The three Instinctual Variants (a.k.a. the Instincts) work in conjunction with a person’s Enneagram type, and weigh roughly equal to Type in terms of influence exerted on the personality. Each of us is subject to a hierarchy of Instincts as they’re stacked in order of predominance (i.e.- the stackings, of which there are six possible combinations in total). The predominant Instinct (the highest or first in the stacking) makes up the majority volume of a flux coursing through the Type’s infrastructure, animating and augmenting our type’s fixation.
Discerning the Instincts as they move and operate in us (and others) is often less simple than recognizing one’s Enneagram type, partly due to the Instincts’ nature as perpetual flux…in contrast to the relatively more static quality of the Enneagram type structures. As alluded to above, the relationship between Type and the Instincts is something analogous to a house (our Enneagram type) with a characteristic energy current (the Instincts) whooshing through its duct-work. So, to be discerning the Instincts at play is to be observing the Type fixation in operation as well, and vice versa.
(SP): This Instinct’s “eye” habitually lands on the various conditions of the physical self – ‘me’. Concerns here are around shelter, food, health, finances. And the immediate tactile environment (hot/cold, light/dark, dry/humid, clean/dirty, quiet/loud, etc), which can translate to prominent perceptions about the emotional charge of a given space, the intangibles of a setting: inviting/disturbing, familiar/haunting, enticing/disquieting. The SP-dominant person, on some level, continually monitors his gauges, weighing how much energy output, for example, will be required for a given action or interaction with others. Also places value on cultivating resources – money, tools, time, practical know-how, material provisions, etc. – stockpiling for future expenditure in service of survival and comfort. Worth is placed on ‘getting things done’ and building or acquiring things that will last. The majority of the World’s population is SP-dominant, also referred to as SP-first to indicate the highest totem in the Instinctualstacking. This overall global predominance of SP is one reason we see the general public so easily swung around on the end of a stick by news of natural disasters and imploding financial markets.
(SX): Besides the hunger for sex itself, this is the ‘need for speed’, the hunt for ‘juice’, excitement/intensity as a narcotic, pushing the envelope, seeking that peak something. Also, ‘the World as a mating dance’, compelled to broadcast beautiful attractive ‘colors’, casting a net (or a pheromone) out for that special someone to complete an electrical circuit, a nose for the individualized scent of the soul we long to burn our imprint into, and they into ours. Chemistry, not intimacy. Involuntary attraction and repulsion. Archetypally, this Instinct rules the alchemical processes, transformation/transmogrification, base metals into gold, phoenix rising from the ashes, the wild-eyed shaman whirling in fire and blood and radical rebirth. Some authors have sought to tame this Instinct with new names, such as Intimate or one-to-one, butany attempt at reworking the Instinct into something righteous/spiritual/romantic misses the mark: the Sexual Instinct is raw unbridled wanting, untethered by ethics/morality. It’s reckless. A live wire longing to burn…and be burned to death. The classical image of Eros’s arrow (erotic attraction) shot through the heart accurately alludes to the danger here: potential ruin and destruction under the guise of Love.
(SO): Here, the eye lands on the health of the collective, building mutual support, being for someone or some group, affiliating, co-creating, participating, contributing, involvement. Bonding and relationship-building belong in this category, not with the Sexual Instinct. Social gives us the ‘intelligence’ to read people, adapt to them, communicate and interpret subtleties. All language, words, verbal exchanges fall under the purview of this Instinct. SO can go low though: It burns witches at the stake, exterminates populations that are deemed ‘diseased vermin’, or can be consumed with status/rank/respectability/pedigree/reputation/strata/sovereignty. But otherwise, wholesome cleanliness and the ‘white light’ Apollonian elements of order, law, history, medicine, government and lofty eternal principles reside in the Social department. According to evolutionary biology, this Instinct is the latest to have emerged, the ‘more advanced’ Instinct, i.e.- the stuff of Humanity, altruistic vision, goodwill, the ‘higher good’. Social is the bodily sensation of not being a closed circuit. The link from instinct to emotion, inspiring animals to care for their young; this is the parenting instinct. The connection to history and participation in the human journey.
♠ ♠ ♠ ♠Conceiving of the Instinctual Variants as elementslends insight into the nature of their various processes and styles of movement:
sp = earth / matter
sx = water / fire, (higher vibrations) ice / electricity
so = fresh air, wind & sunlight