Podcast – Episode 0211 – Enneagram Instincts In Romantic Relationships

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In this episode, Joel and Antonia talk about how our Enneagram instincts (self-preservation – social – sexual) influence our romantic relationships.

In this podcast you’ll find:

  • Enneagram Roadmap
  • Enneagram type blended with instinctual drive creates our subtypes
  • If there are nine positions on the enneagram and three instinctual drives we have 27 different subtypes.
  • Subtypes/instinctual drives: self-preservation/social/sexual (one-to-one).
  • All three drives have a different element of relationship that they focus on.
  • Self-preservation is about a person’s relationship with themselves.
  • Sexual is a person’s relationship with one other person.
  • Social is a person’s relationship to the group.
  • We each lead with one subtype. Then we have an auxiliary and inferior.
  • Joel is social primarily, sexual auxiliary, and self-preservation inferior.
  • Antonia is a sexual primary, self-preservation auxiliary, social inferior.
  • Sexual shows up for Antonia by putting her relationship with Joel as her top priority.
  • Self-preservation is a direct survival tactic. Thinking of yourself and focusing on safety.
  • Sexual (one-to-one) focuses on a bond with one person to create safety.
  • Social sees safety in numbers.
  • Triune brain theory: lizard brain (base needs), mammalian brain (connection to other humans), cerebral brain (neocortex)
  • Lizard – self-preservation
  • Mammalian – sexual
  • Cerebral – social
  • All based on survival strategies.  
  • Social: about being liked, having resource, safety net of people. Being kicked out of the tribe is terrifying.
  • Sexual: survival is based upon important one-to-one bonds. Being kicked out of the tribe isn’t so bad as long as there is at least one bond.
  • All of these strategies are deeply unconscious.
  • They emerge from survival strategies that are so instinctual they are part of our wiring.
  • One-to-One: Soul spelunking – get to see self through another person’s eyes.
  • Social: learns about self in the midst of the group.
  • Fuse relationships – deeply spiritual bonds with one other person.
  • Self-preservation probably experiences a spiritual fulfillment from knowing how to protect self.
  • If we have a different survival tactic from our partner, they will be looking for different things to meet their needs.
  • Sexual: a romantic relationship where she can fuse with another human being is the single most important thing in Antonia’s life.
  • If you are a sexual subtype dominant and your partner is not, you may need to take the lead in the soul spelunking.
  • Joel takes the lead in social dynamics like the podcast and meetups.
  • Relationships introduce us to new perspectives on the world that broaden our viewpoints.
  • Self-preservation is higher in Antonia’s stack, so she made sure her daughter was signed up for karate classes.
  • Antonia doesn’t think in terms of social broadcasting since social is her blindspot.
  • Joel being a social subtype has given her a platform to share her life’s work.
  • Being able to have a convo around your blind spots and how your partner can step up and fill your weaknesses can be powerful.
  • Be willing to let go of expectations of spouse if they don’t have the same survival wiring as you do, but be grateful for what they do bring.
  • Social subtypes like to get social credit for the things they do.
  • Sexual subtypes like to be attractive to other people.
  • Self-preservation exhibits in weird ways for Joel as his inferior – worried about germs and where the exits are.
  • Can come up as a childlike false read. The fears aren’t legit.
  • Self-preservation: tied into safety, protective of everyone and everything, worried about resource reliability.
  • Sexual subtypes can fuse with people other than their spouse. It can be a parent, close friend, or sibling.
  • Sexual subtypes want to be there for their fuse partners, especially in survival scenarios.
  • An introvert that is social may think of themselves as an extravert because they crave the group dynamic.
  • Whereas an extravert that is a sexual (one-to-one) may try to escape the group to create intimacy.
  • This would explain why some introverts look like extraverts and vice versa.
  • A sexual subtype may need to let their social subtype partner have a wider circle of friends.
  • Self-preservation people may feel oppressive at times by being overly concerned with safety.
  • Give your self-preservation partner the thing they need to feel safe. Don’t dismiss their concerns.
  • Make a list of you and your partner’s subtypes.
  • How do they show up?
  • Where are the crossovers?
  • Where is the conflict?
  • Where are the opportunities for amazingness?

In this episode, Joel and Antonia talk about how our Enneagram instincts (self preservation - social - sexual) influence our romantic relationships. #podcast #enneagram #relationships

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Showing 12 comments
  • Tine

    I’m clearly self-preservation. I practiced 4 different martial arts, switched to yoga now that I’m starting to notice I need to focus more on health, always tend to save money and hoard ressources, and yes, I always know where the exits are.

    As I was listening to the podcast and you didn’t say anything about self-preservation for a while, I was getting increasingly anxious that this would mean no good for my relationships. I tend to value my independence and I don’t let people in easily.

    Luckily towards the end I realized it could be used in a positive way. The people I do let in, I do tend to try and take care of their well-being in a same way I do for myself. I always bring food for them, I like helping people my age with the whole “adulting” thing and I get angry about them engaging in unhealthy/unsafe behaviors like smoking. Which doesn’t always get appreciated… At least now I know why

  • Amanda

    I am an INFJ, self-preservation(sp) type 4. I felt like the sp descriptions in this episode missed the mark for me, but it was still really useful. Most of the descriptions seemed to focus on very concrete physical body kinds of sp which is probably how it manifests for some people. I feel like for me it manifests in more abstract forms of sp. I focus largely on financial security, having insurance to cover losses and having backup plans in case “things go wrong”. I think it would be really interesting to look at how different instinctual variants pair with cognitive stacks. I definitely wondered if some of the differences I have in how sp works for me has to do with having es as my 3 year old function. Martial arts has really never crossed my mind as a way to support my sp instinct.

  • Rachael Sollinger

    So I am a self preservation 5. I feel like my self preservation shows up in how I relate to people, just like how the social and 1 to 1 types deal with groups and individual relationships. I am always on the defense with people and often think it’s easier to be alone ( but I’m also introverted). Even in my closest relationships no one knows all the things about me. I’m very careful about who I give information too. And its not subconscious at all. I plot it all out in advance. Susie is a gossip, so she might accidently share too much about me so she only gets the basic package. Tommy is quiet so I’ll tell him more and see how it goes. And yes I test people before letting them in. I’ve done this since I was little. Also, I’ve found its easier to share some things with strangers than it is with people I care about. Doesn’t seem totally healthy does it? I’m working on it.

  • V

    I think a lot of the explanation around self preservation types was very externally focused. I believe I am a self-preservation type first, followed by 1:1 and lastly social, but I think my self-preservation manifests in different ways than described in the podcast.
    I am not the type of person who needs to feel safe within my surroundings, is looking for exits, makes sure I have an escape plan, etc. So my self-preservation is me staying home not because I don’t feel safe in the outside world, but because that ties to a need I recognize I need to fulfill (I’m introverted). While I’m relatively exploratory with food, my self-preservation is avoiding foods which have made me sick in the past in order to maintain my health. My self-preservation is indulging in comforting and/or engaging habits, whether that would mean meditating every day (I don’t, but I would like to!) or reading because these actions simply feel necessary, or make me feel better.

  • Catherine

    I am definitely a self preservation dominant person probably followed by sexual then social. So I’m basically a lizard!

  • Sam

    Thats something ive been thinking for a long time and ive been aware of it on a partly subconscious and conscious level, ive been aware of it at most situations. Im an INFP and i like to take the lead in most situations so i can create bonds with people and get to know them one-on-one later. Its basically a nice way to get to know other people points of view at certain situations or subjects. Its easy then to discern whom is the best individual to approach and share thoughts about deeper ideas. That way i learn how to get to those people or that certain individual and establish a new relationship, a strong one preferably. I find it interesting on how i seek for new ways to be part of something, since as it is said on the personality profile description (and my mind as well) INFP individuals such as me, have a tendency to seek precisely being close to people, getting known. Then also, its a way to find some “cover” before approaching safely. Also that way im acting by my authenticity driver to get some experience and therefore powering up my exploration feature for future approaches. That way i get to look like an extroverted individual by most of my friendships and groups. Its interesting since the first time i made a test i got ENFP, even though i did feel myself like an INFP in every single thing i have read after repeating my test and getting such result (INFP), from pretty every single thing i found, after comparing that info with my personal experience. So i think i can classify my priorities as: Sexual-Defensive-Social.

  • Ash

    There’s actually a cartoon (Steven Universe, you can find clips on YouTube) in which one of the coping/fighting strategies of this alien culture is to actually fuse 2-3 people together (fusions) into a new entity temporarily to accomplish different goals. 🙂 I thought of it when Antonia mentioned the whole fusing Sx connection, and thought other Sx’s might appreciate it.

  • Fleur


    I have a problem accessing the mp3 file. First of all the link from the podcast page does not lead to this site, but to an error page. Then, the mp3 file I download weighs only 2 kb and I can’t play it.
    I’m really excited to listen to this podcast, though, so I’ll be patient.

    Have a nice day,

  • Brianna

    Really loved this episode and found it really illuminating. Though as someone who leads with the self-preservation instinct, I’d love some more context regarding that particular instinct, as it wasn’t discussed much compared to social or 1-1. I believe my secondary to be 1-1, as I prefer 1-1 relationships to group ones, but have trouble letting my guard down, or at least knowing the right people with whom to do so.

    • Lisa

      I’d love some more insight on people who lead with self-preservation as well! Since that is my dominant. I believe my secondary is 1:1 as well as I do MUCH MUCH better getting to know people on a one on one situation, but FIRST i have to have my self preservation needs met, I have to feel safe and secure to be able to dive into it with the other person. Sometimes this is being in a familiar environment or having other familiar friends around or maybe it’s even doing an activity I love or enjoy. Even in group settings of all close friends, I sometimes leave feeling empty or sad because I didn’t get to catch up with everyone one one one.

    • Catherine

      Yes me too. I think I’m the same- self preservation, sexual, social in that order. I am constantly looking for exits are, or weapons I could use if I was attacked, making sure all doors are safely locked etc. This doesn’t sound like much fun does it and it’s not. How can we make this instinct better?

  • Danielle

    As someone with the social instinct first and the sexual instinct last, I personally find the instinctual drives to be really fascinating and useful. The positioning of the instincts really has given me fascinating insight into my own subconscious behaviors as I go through life.

    For instance, I’m someone who is really great with being in groups. Group social situations or when I’m just part of a community or a team working towards a goal are really rewarding and energizing for me. However, on the flip side I’m very hesitant in building one to one relationships. I often find myself shying away from them in a way that is really uncharacteristic. The Sx instinct is clearly a blind spot for me, and when I think about it, most of the times I have developed strong bonds with individuals were either coincidental because I was around them constantly and/or the other person really took a lot of effort to get to know me.

    I also find that I might be friends with someone in a group and really enjoy hanging out with them. But, when we’re alone, I just don’t really know what to say and do. As a result, I have tons of acquaintances and casual friends but few friends who are extremely close and connected with me.

    I’m also very hesitant towards the idea of intimacy in general. I would consider myself to be warm and friendly and fairly open, but the idea of intimacy usually just makes me slam the breaks of the hypothetical car. I’ve known other people to be like this because of some sort of trauma in their past. But I’ve never been traumatized in a way that would lead to that sort of hesitancy. So, I honestly think that’s just the way I am naturally.

    This pattern has always been present in my life when I think about it. As a kid, I would be really social in a group environment like a class or an extracurricular. But, I would never really feel comfortable one on one. This has always continued. I realize that a lot of my perceived introversion has just actually been my underdeveloped Sx blindspot, which is really interesting. It sort of ties Enneagram and MBTI together in my mind. I’m an ENFP, I clearly lead with extroverted intuition. But I can come across as an introvert in situations where one on one connections are super important because of my instinctual Enneagram stacking. It’s odd because I drawn in energy from seemingly everything in the outside world except one on one bonds.

    One time I read a comment that so/sp and sp/so individuals are truly cold and cut off from others. But honestly, it’s not like that at all. I’m rather reserved one on one, but that’s mostly because I’m uncomfortable and essentially out of my element. So, I always need to feel the need to make it clear that my frankly awkward and uncomfortable nature in one on one situations does not make me cold. Though I assume that everyone reading this can probably understand that since it’s rather misleading to generalize like that.

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