Posted with permission from Ocean Moonshine.

The Instinctual Stackings of Enneatype Three

Enneatype Three belongs to the feeling/image triad. The fear of being unlovable and the concern with validation are expressed differently with the different instinctual stackings.

With the self-pres instinct dominant, the need for validation is tied to material possessions. Feelings of safety and security are tied to the Three’s always having enough and to being seen by others as having enough.

When the social instinct is dominant, the concern with validation of image is accentuated, so there is generally a competitive nature to social Threes. Social Threes may go to great lengths to further the image of themselves as being successful. In the social Three, since image validation is accentuated, we find a subtype that can be very competitive when it comes to social status.

The sexual Three is competitive in the area of physical attraction. Their focus is on being seen as someone who is able to attract and secure a mate.


This subtype is the most reserved and introverted of the subtypes of enneatype Three, and possibly the hardest worker. They generally put a great deal of effort into their work, excelling at whatever they choose to do. They usually do what it takes to rise to the top. There is a strong desire to excel, although the areas chosen may differ widely from one Three to the next. These Threes are competitive in a quiet way. On the high side, they can be very generous with what they have learned and acquired. The driving motivation for their hard work comes down to their fear of not being good enough. Self-pres Threes seem to feel that if they get that promotion, have enough money or buy a big enough house they will then be lovable, admired by others and finally stop feeling like a failure. The false belief that they are what they accomplish is the driving force behind the behavior of self-pres/soc Threes. When healthier, this subtype comes to the realization that all of their hard work won’t change what they fundamentally feel inside. They learn to prioritize other aspects of their lives. They slow down and begin to accept themselves as they are. As the sexual instinct is last, less energy is available for intimate relationships. These Threes can therefore have a hard time with intimacy until they learn to slow down and prioritize their relationships.


This subtype also focuses on material success but is overall less concerned with status. These Threes often try to do it all, be the perfect mother or father for instance, while working many hours, and maintaining relationships with friends and family. This subtype is prone to double and triple booking the hours of the day. Their sense of style is quite apparent. You may see them having quite a talent for design and creativity especially, where it comes to their homes and appearance. They take their relationships seriously, but when unbalanced can become cold when their self-pres instinct is threatened in any way. With the social instinct being last, they can have a distrust of new people within their circle of influence. Their focus is not naturally in the social arena, so this can unnerve the self-pres/sexual Three.


The social instinct combines with the dominant Threeness and accentuates the desire for external validation. This Three derives validation from peer admiration due to high social rank. Of course, the actual sources of admiration (money, a large house, college degrees, flashy cars, etc.) will vary greatly depending on the individual life circumstances. However, the goal will always be on attaining an enviable status in the eyes of others, which necessitates a degree of conformity to the norms of the individual’s culture. For example, a social/self-pres Three born in American society will likely strive to epitomize the “American dream” by embodying all the qualities most Americans currently associate with perfection. These Threes will work tirelessly to find an attractive mate, attain a beautiful home, drive a high status car, and, of course, possess a physically appealing appearance. The bottom line is, unless the social Three perceives their status as being “exceptional” compared to their peers, they feel utterly valueless; there is no middle ground. This stems from the Three’s fear that they are inherently empty and must continuously prove their worth by receiving validation. The social Three thus focuses their energy on the arena of social status.

When backed by the self-preservational instinct, the need for material stability is intensified. For this stacking, status will invariably be associated with wealth. This often leads to a tendency to have lucrative, highly-respected careers in fields such as medicine, law, etc. Self-preservation in the secondary position can also lead to fears and preoccupations with health and safety when the social needs are believed to be unmet.

Having the sexual instinct in the last position diminishes this type’s need for intimacy and intensity. Being social types, however, this subtype of Three can mimic a sexual variant’s vivaciousness and out-reaching. However, they sometimes lack the resources for sustained intimacy, because the social and self-pres needs will trump the effort for closer bonds. As a result, unhealthy Threes of this stacking will have many colleagues in high places and successful, respectable acquaintances; but may be lacking deep, true friends.

When this subtype is healthy, they can become very generous and can direct their high energy and enthusiasm into the social sphere with extremely positive results.


This stacking will cause most of the social variant issues described for the social/self-pres to manifest. The primary differences will be in the arena of interpersonal relationships. Because this is still a social subtype, this Three will strive for the accumulation of wealth in cultures where there is social validation for wealth. The motivation for attainment of material wealth will be derived less out of need for stability and more purely from the desire for social admiration. As with all self-preservation last types, this Three will find it difficult to expend sufficient energy in practical matters, except where there is social pressure to do so. Therefore, just as with the social/self-pres Three; this Three will have an desirable home; but most likely it will fall into disarray when visitors are not expected. With the social/self-pres stacking, there is more internal motivation (stemming from the self- preservation instinct in the secondary position) to maintain order and stability for themselves. With this soc/sexual subtype the motivation to keep up appearances is more purely external.

This type can still be materially successful, but they will not be as directly focused on this goal as the social/self-pres Three. There will be many occasions where the lure of enjoyment (even excess) will take precedence over the need to stay on the “straight and narrow.” Focus on interpersonal relationships, as well as longing for intensity of experience is far more pronounced in this type of Three than in the social/self-pres. Having the social instinct backed by the sexual instinct creates the most playful energy combination, making this Three seem somewhat like a Seven. While social validation is still the primary focus, sexual validation as well as intimacy are also sought, and it is more likely for this subtype to choose “impractically” in the area of relationships (though they may keep their more “socially unacceptable” friends hidden from public scrutiny.)

When these Threes are healthy, their interpersonal skills become a useful tool for grounding themselves and for finding what they really want from life and for finding who they really are. They learn to maintain a more consistent identity, bringing all of who they really are to the forefront, which means recognizing the real self first.


This subtype can appear almost Four-like. They can be dramatic and appear introspective, especially with the Four wing. There is an on and off quality to these Threes. They can be very emotional and then become very business like. It’s not uncommon to find this subtype in the arts, especially as actors, singers or performers. The outward sexual energy coupled with the secondary self-pres energy can cause these Threes to focus on projecting an image of themselves to the world. They will seek validation in the area of their persona. This type especially wrestles with the authenticity of the persona/image they create. On the one hand, the image protects the real self, but at the same time they hate the image they project. This subtype is likely to be in a constant state of flux when it comes to the image they project and for this reason, they run the risk of burn-out and disillusionment. They are more prone to depression than the other subtypes.

When healthier, these Threes begin to trust their intimate relationships, and begin to disentangle the real self from the flux of partial identities they create. They learn that being vulnerable is necessary if they are to get what they really want, which is to reveal the real self and trust that they are lovable even with their flaws.


The focus of this subtype is less on material gain. The basic fear for this type is loss of intimate love. The sex/soc subtype, like the sex/self-pres, lacks trust in their intimates. Because they feel unworthy of true love, they don’t believe that anyone can love them solely for themselves. Therefore, they continuously strive to hold onto their intimates’ admiration, deluding themselves that if they are admired, they may become worthy of love. They do this through vigorous maintenance of their appearance, achievements, etc. Ageing is often especially difficult for this subtype.

This insecurity leads to an incessant need for reassurance from intimates, in the form of words of affirmation or time spent together (to the exclusion of others). This insatiable need often leads to intense jealousy, which only serves to distance others from them, thus erroneously affirming the Three’s basic fear that they are unworthy of true love. While they share a lot with the sex/self-pres Three, the secondary social instinct adds an element of competition when it comes to questions of desirability. This subtype likes to be seen as the alpha male or alpha female.

When the sex/soc is healthier, they realize this competition is self-defeating. They can take comfort in the thought that another person’s success and attention do not take away their worth in any way.