Exploring Enneagram Instincts

three enneagram instincts

A powerful tool for personal and collective transformation, the Enneagram helps us distinguish how our body awareness, particular driving emotional energy, along with the perpetual filter of your intellect, can be redefined into 1 of 9 particular character types. This ancient system, further developed by George Gurdjieff, Claudio Naranjo and Oscar Ichazo, contains components from mystical Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and ancient Greek philosophy.

Each of us emerges from childhood with one of the nine types dominating our personality. Our type determines how our personality strategies meet our basic needs.

The Enneagram also refers to instinctual variants which underlie and impact the needs of the personality and address those of three fundamental instinctual biological imperatives. Knowing which instinct is your dominant instinct will help you acknowledge how you interact with the external world.

The Three Enneagram Instinctual Variants

While we possess all three Enneagram instincts, only one of them is the dominant focus of our attention and behavior. The instincts are identified as the following:

  • Self-preservation: This instinct focuses on survival and involves such aspects as food, health, exercise, and personal possessions. People who have this as their dominant instinct are consumed with the safety, comfort, health, energy, and well-being of their physical body.
  • Sexual/one-to-one: This instinct emphasizes intimate relationships and is associated with excitement, activation and intensity. People who have this as their dominant instinct are consumed with being stimulated and are always aware of the chemistry or connection between themselves and others.
  • Social: This instinct is about our place in social groups or a sense of tribe. For example, social hierarchy, participation, and engagement with social groups and is linked to a deep need to be included in and contribute to society. People who have this as their dominant instinct are deeply aware of those around them and how their actions and attitudes affect other people.

The Importance of Balance

Knowing your dominant instinct will help you lead a more balanced life and avoid conflict with others who have a different dominant instinct than yours. It will also help you notice how you prioritize one instinct over the others, leading to potential anxiety and imbalances. When our instincts are balanced and developed more fully, we are able to operate from our center and connect with others more authentically.

How the Hoffman Process Can Help

The Hoffman Process provides corrective experiences to balance out the instincts with exercises that are thoughtfully designed to activate each of the variants: self-preservation, sexual, and social:

  • Self-preservation: For those who have neglected their self-preservation instinct, the Process provides such experiences as mindful meditation, healthy food, journaling, and a digital detox. Participants walk away with a deep sense of self-love.
  • Sexual/one-to-one: When it comes to the sexual/one-to-one instinct, participants experience anger expressive work, and one-to-one sharing with their therapist and others in the group so they can walk away with a sense of intimacy and love for another.
  • Social: For the social instinct, the Process makes space for group work, affiliation, and community, helping participants to walk away from the experience with a deep love for all and a sense of belonging. To cement this sense of belonging, the Hoffman community provides resources and ongoing workshops so that participants can continue their growth and connection to the experiences they had during the Process.

Learn more about the Enneagram here. And if you have already completed the Process and wish to further your understanding about the Enneagram, consider The Retreat, which utilizes a powerful combination of the Hoffman Tools alongside Family Constellation work and the wisdom of the Enneagram.

This article was contributed by Erica Garza. Follow @ericadgarza on Instagram

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