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

Type Six represents the devotion to truth, attentiveness, and inquisitiveness of the awake mind. Sixes have a gift for foresight and practical intuition. They are typically curious, funny, and thoughtful, but they can also be rebellious and oppositional. Type Sixes have a profound love of the truth, not in claiming to know something as fact, but expressed as a search for authenticity, validity, and discerning the reality of something. When Sixes find that kind of clarity with a cause, relationship, or mission, they have a powerful capacity for devotion, commitment, and service.

Sixes usually have a strong sense of responsibility and are tenacious supporters of whatever they care for, so much so that they put a great deal of energy into testing and verifying something that speaks to them. Their alert and attentive minds lend themselves to a natural understanding about what supports and conditions have to be in place and maintained in order for whatever they value to flourish. This makes them sensitive to the foundations and underpinnings of things, be they relationships, projects, business, etc. Therefore, they are keenly aware of inconsistencies and vulnerabilities, making for natural troubleshooter/s and truth-tellers.

This also means that Sixes are aware of contradictions and ironies, so most Sixes have a quick-witted and self-deprecating sense of humour.

As Sixes seek to manage life’s ambiguities, they rely on their minds to reason through problems and anticipate outcomes, but this develops into chronically overthinking their choices and convictions, leading to a habit of doubt and skepticism. In seeking clarity, they use their versatile minds to mentally argue for and against what’s real and true, lending itself to a great deal of vacillation in behavior and belief. For this reason, an “Enneagram axiom” is that whatever you can say about Sixes, the opposite is usually true as well. Sixes can be deeply brave and fearful, funny and too serious, devoted and fickle, steady and wavering—all at the same time. Many Sixes have a chronically rebellious streak, pushing against people and structures that seem to have authority or influence over them.

Their over-thinking can express itself as indecision or as mentally jumping to extreme positions that act as a kind of false certainty. As a consequence, they lose trust in their own ability to take independent action and make sound choices. When they begin to feel unequipped to handle things on their own, they look for external sources of guidance apart from their busy, anxious minds, but this strategy can easily backfire. They may give up their own agency by investing faith in authorities or beliefs that may be unreliable or toxic, but provide them with a facile sense of confidence, or, at least, clear guidelines of behaviour. In rejecting one authority, they may double down in favour of another.

Imbalanced Sixes will internalize representations of multiple external guides, often with conflicting directives, leading to further uncertainty and inner conflicts around who they feel responsible to.

Insecure Sixes will feel a need to continuously test their supports, hastily impose order, and defend against people or things that seem to threaten their source of stability. They can become suspicious, emotionally reactive, and accusatory. This can lead to undermining those they rely on most and other forms of self-sabotage. Terrified Sixes begin looking for means of feeling secure and stable by becoming blindly loyal to beliefs, systems, or people; or they become paranoid and act out defensively and rebelliously. When deeply imbalanced, they may attempt to tear everything they value down with them.


Self-Preservation Sixes long to experience Essential Truth in their lifestyle, path of personal growth, and resources. The devotedness and reliability of the Six meets the perseverance of the Self-Preservation Drive, lending itself to a deep awareness of how the things they value grow and are sustained. Much like their neighbor, Type Five, Sixes are extremely observant, but in contrast to Five’s narrow focus, Sixes’ have a broader quality awareness that is attentive to how parts relate to the whole, as in how a tree can only grow relative to the integrity of its roots. Awake Self-Preservation Sixes bring together this awareness with an inherent inner resourcefulness that lends to confident self-possession and meeting challenges with acceptance and fortitude.

This type is often adept at discerning patterns and keeping things “on track” toward their intended results. This applies to how personal development unfolds, how plans become realities, how projects or businesses can flourish, and in what increments outcomes can be achieved in a practical manner. For this reason, many Self-Preservation Sixes have cultivated some expertise in this regard and gravitate toward offering some service that facilitates growth and development in individuals, organizations, or systems. They tend to have a strong work ethic, and this is especially true when they can direct their energy toward a project or cause they believe in, that inspires devotion

Self-Preservation Sixes feel deeply responsible for the well-being of the people and things they care about. They are typically extremely hard-working but often eschew credit. They are the most practical Sixes and tend to be exceptionally mindful, giving care and attention to the details that others overlook. While some Self-Preservation Sixes have a great deal of anxiety around their safety and well-being, it is typically balanced with having an intrepid or adventurous side. Many Self-Preservation Sixes are athletic, well-honed in some physical capacity, or have a strong connection with nature.

Relative to Social and Sexual Sixes, Self-Preservation Sixes need a good deal of time alone and tend to use that time pursuing offbeat or creative hobbies that the Six personality might otherwise judge as unproductive. They usually have a sensual side and may use food, alcohol, or marijuana to take the edge off their anxiety.

Self-Preservation Sixes are acutely aware of chaos and the absurdities of life. To manage anxiety, they create or turn to systems that help keep all bases covered. Without ongoing attention to life’s necessities, they fear things may collapse into entropy. Often, they rely on complex means of organizing their attention, like keeping to well-structured schedules. This can lend itself to a need for routine, predictability, and an over-emphasis on procedures and a lack of ambiguity. For some, this can mean having extremely clean and ordered living conditions, while for others it means having an eye on the quantities of food or money or electricity that have been used.

The need for predictability can sometimes express itself as either obsessive compulsiveness or outright control of others’ behaviour.

When they feel unsupported, Sixes will look for something reliable on which to model their path through life on, but in doing so, they may fail to tap into all their creativity or potential. This may lead them to keep their world small and anxiety-ridden. They can become attached to a job, a situation, or a life path that isn’t personally rewarding but provides some direction and clarity, and they will end up sticking with something even after it’s no longer to their benefit.

Compounding this, they often feel their hard work and care is not really valued by others. As they become more imbalanced, they begin to feel that keeping things together is left solely up to them.

They can live life from their minds, trying to regulate and create structure to the flow of life, which can lead to an attachment to ideas over directly entering into the unpredictability of life.

Under stress, possessiveness around money, time, and other resources is common, as is an over-reactivity toward any potential threats. It’s common, for example, for Self-Preservation Sixes to fret over the details of their health, income, personal shortcomings, or emphasizing placing excessive importance on trivial details as a way to forestall moving forward on projects or events that cause anxiety while convincing themselves they actually are making some sort of progress. An inner agitation can develop, and they may develop substance addictions in an attempt to quell anxieties. They may adopt a grim, dark view of the world being on the brink of chaos.

Predictability can gain priority over living a dynamic life, and they can spend a great deal of their energy living in anticipation of imagined disasters that may never arrive. Self-Preservation Sixes can be quite intense and reactive, indulging in paranoia and conspiracy theories.

Fear of physical invasion, contamination, violence, theft, and ill will are common. Extremely imbalanced Self-Preservation Sixes become panic-stricken and bereft, and they can take out their pent-up anxieties and negative charge with violence against themselves or others.

Self-Preservation Sixes grow when they take notice of all the ways they’ve been supported throughout their lives and when they can recognize the strength and resourcefulness of their own being in the present moment.


Sexual Sixes seek to experience Essential Truth through chemistry and in their romantic relationships. The contradictory nature of Six is expressed in this type as a bold and provocative attitude paired with vulnerability and uncertainty about their desirability. They tend to be unpredictable and edgy, and yet very charming and endearing.

Freedom of expression is often paired with the Sexual Six’s need to check in on whether their actions undermine or enhance their appeal. Sexual Sixes like keeping others on edge, and they’re typically exciting to be around for that reason.

A need for certainty in the fluctuating arena of attraction and chemistry speaks to the basic conflict within this type. Sexual Sixes are looking for chemistry they can rely on to be sustainable and energizing. They tend to project swagger with a tough or dramatic “hard to handle” attitude, yet they often display a great deal of unexpected vulnerability, sensitivity, and sentimentality, needing a great deal of assurance that their partnership is secure and that they’re still enticing and beautiful. They may also have a kind of outspoken, independent streak, which is often quickly tempered by a need to be comforted and supported by their partner. Generally speaking, Sexual Sixes have a great deal of concern for both their physical attractiveness and the appeal of their personality. Their insecurity can lead to compensating through showing themselves off and big gestures of affection.

Despite bouts of confidence, insecurity arises on whether or not their partner will remain faithful and interested in them when potential  rivals are around. They may start fights with perceived sexual rivals who, in reality, may have zero interest in their partner. It may be difficult for Sexual Sixes to fully relax around their partner, which can mean being “on” too much, needing to impress or seduce in order to capture attention.

It’s not that all Sexual Sixes are interested in long-term monogamy, but when they do find a partner they wish to be exclusive with, they can become possessive and competitive in trying to keep them because of a basic lack of trust in the elements of attraction that they may not see or have control over. Some Sexual Sixes can play up drama, accusations, or impulsive decisions as a test to see if their partner will leave them—for instance, creating conditions that try the patience of their partners or intentionally exaggerating features of their personality in an attempt to psyche their partner out. Sexual Sixes may also use one relationship after another to prove to themselves they can still attract whoever they please, or they may become attached to a partner who represents a “sure thing”.

As Sexual Sixes become imbalanced, they may lash out at their loved ones and entertain paranoid fantasies about abandonment or betrayal. They may even gravitate toward partners who they have a sense will betray them, so when it does happen, it reinforces an identity structure of not being able to trust or believe in anyone. Their minds can talk them in and out of attractions, so from the point of view of a partner, the Sexual Six can one day seem completely infatuated, and the next, completely over them. As they become increasingly insecure, they may be prone to cosmetic surgery or pour themselves into exercise or creative projects that they believe will make them more appealing, or even to “prove” certain traits to themselves and their partner; meanwhile, the anxiety and instability fueling them will be a turnoff to others, undermining their aims.

Conversely, Sexual Six may go in the total opposite direction and embrace a chaotic, edgy, borderline unappealing aesthetic, as if to provoke others to be repelused.

Typically, Sexual Sixes approach relationships of various kinds of expectations and assumptions around relational agreements and boundaries that may be left unspoken. When their partner or romantic interest doesn’t behave accordingly, however, the Sexual Six can not only feel justified in their feeling of betrayal, but also feel entitled to exaggerated reactions. This can lead to overstepping boundaries, trying to ruin their partner or interest’s reputation, and elaborate campaigns to turn a partner’s friends and loved ones against them. Deeply unhealthy Sexual Sixes can be aggressive and controlling toward their partner, using them as an emotional punching bag to discharge their anxiety and frustrations. They can try to limit who their partner sees and speaks with and feel the need to be in on everything they do. Unhealthy Sexual Sixes who are single might not respect boundaries in pursuing potential partners and sexual interests. Their intensity can border on stalking.

Sexual Sixes relax when they can recognize and abide in the fact that attraction is out of their hands, it’s mysterious, and that how people reciprocate attraction differs by person, so they can begin to trust in their partners and their own discernment.


Social Sixes want to experience Essential Truth in their relationships, contributions, and causes. They seek meaningful connections with others and are as interested in individuals as they are with the underlying reasons, values, and commonalities that keep bonds enduring and sustainable. This type has a deep longing to feel a solid sense of belonging with others. As friendly as Social Sixes can be on the surface, on the inside they may harbor a deep cynicism about other people’s reliability, integrity, and dependability, while at the same time seeking those people who’ll have their backs in a crisis, like familial bonds that are deeper than blood relations.

Many Social Sixes are charming, funny, and kind, but they also have a sharp, critical side with which they use to probe others’authenticity and character. They may bring these qualities to their social group or society which may be expressed as a sense of mission to educate, warn, improve, or serve others. Social Sixes tend to be particularly good at strategically bringing coherence to many disparate parts of a whole without suppressing the individual nature and gifts of the contributing parts, making for a remarkable ability to reconcile the personal and the collective.

Social Sixes are hyper aware of the atmosphere of the social milieu, so they often express themselves in relation to the values or currents they perceive within it. They may dress or create art, for example, in a way that is either in conformity with the social values of their culture or in complete contrast to them. In a similar vein, they can become champions for social causes or reformers fighting against corruption. Their self-expression is formed through this kind of “conversation” or commentary on norms, expectations, and the value of cultural signs and symbols. This does not take away from the fact that many Social Sixes are also very individualistic and independent thinkers.

The interest in culture lends an intellectual or scholarly bent in many Social Sixes. While many Social Sixes like to keep the peace, others are excellent debaters and enjoy hashing out different points of view with energy, friendly provocation, and humor. As much as they may be perturbed by serious disruptions or tears in the social fabric, they also appreciate the different perspectives people bring to the table and enjoy uncovering what’s in common.

This type has strong expectations of friendships and relational dynamics that aren’t always explicitly communicated, so they can feel betrayed or let down by people who can’t meet these expectations. Experiencing discordant or disharmonious values between themselves and others they care about can leave them feeling that the relationship has no “ground.” They feel the most possibility and creativity comes from people being on the same page. This means Social Sixes tend to be loyal to the values, beliefs, and common aims that bring people together and tend to proactively support those aims to the point of being self-sacrificing.

People of this type tend to get caught up in beliefs and ideologies that serve as umbrellas for people coming together, but they can let their devotion to these ideological tentpoles run away to the point of actually undermining the very interpersonal connections they wish to foster—for instance, in the case where adherence to a political cause ends up alienating the people it’s supposed to benefit. Social

Sixes can begin to believe their belonging is contingent on maintaining specific relational structures, of which they see themselves as a guardian, so this can escalate to larger social structures, like a political ideology, familial loyalty, or religion, taking precedence over the interpersonal connections it was there to support in the first place. In other words, the idea overtakes reality.

As they become more imbalanced, they can struggle in distinguishing their own independent agenda and identity, resulting in a vacillation between adherence to an authority or compulsive rebellion; alternatively, they may hold a black or white view of other people’s moral character. They may often replace one authority for another as if choosing a new inner authority figure represented a self-directed choice.

As Social Sixes become more imbalanced, they can pick fights in trying to test interpersonal loyalty and get at loved ones’ “true feelings” for them. They become hungrier and hungrier for assurance, and when they are deeply psychologically unhealthy, they are unable to feel certainty at all. When highly imbalanced, if an idea or means of self-expression can’t be “mapped” to their internal picture, it can be seen as threatening to social or ideological cohesion and treated with suspicion.

As they deteriorate, their intelligence and mental acuity can be used to support an ideology based on emotion. Their bright minds can become co-opted by the impulse to justify their ideological frameworks at the expense of open inquiry, complete with supplying effective arguments, “evidence,” and seemingly coherent justifications. Deeply unhealthy Social Sixes can be bent on punishing real or imagined wrong-doing and can act obsessively to purge “bad” beliefs or people from their social group, retaining strong prejudices against whomever they have deemed counter to the belonging and safety they have imagined.

Social Sixes ground themselves when they relate more to the impressions and sensations of relatedness with the heart and body.

They can get out of the mental framework of a relationship and into the felt sense of relationship, which helps them more fully trust in their lived experience.

[Source: Luckovich, 2021]