their 1:1 partner is looking for.  One of the differences between SP and 1:1 is that the SP wants to be side by side with their partner and the 1:1 wants to face to face.  This is true physically and emotionally.

How does SP impact our everyday decisions?  It impacts almost every segment from Marriage to Work to Vacations to Movies to Books to Sports.

  • Professional choices will revolve around job security and will at least be aware of the potential insurance and retirement benefits.
  • Sports will be more fitness oriented such as running, weight lifting or aerobics.  They will not necessarily include social aspects as for example golf outings.
  • Books and Movies will be Rags to Riches, Hero achieves financial success.  Examples are Pursuit of Happiness, Catch Me if You can, Trading Places, The Blind Side, and Jerry Maguire.  My personal favorite book is “Clan of the Cave Bear” which is about early man’s struggle to survive.
  • Lastly, favorite my song is “I Am a Rock”.  Very independent and solid.

In summary, all 3 subtypes have equally valid world views but the most complete and effective position is to have the flexibility to move between all 3 subtypes when the situation dictates.  Dating is clearly best served by 1:1 Instinctual Subtype and job hunting is well served with numerous, even if they are superficial contacts that might be contained in the rolodex of a SC subtype.

Wholeness always includes all the options available to us.