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Self-Preservation Instinct










Self-Preservation (SP) is one of the three primary Instinctual Drives, alongside Social and Sexual, and represents the primal aspect of our human nature. It is connected to the reptilian part of our brain that constantly monitors ways to ensure the safety, regulation, comfort, sustenance, and health of our physical bodies. Given the values associated with Self-Preservation, it is no wonder that the fear associated with this Instinct is the fear of scarcity and harm.


The Self-Preservation Instinct as a whole can be broken down into three main areas which aims to ensure a person's physical well-being; the stability and security of their resources; and their ability to maintain self-regulation and self-reliance skills.


These can be explained further:

Physical Well-Being:

The SP Instinct influences an individual to value caring for and maintaining the physical well-being, including valuing their health, safety, and comfort. This could mean taking steps to ensure an individual's own physical safety, such as avoiding dangerous situations or taking precautions to prevent illness or injury. They are attuned own physical experiences and needs for comfort and actively create environments or experiences that promote comfortable physical experience.

Self-regulation and Skills:

The SP Instinct influences an individual's focus on self-regulation and practical skills that allow for stability and self-sufficiency. This may look like taking care of the practical day-to-day tasks (not necessarily with enjoyment) with the thought that this will ensure well-being, predictability, and stability in their lives. This Instinct, with its emphasis on balance and stability, inspires individuals to build systems, method, or processes that can be repeated.

Foundations and Resources:

Building stable foundations and securing resources for stability, safety, and well-being is also a part of the SP Instinct, which inspires individuals to delay gratification, plan for the future, and build foundations that can last beyond their lifetimes. This may involve a foundational work and investments that will pay off in the long run.



As mentioned in previous posts, each person is born with a preset Instinctual Stack, where one Instinct is more Dominant than the others, while another Instinct is Repressed or resides in the person's blind spot. With this in mind, each person will have slightly different characteristics even within the same Enneagram Type based on which Instinct is Dominant and which Instinct is Repressed. To illustrate, let's look at how the Self-Preservation Instinct can look depending on where it sits in a person's Instinctual Stack as the Dominant Instinct, Secondary Instinct, or Repressed Instinct.





Self-Preservation Dominant: (SP/SO, SP/SX)**

Individuals who are Dominant in the Self-Preservation (SP) Instinct value, follow, and fulfill the objectives of the SP instinctual drive without conscious thought. These individuals establish routines, acquire practical skills for self-regulation, prioritize the upkeep of their physical bodies, and seek to embrace the vitality of life through their physical experiences. They exude a grounded energy, characterized by earthiness, practicality, and pragmatism. They can demonstrate attention to detail when necessary and possess a systems-oriented mindset. Their fear of scarcity is evident in their assessment of their current situation and how it can be improved, maintained and sustained for personal well-being well into the future. At times, SP Dominants may become obsessive-compulsive, anxious, and overly-controlling, believing that careful planning and execution can enable them to control, predict, and prevent outcomes.


Self-Preservation Secondary (SO/SP, SX/SP)**

Individuals with Self-Preservation (SP) as a Secondary Instinct have a drive to fulfill the needs of the SP instinct, but they do so with conscious consideration. SP Secondaries may even experience a longing for the unmet needs of SP and actively strive to fulfill them, although they must do so intentionally, unlike those who are Dominant in SP, who will fulfill these needs without any real thought. Secondary SPs can incorporate routines, adopt healthy habits, and prioritize stability and the future, but they approach these aspects consciously and with greater fluidity and flexibility compared to SP Dominants. Moreover, Secondary SPs are less prone to the neurosis that can arise in individuals who are Dominant in SP during times of stress.


Self-Preservation Repressed (SO/SX, SX/SO):**

Individuals with a Repressed Self-Preservation Instinct lack the instinctual pull and skills needed to fulfill their Self-Preservation needs. Not only are Repressed SPs lack the inherent grounded energy and practical pragmatism of the SP Instinct, but they also experience ambivalence in meeting these needs, seeing them as somewhat unnecessary to experiencing a full life. There may even be a fear that pursuing and flexing the skills required to fulfill the needs of SP could jeopardize their own Dominant Instinct. For example, those Dominant in the Social Instinct and Self-Preservation Repressed (SO/SX) may see becoming practical, pragmatic, and self-sufficient as a threat to their ability to belong.


Having SP as a Repressed Instinct is not all bad, though, since having blind spots around maintaining life balance, building resources, self-regulation, and caring for their physical well-being, also allows a person to have greater use of personal flexibility, adaptability and creativity. It's also important to note that having a Repressed Instinct doesn't mean that these skills are forever lost or unattainable. In fact, actively pursuing the fulfillment of these needs and developing the necessary skills presents an amazing opportunity for personal growth.





**SO: Indicates the Social Instinct

**SX: Indicates the Sexual Instinct

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