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Three Ways To Be Five: Enneagram Five Subtypes (Self-Preservation, Sexual, Social)

Type Five represents the insight, vision, and fascination of the awake mind. Type Fives have a gift for concentration, with creative imaginations and an ability to conceptually break down complex subject matter. Their curiosity is easily piqued, but they tend not to take anyone’s word on anything. They prefer instead to test, probe, and experiment with what others may take for granted. Much of their curiosity is not so much a general obsession with learning everything; instead, Fives value the sense of coming upon something never-before revealed. To this end, Fives have a penetrating mental focus partnered with a humble recognition of what they don’t know.

However, as they begin to prioritise their inquisitiveness, Fives begin to feel distracted and overwhelmed by the practical necessities of life. Despite having a great deal of mental energy, Fives have thin psychological boundaries, so they feel largely unequipped to deal with life outside subjects of their interest. They tend to withdraw into their active minds rather than engage with their bodies as their interest in fresh discoveries becomes to be viewed as stemming singularly from their mental perceptions. The life force of Fives becomes diverted to their thoughts. Their energy can go into resistance and withdraw from situations and circumstances that require them to inhabit their experience in a more embodied way or outside the bounds of their fascinations.

As they become more imbalanced, Fives will take anything that removes them from concentrating their energies on their thoughts as invasions or intrusions. Type Fives may not always be physically hidden away, but when out and about in the world, they will limit their engagement to topics and experiences that allow them to retain focus. Their quest for Insight becomes like a mental excavation to find a precious treasure, a preoccupation that they greedily guard against intrusion.

When deeply entranced, Fives become anxious, scattered, and withdrawn, at times shutting down or going manic. Deep arrogance, humiliating others intellectually, ranting, and criticising become ways imbalanced Fives defend against owning up to their fear and feelings of being overwhelmed. They will try to think their way through everything, becoming totally absorbed in their own mental world, and intellectually defending against “distractions” with an intellectualised, nihilistic aggression.


Self-Preservation Fives are seeking the Essential Quality of Insight through their lifestyle and interests. Fives with a dominant Self-Preservation Instinct live in such a way that their time, attention, and energy is free to pursue their passions and curiosities. They have a deep capacity for concentration and are typically insightful, quirky, and intensely specialized in certain areas of expertise. Self-Preservation Fives are looking to leverage their skills—intellectual, creative, or otherwise—into earning a sustainable living that allows them to pursue their passions and interests without being controlled or too at the behest of other people’s demands and agendas. Many Self-Preservation Fives do this quite literally by living in their studio or making their living space into an office, laboratory, or library, for example.

Contrary to that image, Self-Preservation Fives aren’t all bookworms or intellectuals, and many can be quite friendly and for short periods of time, outgoing. Yet, they are easily misunderstood for their self-containment and particularity of focus, especially as children. They may have intense sensitivities to certain kinds of sensory input that lead to them to be easily overwhelmed which makes it difficult for them to connect with others. Sometimes they can be socially strange, but their sincerity, even in the face of their potential arrogance, is often a saving grace.

Alone, unstructured time is a major priority for this type, as they are easily drained by the demands of others. They seek to have uninterrupted focus. They often have careers or jobs that require minimal ongoing interaction with others or have otherwise arranged their life so as to have plenty of time to themselves. Self-Preservation Fives, even those who are minimalists, often have extensive collections, usually of unique or high-quality items such as vintage watches, artifacts, or wines. In extreme cases, they can hoard interesting objects at the expense of spending money on food or interacting with others, and the presence of these objects can take the place of contact with other people entirely.

Self-Preservation Fives can treat both their profession and what most people think of as their “personal life”—their hobbies, time with loved ones, and relaxation time—as distractions from their focus of interest, as in the trope of the academic who shows up for dinner to “put in the time” with their family so they can get back to their research topic. Self-Preservation Fives’ interest is their life’s central focus, while they can compartmentalize other demands of living or treat them as secondary. Self-Preservation Fives can mentally group uninteresting jobs, relationships, and life basics like having to eat as necessary obligations that siphon their energy away from their concentrated focus. This can become a big problem for Self-Preservation Fives, because people are prone to misunderstand this attitude as self-absorption or ineptitude. They can be robbed of many of what makes life worth living, like relationships and the ability to enjoy the simple things, without having seen the value of those things as they deteriorate.

This type constantly struggles to have the energy and attention for tackling life’s necessities. On one hand, Self-Preservation Fives enjoy taking care of themselves and might love good food, comfortable environments, even regular exercise and physical activities. On the other hand, they can be half-hearted in dealing with, even neglectful of, other practical and relational obligations.

They can become overwhelmed by the demand of having to attend to their own needs, and as such, retreat into living “around” those needs instead of addressing them, such as taking inadequate care of  hygiene or letting their home fall into disrepair. They may also leave the cultivation of interpersonal relationships up to imagination. This can also create unprocessed anxiety, further making self-regulation challenging.

Fear of depletion can turn into a literal fear that outside forces are taking something from them, often leading to obsessive fixations on paranoid ideas. Distressed Self-Preservation Fives may attempt to find patterns or meaning to make sense of anxiety, leading to interpretations of reality that are personally compelling but often highly delusional. They can be increasingly fearful of being contaminated by germs, impending diseases and epidemics, interpersonal intrusions, or toxic substances. They can become split from reality and deprive their bodies of care in proportion to the degree that they’re losing their minds. Their mental wheels can spin on believing that they are seeing some kind of conspiracy that others are unaware of or incapable of seeing, especially as it pertains to physical threats, toxic contamination, and paranoia around invasions of privacy. Despite the withdrawn and often disconnected character of the Five, they can be quite aggressive, demanding, and controlling when they feel threatened while simultaneously unwilling to fully take responsibility for their aggression.

Self-Preservation Fives relax when they practice anchoring into the body and take note of the moments in which they are more capable than they imagine.


Sexual Fives look to experience Essential Insight in their romantic relationships, chemistry, and interests. When Sexual Fives encounter someone they share chemistry with, they have enormous energy for hashing out ideas and probing uncharted conceptual vistas together, as if the energy of the fascination element of attraction will itself give birth to something totally new. While all Fives enjoy diving deeply into subjects that interest them, the Sexual Five uses their interests and knowledge to elicit attraction by advertising what a rich, interesting, and even transgressive inner life they have.

For Sexual Fives, interpersonal chemistry is the creative fire from which something completely novel and previously unimagined can come into view.

The Sexual Five has a great deal of focused, mental intensity and tends to be the most aesthetically-oriented Five. They are typically creative, whether in generating art, music, or ideas. The specificity and focus of energy blends with Type Five’s capacity for concentration to create a highly focused and idiosyncratic personality. Ideas, concepts, and other forms of mental engagement, often expressed with artistic flair, are imbued with some form of erotic charge. Sexual Fives are typically on a search for creative conceptual expressions or experiences that expand or challenge their usual sense of self.

As much as Sexual Fives may crave attraction, chemistry, and sexual relationships, Avarice means that they also have fear that they’re unable to provide enough emotional connection, physical adequacy, and practical support for their partner or desired beloved.

Sexual Fives often believe it requires more “juice” than they have to keep the intensity of the chemistry going, so they can withdraw or try to create limits on their partners’ expectations of them. Sexual Fives anticipate the demands of a relationship before such demands are made, and thus, they’re often wrong about what the requirements will be but exhaust themselves by the mere anticipation of them.

However, it’s often the case that their partner simply wants other kinds of contact, not more of the Sexual Type’s “turned on” energy.

Sexual Fives assume they are not equipped for most kinds of relationships and experiences, and yet are over-specialized for others. It is as if they are looking for someone with whom they can have space and distance from as needed, and someone with whom they can also “turn on” the chemistry and connection when they want to co-explore or co-create conceptual and creative visions and worlds. In finding someone they resonate with, they are quick to reinforce boundaries with their partner, almost for fear of giving themselves over completely, which may mean simply stating that they will not be able to provide financially, to co-parent, or live together.

In craving intense chemistry, they are also prone to put certain conditions or blinders on the relationship so they can continue to have the chemistry they seek without the burden or distraction of the facets of a relationship that are normal for most people. This is consistent with Five’s contradictory feelings with regard to instinctual resources, both wanting them and trying to minimize or manage the conditions within which these needs are met. They are prone to abruptly withdrawing with almost no contact for long periods of time before attempting to re-establish the relationship. On one hand, this can mean being intensely guarded as well as extremely specific as to when they can and will engage full-on, and on the other hand, this can lead to their partner feeling resentment over being so much of the dynamic having to be on the Sexual Five’s terms.

Avarice lends all Fives to mentally abstract themselves from their experience, and in the case of this type, Sexual Fives can approach the erotic conceptually. Their intellectual pursuits serve Sexual instinctual goals, both to attract and to push interpersonal boundaries. Therefore their fascinations are often organized around the symbolic and veiled, and typically, the pursuit of their interests is tied in with a sense of self-revision. They want their interest to change their own and others’ sense of self, a slightly different intention than Social or Self-Preservation Five, whose focus may be on opening people’s worldviews or expanding their capacities. Sex itself is a major need for Sexual Five, but it can come with highly specific conditions, rituals, or unconventional expressions of sexuality. These can be both to psychologically prepare them to get out of their heads as well as symbolize a kind of merging of their conceptual world and the practical world. Type Five’s powerful curiosity lends itself to a stance of detached observation, but combined with the Sexual Drive, sexual voyeurism is common for this type.

Deeply imbalanced Sexual Fives may pursue various forms of unhealthy masochism and sadism, harming the body with an erotic charge in place of viscerally embodying their physicality. Like Self-Preservation Fives, Sexual Fives can be consumed with bizarre ideas not founded in reality, and they may develop erotically-charged obsessions with certain people and concepts.

Sexual Fives grow when they stay present in the body, meet relationships and demands head on with clarity, embodiment, and compassion, and trust that attraction has its own intelligence.


Social Fives are looking to experience the Essential quality of Insight in and through their relationships, their interests, and their contributions. People of this type tend to be as intensely curious and focused as other Fives while also the most outgoing style of Five; they have a kind of Promethean calling, whereby the want to offer wisdom, insight, creativity, and understanding to loved ones and the world at large—to peer “behind the veil” in order to bring illumination.

At the same time, they can be fearful of being overwhelmed by the interpersonal burdens that come from participation with others.

These Fives seek to be experts in a given field or subject or a master of specific artistic capacities. They find meaning in guiding people, broadening their horizons and opening to new possibilities, and they see the world in fresh, unexpected ways. For them, creativity and understanding aren’t really “alive” unless they are being shared and exchanged. Many Social Fives end up becoming teachers or experts as a consequence of their desire to share and mentor.

Social Fives are drawn to fields, groups, and institutions that hold the promise of engaging with fascinating people who are at the top of their game intellectually, creatively, or otherwise. Contrary to the stereotype that Fives only value knowledge, Social Fives enjoy being stimulated and impacted by all kinds of people, especially those who have a well-developed capacity or an appreciation for interesting things. They respect mastery above all. The “right people” are portals to new discoveries, as well as sources of acceptance and camaraderie in a world that doesn’t often appreciate Five energy.

The Social Five is looking to find a place among others where they have the freedom to dive into their interests with the best and brightest in their field, and where the things they can uncover are offered up as a contribution to others. Through their capacity for insight and new understandings, the Social Five hopes to claim their place or niche and solidify their interpersonal and social value.

They’re excited by the feeling of being a part of a tradition or specialized class, but these special groups can also be a way Social Fives seek to sequester themselves away from the messy or practical elements of life they feel unprepared to face. However, they may look for connection on the basis of holding a shared conceptual point of view, neglecting the emotional and somatic dimensions of relatedness. Therefore, Social Fives may get caught up in trying to transmit their vision or insight to friends and loved ones, to get others to understand in the way they do, such that others are overwhelmed, alienated, or driven away.

Social Fives tend to keep up with social, political, and scientific trends more than other Fives, and they typically have a visionary quality wherein they can anticipate where things are going in their respective areas of interest. Often, Social Fives’ interests can be obscure, but generally, they have some relevance or significance for other people that can imbue their intellectual and creative pursuits with a sense of mission, like needing to unlock hidden wisdom for the world.

Avarice can be expressed as a tension of wanting both to deeply belong as well as to separate themselves, usually through social distinction, such as being the expert or even presenting themselves as uniquely gifted or insightful. They want to be and often present themselves as the singular or superior authority on a subject. This sense of superiority is a double-edged sword, as they believe being the key expert will assure them of the social value and belonging they desire while also creating separation and a lack of interpersonal connection. This tension can lead to a great deal of alienation: belonging is not sensed directly, but rather abstracted and conceptualized, leading to loneliness and a sense of isolation as the Social Five doubts their value and the niche they’ve carved out. They can relate more to the idea of a relationship than the reality of one.

Social Five can express Avarice as wanting to contribute their gifts and creativity meaningfully, but not feeling equipped to handle the responsibilities that may come from being in leadership. This can lend itself to various forms of self-sabotage, such as not attending to important necessities, picking needless intellectual fights, or devising self-important displays to support a self-image of being invaluable and special. The flipside is presenting themselves in “goofy” or scattered ways in order to dispel the sense of being able to hold their responsibilities and to cast away any interpersonal tension that may arise in response to intellectual arrogance or elevated positioning.

As Social Fives become more unbalanced, they feel their contributions are underappreciated and their genius under-recognized. They may become both angry and frightened of the masses who can’t appreciate them, making public displays of their superiority that almost always backfire. The very sense of relatedness becomes abstracted in increasing degrees, so unhealthy Social Fives might imagine or rationalize friendships and interpersonal associations which can lend itself to fantasizing that they are intellectual or creative peers with historically and socially significant figures. They may imagine that their real peers are elsewhere, in some yet-to-be discovered hidden cell, among an elite that has simply not yet recognized them. Deeply imbalanced Social Fives may entertain delusions of their social specialness and significance and may imagine others conspiring against them. Based on this fear, they can act out by undermining others, even to the extremes of sabotage or violence.

Social Fives develop when they allow themselves to humbly relate to others outside areas of familiarity and competency, to land in and sense relatedness from the Body Center, and to turn their powerful curiosity sincerely toward other people.

[Source: Luckovich, 2021)