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

Type Nine exemplifies the groundedness and connectedness of the Body Center. Nines tend to be natural harmonisers who have a multifaceted, holistic outlook on life that makes them profoundly accepting, curious, and intuitive. Awake Nines are receptive, empathetic, and sensitive as well as deeply engaged and open to life, often combining gentleness with a deep solidity. They can be straightforward and even outspoken, especially in the interest of others. While quite inwardly sensitive, Nines on the outside tend to be easy-going and not easily dismayed by setbacks. Many Nines identify as being spiritual seekers of some kind, and there’s an imaginative, creative, or intellectual side to most Nines.

However, entranced Nines seek stability and grounded-ness from the fragmented lens of ego, so Harmony comes to mean a lack of being seriously stirred. Nines may appear even-keeled outwardly, but they register even small shifts to their inner equilibrium—strong feelings, expressions of aggression—as powerful and overwhelming.

In order to maintain a sense of wholeness they can disconnect from their direct experience by blurring distinctions and contrasts, effectively keeping their sense of themselves vague and out of focus.

Therefore, inside they may detect immense conflict, rage, or emotion within, but they come to resist fully experiencing their feelings and giving expression to their inner life, often from being overwhelmed and destabilised by their own states. This leads to not allowing all of themselves to be fully engaged and present, stifling the full expression of their being and divorcing from their own personal value. Because they are basically abandoning and fragmenting parts of themselves, their lack of self-acceptance may be projected outwards as a belief that they don’t really matter to others. This may be accompanied by an unexpressed hope that someone will see and acknowledge their hidden depths, talents, or kindness.

Nines begin to use dissociation as a means of preserving boundaries and autonomy. In doing so, they “check out” and resist the arising of their own powerful and visceral physical energies outside the bounds of a narrow comfort zone. They may find compartmentalised “safe” areas to express their aggression, as in athletics or through creative self-expression, but these are generally inadequate and unsustainable for dealing with under-expressed rage over a long term. Nines may become trapped in a dichotomy between going along with or resisting external influences as a substitute for having individuated enough to locate their own inner voice, which is a by-product of the “self-negation” of Sloth.

Unconsciously, Nines turn the energies of the body against themselves in order to repress and diffuse self-expressions deemed disruptive to their stability. For a Nine who is “falling asleep,” life is seen as demanding, and in resistance, Nines become stubborn and angry. Some become outwardly passive and conflict-avoidant, some hide in comforting platitudes or nostalgia, while others can be defensively aggressive from a place of wanting to be left alone.

There can be a resistance to individuating, both in terms of taking an active role in their own life as well as fully developing aspects of their personality and inner life. A stubborn or passive Nine is an angry Nine, with a rage they may not even know they have. As they become more fixated, they become more repressed, numb, and unresponsive as they fall into deep neglect of self and others.


Self-Preservation Nines are looking to experience Essential Harmony through their lifestyle and interests. Self-Preservation Nines are the most independent style of Nine. Many Self-Preservation Nines have an athletic bent, enjoying the physicality and healthy channeling of aggression through the body. Others have extremely rich imaginations, and many professors, artists, and authors are Self-Preservation Nines who have sculpted incredibly vivid and complex imaginary worlds. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for many Self-Preservation Nines to mistakenly see themselves as Fives or Sevens.

As Body Types, autonomy is a top priority for Nines, but they maintain autonomy through a lack of inner coherence. Self-Preservation Nines can be unassuming, friendly, and easy-going, but often surprise people with some major talent or creativity that seems unrelated to the rest of their life. They might be revealed to be amazing painters or writers in their middle age, while almost no one around them knew that this was such an area of focus for them.

They are the sensualists of the Enneagram and can be extremely precious around their physical comfort. Most Self-Preservation Nines tend to have an indulgent streak where occasional over-eating, too much sleep, too much sex, or too much time on the internet can take great portions of their time.

Nines dominant in Self-Preservation will typically seek out lifestyles that provide some measure of reliable income and enough independence that they don’t have to be answerable to or at the whim of other people’s agendas. This means Self-Preservation Nines tend to dream of goals that may be three steps beyond their present situation, but they have a hard time actually manifesting or putting energy into the first and second steps. This can mean keeping them in a kind of outward-focused busyness or an immobile slump that distracts them from fully seeing their present circumstances.

So while Self-Preservation Nines can vary greatly in how they express themselves, there is a way in which they also “settle,” not quite going for what they really want to the extent they could and instead contenting themselves with lifestyles and desires that don’t make them have to reach too far outside a limited comfort zone.

They may view “getting by on a little” as humble or even virtuous and may seek to keep their “world small.” This can mean either having very few contacts, sticking to a modest career or lifestyle, or simply keeping their interests and curiosity within a limited horizon. For example, they may dream about being wealthy and might read and study books on finance, but they may not actually take any concrete steps offered in the sources they explore. Or, if they do take these steps, they may do so in a way that is unconsciously self-sabotaging so they don’t have to be changed too much by their circumstance.

Self-Preservation Nines are stubbornly entrenched in their habits and routines, so they put a great deal of energy into making sure too much isn’t demanded from them. Despite a reputation for being self-effacing and low-key, when certain boundaries are infringed on or demands placed on them, they can react with intense aggression.

Young Self-Preservation Nines are prone to having a difficult time in knowing what path or direction they want to take through adulthood, and they will delay choosing something definite for a great deal of time. They can be late bloomers in all areas of life, taking a long time to complete their studies or acquire certain skills.

Following a path laid out to them by others, or sticking with an unrewarding job while making sure to look busy, are strategies of putting on a performance to parents and loved ones, appearing to be proactively reaching for a goal without taking any real steps. The struggle here is not that Self-Preservation Nines don’t have interests or talents, but they often easily give up on themselves.

Ironically, Self-Preservation Nines have some of the greatest potential for endurance of all the Enneagram Types, so once they have an aim they can get their energy behind, they typically achieve that aim and are not easily dissuaded nor taken off track. The difficulty comes in really pulling their energy out of distractions and into something that will enliven and challenge them.
Self-Preservation Nines grow when they are able to get outside their comfort zone and access new inner and outer horizons. Being outside the bounds of the familiar can encourage Self-Preservation Nines to connect with and integrate more of themselves, which can help them find self-value.

If you identify quite strongly with this subtype, here are a few reflection questions we might want to consider together at some point: 

1. Can you identify some of the major talents or creative outlets you possess that others may not be aware of? How does this disconnect affect your sense of self?
2. How do your indulgences (what would you classify these as for yourself?) impact your daily life and overall goals?
3. Can you recall instances where your desire to maintain your comfort zone resulted in self-sabotaging behaviours?
4. How does your adherence to certain habits and routines affect your reactions when your boundaries are infringed upon?
5. Can you discuss your struggle with choosing a clear path or direction in life? How does this indecisiveness manifest in your personal and professional choices?
6. How have you challenged yourself to step outside of your comfort zone recently, and what impact has this had on your personal growth and self-value?


Sexual Nines are looking to experience Essential Harmony through chemistry and sexual relationships, and their attraction style tends to be more focused on inviting attraction rather than outright pursuit.

Sexual Nines have a flirtatious style that balances an edginess with reassuring sweetness. They tend to be charming, sultry, and disarming. Sexual Nines often have a focused intensity not often associated with Type Nine, which can lend to having a bit of flair or dramatic quality that can be mistaken for Type Four. The imaginative quality of this type can lend itself to a great deal of creativity or idealism, but they can suffer from a lack of grounding.

Sexual Nines know how to temper the aggressive edges of the Sexual Drive with attunement more skilfully than other Sexual Types. Their attraction displays can be rooted in a wide variety of talents, but the common theme is getting under people’s defenses in a way that’s unassuming and non-threatening. The good-natured quality of Nine supports people in feeling relaxed and comfortable in letting their guard down.

Despite usually being attractive, however, Sexual Nines can struggle with feeling overlooked, unseen, or unwanted. Sexual Nines are typically confident in their physical appearance, but they suffer when they feel elements of their personality are unacceptable or uninteresting, or when they simply can’t “find themselves.” They can feel they disappear beneath their sexual display from a fear that they aren’t wanted unless they’re attractive.

People of this type will put pressure on themselves to be alluring while at the very same time become resentful toward their object of desire for feeling they had to compromise their own autonomy or self-respect in order to remain attractive. This can lead them to spacing out—hiding something of themselves from their partner so they can’t fully “give themselves away”—, mysteriously breaking off the relationship because they’ve felt they couldn’t really be themselves, or drifting from one relationship to another.

When they consummate a romantic partnership, autonomy issues can come into play, and these can be expressed in a few ways. As an expression of Sloth, Sexual Nines may settle for a partner who may not value them or support their growth. Unconsciously, the Nine might feel the relationship they’re in is “good enough,” leading to them remaining in stagnant, unhealthy situations for years. It may not fulfil the basic needs of a healthy, positive relationship, but it may fulfil the ego strategy of self-forgetting and fragmentation.

Another example of unresolved autonomy conflicts is via triangulation, whereby a Sexual Nine won’t fully commit or fully show up in a relationship because they feel attraction for a third person.

They can view different people as bringing out different aspects of themselves, so they can keep things vague by not making a clear choice between potential partners. They can drift from relationship to relationship, as if trying to build a sense of self through merging with various partners or looking for an imagined figure who will really see them, whose contact will awaken them.

When a Sexual Nine is very unhealthy, they may have a manipulative side, using their desirability and sexuality to get by in life at the expense of really developing themselves. This can further create a dynamic where the Sexual Nine takes advantage of the care and generosity of partners while pursuing some other kind of personal or sexual agenda with others. Their sexuality can be dissociated, “leaking” inappropriately, and they can give themselves to partners who don’t value and respect them. They may allow themselves to be used as “arm candy” or as someone else’s sexual accessory rather than treated as a full human being with emotional needs and a complex inner life. Feeling demeaned, they may find ways to passive-aggressively exploit their abuser in turn, creating a deeply toxic, mutually-parasitic relationship.

When Sexual Nines learn to accept themselves for who they are beyond their ability to attract, they can find a deeper and more rewarding attraction to their own inner life.

Reflection Questions for journalling or discussion:

1. How do you feel when elements of your personality are perceived as uninteresting or unacceptable? Can you share an instance when this has occurred?
2. Have you ever felt pressured to compromise your own autonomy or self-respect to maintain attractiveness in a relationship? How did that impact your self-perception?
3. Can you discuss a time when you felt you were hiding parts of yourself from your partner? How did that affect the dynamic of your relationship?
4. Have you ever found yourself settling in a relationship that didn’t truly value or support your growth? What led to that decision, and how did it impact you?
5. Have you ever felt exploited or used as a sexual accessory in your relationships? How has this experience influenced your self-perception and approach to relationships?
6. How are you working towards accepting yourself beyond your ability to attract others? Can you describe the changes in your relationships or self-perception as you embrace this acceptance?


Social Nines are seeking to experience Essential Harmony through their relationships and their contributions to others. Social Nines tend to be the most outgoing, friendly, and charismatic Nines. They often have an idealistic streak, and despite their easy-going demeanour, they’re often quite effective at getting things done, especially when it comes to doing things on behalf of other people. Social Nines tend to be actively involved with other people, and despite their modesty, they often make a big impact.

Despite their struggles to find their own voice, Social Nines often end up in positions of leadership, and many political leaders have been Social Nines. This is a result of having a natural sensitivity, deep empathy, social charm, sharp minds, and an understated persistence in moving toward their vision of a better world.

People of this type are extremely devoted to loved ones and causes they believe in, which can sometimes lead them to see themselves as Twos or idealistic Sevens. They can easily fall into a kind of caretaker or “therapist” role with others. Deeply supportive and self-effacing, Social Nines can feel taken for granted since they care for friends and loved ones and don’t ask much in return.

For Social Nines, autonomy conflicts can take shape as a tension between how much they give themselves over to relationships versus how much they keep for themselves. This can play out in Nines as compartmentalising different aspects of themselves that get expressed in different relationships. They can be outwardly the most malleable Nine, while covertly keeping others at arm’s length.

Different relationships can call for a different “me,” so one relationship may call for an intimate and loving persona; in another, there’s a need to be funny and playful; in others, they must be strong. These different shades of self-expression aren’t the same thing as being inauthentic, nor is it as if the Social Nine is a markedly different person in each relationship. But it means that the Social Nine stays dispersed and divided, both connected to and outside of relationships at the same time. They allow much of their personal self-expression to be determined more by the perceived needs of the relationship than from fully showing up as their whole self.

Sloth can manifest in Social Nine as preemptive self-rejection of their own gifts. They can hide their capacities, talents, and individuality in order to avoid too much self-exposure. This is a defensive strategy to prevent being too much at the mercy of other people’s needs and demands or, in case they experience rejection or critique, it’s a means to not feel too impacted. It’s as if to say, “you didn’t get all of me.” For this reason, Social Nines may unconsciously choose romantic partners who don’t really see them for who they are or who only mirror certain desired qualities back to them.

A conflict can emerge for people of this type in both wanting attention and recognition while also feeling that being too singled out is narcissistic or threatens the respect and connections they have with others. They can struggle with finding their own “voice” and making sure that voice is meaningfully heard and a part of the group or relationship to which they belong. There is a fear that to individuate means to threaten attachments and that their “note” in the harmony will be dissonant. This can create a great deal of tension and inner resistance, leading to resentment, and in some cases, passive aggressive behaviors and occasional eruptions of anger.

The checked-out Social Nine may then rationalise they’re looking for a better relationship or better social conditions to more fully express themselves, but this fantasy is often a way to simply delay showing up in the present. Likewise, the flipside is that they may settle with certain friends and relationships that don’t have their best interests at heart or who encourage them to remain in limited identities. When really imbalanced, this type is prone to wasting their time and talents in the hopes that their positive attributes will be acknowledged and accepted by loved ones in accord with their own expectations of how they should be seen.

When Social Nines can more deeply connect with all parts of themselves, their experience of their own inner wholeness is both more satisfying than any outer relationship could be, and they effortlessly draw others to them.

Self-Reflection Questions

1. As a Social Nine, how often do you find yourself in a “caretaker” or “therapist” role? How does this impact your relationships?
2. Can you identify any tension between your personal needs and the demands of your relationships? How do you manage this tension?
3. Do you feel there is a conflict between your desire for attention and recognition and your fear of standing out or being narcissistic? How does this manifest in your interactions with others?
4. Have you ever delayed showing up fully in your relationships due to a hope for “better” circumstances? How does this habit influence your life?
5. What steps are you taking to connect with all parts of yourself? How is this contributing to your sense of wholeness and your relationships?
6. Can you identify patterns of passive-aggressive behaviour or outbursts of anger in your interactions? How can you work towards expressing your needs more directly?

[Source: Luckovich, 2021]