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The Social Instinct

The Social Instinct (SO) is one of the three primary Instinctual Drives, alongside the Sexual and Self-Preservation instincts, and represents one part of the primal aspect of our human nature. It is connected to the reptilian part of our brain that constantly monitors ways to promote an individual's connection to others and ensures their belonging to a group ensure their survival.

The Social Instinct highly emphasizes tribal belonging and connection due to the built in fear that abandonment and ostracism from the community will ultimately lead to individual death. Beyond connecting and belonging, the SO Instinct's other basic needs focus on adapting the self in order to live harmoniously and participating in a system of reciprocal contribution that fosters inclusion and importance. This rounds out the three main categories of the SO Instinct: Connection with and caring for others; mindreading and social cues; and developing the social role, which all work together to ensure an individual's belonging and acceptance in their tribe or community.

Three Main Areas of the Social Instinct

Connection with and Caring for Others:

The Social instinct involves a strong desire for connection and caring for others through sharing a mutual purpose, reciprocally giving, and collectively serving for the greater good. This Instinct puts value on emotional intimacy, maintaining close relationships, finding common ground, and creating cohesive groups. Part of creating cohesive groups, though, is also establishing who is "in" and who is "out" of the group, so creating boundaries around the parameters of group membership is also key to this Instinct.

Mindreading and Social Cues:

The SO instinct also involves a strong focus on the dynamics between individuals and what behaviors, lifestyles, and appearances "fit" and which ones do not. In this way, the SO Instinct allows individuals the ability to mindread and interpret social cues in order to fit in and adhere to the expectations of the community. This high attunement to the emotions and needs of others and desire to be accepted and belong to the group, though beneficial to group harmony, can increase an individual's sensitivity to rejection and the fear of social exclusion.

Context/Vocation/Social role:

The Social Instinct also informs an individual's sense of their role in the larger context and inspires their purposeful contribution to the greater good. Looking at the larger context, the individual is able to determine what is "I" to oneself and what is "I" in proximity to others. This is where the social mask is formed as well as where the social mask is informed of how it fits with others.

A Note About Instinctual Stacking:

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 Social Instinct can look depending on where it sits in a person's Instinctual Stack as the Dominant Instinct, Secondary Instinct, or Repressed Instinct.

Social Dominants (SO/SP, SO, SX)*

Individuals who are Dominant in the Social Instinct value, follow, and fulfill the objectives of the Social Instinctual drive without conscious thought. These individuals are highly attuned to the collective good, what they (and others) contribute to the good, and how to keep harmony by liberally applying their mindreading skills. Social Types can relate current situations to the context of the social world in which they live and seamlessly apply their talents in social grace and understanding to move this to their will. Giving and receiving as part of the social context is a way of life for Social Types and the desire to be recognized for their contribution both as a nod to their individual importance and shoring up their belonging to the group. Social Types do not need to be "sociable" or even outgoing, just attuned to the necessity of a framework of thinking and working towards the greater good. Social Dominants are giving, serving, connecting individuals who are the most likely to bring a casserole when you have a baby and mow your lawn when you're out of town.

The drawback for any Social Type who is under stress is the hyper-attention to the group and what feels like the constant threat of ostracism or not belonging. Social Types can also get sucked into defining and defending the boundaries of who or what is "in" or "out". Usually when Social Types are stuck in this game, they are attempting to outmaneuver their own fear of being "out" of the group. Finally, in times of stress, Social Types can get sucked into using relationships as a means of climbing the social ladder (the place of "ultimate" belonging).

Social Secondary (SP/SO, SX/SO)*

Individuals with the Social Instinct as their Secondary Instinct value connecting with others and reciprocal care, and have a keen sense of social cues and situations. These individuals will embrace working for the collective good, but since this is not their means of survival, will not play the ultimate connecting role that a Social Dominant Type will. Social Secondary Types may be able to understand social cues and situations well, but will not be able to (or not care to) apply the same skill with understanding the context of the situation as a Social Dominant. Social Secondary Types are also less likely to use relationships to catapult to a higher standing or to get wrapped up in drawing lines of who is in the group and who is not. In many ways, they can skillfully use the connectedness of the Social Instinct without being afraid of it and disdainful of it (SO Repressed Individuals) or being tempted to overapply it.

Social Repressed (SP/SX, SX/SP):*

Individuals with a Repressed Social Instinct tend to avoid, fear, and even disdain the social world. These individuals stand just outside the influence of social norms and the pressure to fit in, where they feel slightly confused about, exempt from, and disdainful of the societal dance. Social Repressed individuals frequently (not always) miss the tiny cues of connection in their days and tend to have a less cogent grip on how to read and interact with others at the appropriate level. At times, they can come off as awkward or too intense without the ability to smooth over their intentions with mind-reading skills and an adaptive social mask. On the flip side, Social Repressed individuals are more likely to be the truth tellers of a society because they do not fear (as much) the abandonment and ostracism that other Instinctual Stacking Types possess and can be refreshingly "real" in their interactions with others.


*SX-Sexual (One-to-One)



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