Throughout our lives, we are ruled by our basic instincts. Whether we act on them or not is beside the point.

It’s that gut reaction that tells you not to trust someone, or that feeling that tells you something isn’t right. According to the Enneagram of personality, there are three basic instincts that people have and that they rely upon, and they can make us act in different ways.

Understanding which instinct dominates you can give you a better understanding of yourself and how you react in certain situations. This can also help you to understand other people’s actions.

There are three basic instincts that drive human behavior:

Self-Preservation (SP)

Self-preservation is the drive to preserve the body, the life, and the functions of the body.

Ambition: A safe and secure environment at home and at work.

Main Concerns:
  • Physical safety
  • Comfort
  • Health
  • Security
  • Environment
  • Money
  • Food and nutrition
Coping Mechanisms:
  • Overbuying
  • Overeating
  • Oversleeping
  • Overindulging

Sexual Instinct (SX)

Sexual instinct is the drive to extend into the environment and through generations to come.

Ambition: Finding someone or something that will ‘complete’ them.

Main Concerns:
  • Intense experiences
  • Connection with others
  • People
  • Attractions that produce adrenaline
  • Lack of mental or emotional stimulation
  • Lack of personal connections
Coping Mechanisms:
  • Scattered attention and lack of focus
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Avoiding others
  • Thrill-seeking

Social Instinct (SO)

Social instinct is the drive to get along with other people and form secure social relationships and bonds.

Ambition: Interacting with others to build personal value and achieve accomplishments. Possible pursuit of success and fame.

Main Concerns:
  • A sense of personal value
  • Accomplishments
  • Secure a place with others
  • Status
  • Approval
  • Being admired
  • Knowing what is going on in the world
  • Adjusting to others
  • Being accepted
  • Avoiding intimate situations
Coping Mechanisms:
  • Antisocial behaviours
  • Poorly developed social skills
  • Stubbornness
  • Resentment
  • Avoidance

One of these three basic instincts will dominate your reactions and, subsequently, your behaviors. It is what you make your priority when you take action in any given situation, but it is not the only instinct you will have. These basic instincts are present in all of us, but two of these instincts will be stronger than the third. This creates almost an instinctual tier structure, with a dominant, a secondary, and a blind spot.

There are six formations of these tiers, and these are as follows.

  1. SO/SX
    • Dominant: Social Instinct
    • Secondary: Sexual Instinct
  2. SO/SP
    • Dominant: Social Instinct
    • Secondary: Self Preservation
  3. SP/SX
    • Dominant: Self Preservation
    • Secondary: Sexual Instinct
  4. SP/SO
    • Dominant: Self Preservation
    • Secondary: Social Instinct
  5. SX/SP
    • Dominant: Sexual Instinct
    • Secondary: Self Preservation
  6. SX/SO
    • Dominant: Sexual Instinct
    • Secondary: Social Instinct

The third basic instinct, our blind spot, is typically our least used instinct. We use it less because we may feel that it doesn’t interest us, or that we can do without it. However, we are still very aware of it, and it can irritate us when it is dominant in others.

Can we neutralize our basic instincts?

How our instincts are formed plays a huge role in our relationships and in our lives in general. That is not to say that one is better than another, but understanding how we initially react can help us develop a more level head in the future.

Once you know that you are more susceptible to a certain reaction, you can catch yourself before you take action on this instinct. You can also nurture and develop your lesser-used instinct to help you become a more rounded and balanced person.

This is something that is easy to do, and small, simple measures can make a huge difference. It was found that by giving your lesser-used instincts, you have the ability to change your mindset and even alleviate some anxieties and low mood.

Building your lesser-used basic instinct:


Spend some time creating a secure space in your home, make sure it is warm and comfortable. Eat a good meal and spend some time relaxing and focusing on yourself.

Sexual Instinct:

Reach out to others. If you have a romantic partner, plan a date together. If not, spend time around family or friends to connect with those who are important to you.

Social Instinct:

Spend some time focusing on your own achievements and learning about the news of the world. Take time to be with those important to you and celebrating the things you are proud of.

Being aware of your basic instincts and yourself can help you on your journey to self-discovery, and it can give you more control in situations in the future. Creating a better balance in your life can give you greater harmony and allow you to thrive as your true self.

Which of the three basic instincts dominates you?



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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Kumaravel

    Thanks for this content.

  2. Peter Hector

    Thanks! for this information, it sheds light on our innate human connection with each other, a subject is extremely interesting to me.

  3. G.Okal

    Thank you for your time, research, insight and providing this information to the net. Be well

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