The Enneagram's Fine Distinctions
Each Enneagram style has three
further suborientations called subtypes, related to three realms of
life – survival or how we take care of ourselves, the realm of close
relationships, and how we relate socially to the larger world.
Your primary subtype is determined by whether you
are unconsciously preoccupied with personal survival
(self-preservation), whether you incline towards one-to-one
relationships (intimate), or whether your style of relating is focused
on groups of people (social).
We all have portions of our attention and energy
focused on each of these three realms, but we may habitually favor one
more than the others. If your primary desire is for material security
you might be continuously, if subtly, focused on the essentials of life
– food, shelter, physical safety and your home.
If your primary desire is for intimacy in one-to-one
relationships you might be especially focused on whether you are
desirable to others, or be interested in finding or being with your
mate, or relate to your friends one at a time in a tightly focused way.
If your primary desire is for community, you might
seek safety and security in numbers. You could gravitate towards groups
of people and be interested in outer recognition, popularity, status
and social acceptance. Your inner thoughts will tend to be filled with
groups of people.
As with wings and resource points below, your
subtype can be either a resource or a limitation depending on how
healthy or defensive you are within it.
Your dominant Enneagram style also has a
relationship to its neighboring styles, called wings. If Four is your
core style, you will have an intuitive built-in connection to both
Three and Five. Your sensitive, subjective Fourish orientation would be
modified by a preoccupation with action and image (Three wing) or a
less social, intellectual drive (Five wing). If you know your core
style and think about it further, you can usually identify your primary
wing. You will usually find you have favored one over the other in your
history and character.
As with stress and security points, the healthy
qualities of your wings are available to you like talents, while the
unhealthy qualities exist as potential pitfalls. Depending on your
focus, you can tap the high-side resources of your wings or
unconsciously fall into their traps.
Connecting Points (Stress and Security)
Your core style has a built-in connection to two other Enneagram
styles, usually referred to as stress and security points. In Enneagram
literature the words “stress” and “security” are used descriptively.
When facing a stressful deadline at work, for example, you might
temporarily access the attitudes and motivations of your stress point
and seem like someone with a different Enneagram style. Under stress a
withdrawn, frightened Five might begin to act like a hyperactive,
Later, after the Five meets the deadline and goes on
vacation, she might temporarily manifest the attitudes of her security
point, the confident, forceful high side of Eight. This dynamic is
similar to the way that different sides of your character come out in
In my experience, these connections are not just
contextual but constant. A shy Five might act forcefully Eightish at
moments when they feel secure but some Fives are consistently Eightish.
Scrooge, the nasty, punitive miser in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
would be an example of a generally Eightish Five. Other Fives can be
consistently Seven-like in their outward manner and inner style of
Many Enneagram writers take stress and security
points to mean more than what I’ve described. They portray the stress
point as an inherently unhealthy connection while the security point is
deemed the general path to psychological health. The stress point is
called the direction of decline, disintegration, breakdown while the
security point is called the direction of growth, integration,
redemption, etc. The two points are presented as directions to
cultivate or avoid when working on the dilemmas of your core Enneagram
While I respect the writers who propose this theory,
reality has proven far more complicated. Sixes – and all the other
styles – have connections to both the high and low sides of their stress and security points.
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