The following workshops with Peter O'Hanrahan are described below:

  • Working with Instincts and Subtypes
  • The Instinctual Subtypes: Building Better Relationships
  • The Enneagram and Instinctual Subtypes – Your Path in Life
  • Subtypes and Defense Systems

Contact Peter to schedule any of these workshops designed for your community or workplace: or 510-234-1600

Working with Instincts and Subtypes

There is so much good material and method in the study of Enneagram subtypes that makes it worthwhile to spend a day exploring our personal work and relationships in this context. In a small study group format we will discuss the best use of all three instincts - self preservation, one-to-one and social - and how to guide our subtype activity in ways that serve our true purpose rather than our automatic patterns of behavior. 

The format will be a combination of presentation, inner practice and discussion, with some side trips into object relations psychology. You should have a basic understanding of subtypes prior to the workshop since we will be focusing on application and practice rather than descriptions.  

Topics include:

  • How can we best manage our subtype "projects"
  • How can we take the emotional habit of our type out of our subtype activity
  • How do we apportion our time and energy in each instinctual territory; how much is enough; what activities do we like and what do we avoid
  • Effective practices for developing each instinct
  • How to get along with other subtypes

The Instinctual Subtypes: Building Better Relationships

An advanced Enneagram workshop with Peter O'Hanrahan

The Enneagram is a powerful tool for creating more successful relationships with the people in our lives. Knowing how nine personality types think, feel and behave in very different ways allows us to increase our empathy and communication, reduce unnecessary conflict, and build bridges with one another. Understanding the instinctual subtypes takes this to a whole new level.

The primary subtype focus shows up in our relationships in three vital areas: 1) security issues reflected in personal warmth, finances, health and family; 2) social belonging and recognition through group participation, social duty, and friendships; 3) a quest for union in one-to-one connections, sexual intimacy or spiritual practice.

Subtype in a primary relationship is as important as personality type when it comes to daily life, where relationships are largely shaped by instinct and emotion. What do we expect of our partner for personal time and attention, and how does this fit with her or his priorities? Who initiates physical contact and how much? Who cooks and cleans? Who takes care of the finances? How do we include friends and family?

Understanding subtypes is a way of bringing this to our awareness and having a language to describe it. We can develop new skills to negotiate subtype differences (and similarities) in relationship. We are better able to meet our partner's needs for security and identity. We can manage the rhythms of contact and withdrawal without taking it all so personally. And we learn how to balance all three instincts, each of which plays an important role in both work and family life.

In this workshop we will explore:

  • How subtype affects our relationships at home and at work
  • How the development of instincts in early childhood impacts our adult relationships
  • How our defenses and emotional habits affect our subtype behavior
  • The challenges and the blessings of the six subtype combinations in primary relationships
  • Using the intelligence of all three centers - head, heart and body - for successful relationships

The Enneagram and Instinctual Subtypes — Your Path in Life

The Enneagram is a powerful system for learning about ourselves and the people in our lives. It describes the point of view and the motivation of nine personality types and provides important strategies for our personal growth and relationships. The study of the instinctual subtypes provides further insights about how we can apply the Enneagram for self awareness in daily life.

The Enneagram describes three centers of energy and intelligence that shape the structure and behaviors of our personality type. The intellectual center holds our point of view, habit of attention and mental fixation. The emotional center is home to our feelings, our empathy, and the "passion" of our type. 

The body center contains three major instincts:

  • Self preservation instinct - guiding our relationships with home, food, security, family and warmth in personal relationship
  • One-to-one instinct - fueling our personal vitality, sexuality, intimate relationships, and our experience of spiritual union
  • Social instinct - forming our friendships, our participation in groups and community, and our social identity

Every person has all three instincts, but one of them becomes more central in our daily lives and relationships - this primary instinct determines our Enneagram subtype. There are 27 subtypes, three variations of each personality type. These 27 profiles hold the key to understanding our path in life and our role in the community: How do we spend our time and energy in daily life? What are our important projects? How do we participate in home, neighborhood, politics or religious activities? What do we need to feel secure? What is the role of instinct and emotion? In our relationships with friends, colleagues and intimate partners, subtype differences (or similarities) can be as important as personality type!

In this workshop we will explore the issues for all 27 subtypes, including:

  • Making informed choices about our personal priorities and major projects
  • How subtypes affect our relationships at home and at work
  • How to balance work, home, and intimacy
  • Managing the emotional habits of our type
  • How to live with authenticity while adapting to a rapidly changing culture

The Narrative Tradition panel method helps us to appreciate each person's story and build community. The format will include nine type panels as well as presentations, guided inner practices, and small-group discussion. Beginners to the Enneagram are welcome. If you don't know your subtype, you will likely discover it during the workshop.

Read more about subtypes>

Subtypes and Defense Systems

Keys to inner work and personal growth

 Learning about the nine personality types brings us powerful information about ourselves and the people in our lives. How do we put this information to work? The Enneagram describes two aspects of our type structure which can guide us in our personal growth and relationships and make real change and transformation possible: our instinctual subtype and our defense system.  

Our subtype gives shape and form to our participation in the world. It creates our path in life - our most important projects, relationships, and how we focus on survival and success in daily life. The question is: in what ways is our subtype activity life-affirming and authentic, and when does it become distorted by the passion (emotional habit) of our type? When the subtype is fueled by anger, pride, fear, excess, heedlessness (or the other passions) we end up controlled by unconscious patterns that lead us away from our true needs and our real purpose.  

The key to managing our personality and subtype with awareness is the defense system which has three parts: 1) the idealization or self-image, what we try to live up to or think we must be in order to have self-worth; 2) the avoidance, the feelings we try to stay away from and cover up; 3) the defense mechanism, which is the "enforcer" of the fixation (narcotization, denial, projection, isolation, etc.)

It's not easy to let go of our idealized self-image, to accept feelings which are frightening, and to prevent our defense mechanism from dominating our behavior and attitude. However there are four elements of personal growth which can make this possible: awareness, acceptance, practice and support. 

The nine types show us the wonderful aspects of human diversity. It's the defenses which are the problem side of personality; they keep us separate from our true selves and separate from deep connection with others. With the guidance of the Enneagram we can learn to reduce our reactivity and defensiveness, create more flexibility in our type structure and bring our full potential to the challenges of love and work.  


We will explore through presentation, discussion, and reflection the interaction of subtype, emotional habit, and defenses of the nine personality types. We'll talk about how to combine both "active practice" and "receptive practice" for best results. We'll share what we have learned and what we need to develop. And we'll use the inner observer and the breath to become more fully present as we continue our journey. 

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Phenomenal experience. I gained deeper insights, far beyond textual knowledge, rich with emotional understanding of the Instincts and Subtypes. Peter has met a wide assortment of people on his journeys, and he's got that talent for picking up how their instincts mesh with their enneagram type. It's not easy for me to notice these nuances; however, Peter used many live examples which helped me enormously. Excellent teacher. Personable. Amiable. I am so glad I had this opportunity.      

Kathleen Patton - after attending an Instinctual Subtypes weekend