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What is an instinct in the Enneagram?

The instincts are three different drives that influence your feelings, actions, and perceptions. The three different instincts are Self-Preservation, Relational (sometimes called “one-to-one” or “sexual”), and Social. You always have all three, but they tend to fall into a hierarchy where one is dominant, another is neutral, and the last is somewhat of a blind spot. 

Although this hierarchy tends to persist for long periods of time (e.g., someone having a dominant Relational instinct throughout their 20s), people still tap into all three of their instincts often, depending on life circumstances or what a given context requires. For example, the Relational instinct may be more prominent while on a date, the Self-Preservation instinct might show up when finances are tight or career becomes a priority, and the Social instinct may kick in more strongly while attending a group event. 


The Self-Preservation instinct is generally focused on survival, the body, the home, material possessions, safety, and protecting one’s resources. Self-Preservation instinct tends to correlate with introversion.


The Relational instinct (sometimes called “one-to-one” or “sexual”) is generally focused on deep connections with one person or small groups, feeling intensity, exuding energy, cultivating a sense of aliveness, seeking pleasure, and expressing passion.


The Social instinct is generally focused on group activities and inclusion, upholding and expressing important values, acting responsibly, engaging others, building bonds, and finding commonalities. Social instinct tends to correlate with extroversion.


After you take Blueprint’s instinct test, you’ll get a stack-ranking of these three instincts: at the top is the dominant instinct that your personality is currently preoccupied with. It filters how you process almost everything around you, and it can become an obsession if you aren’t careful. Second is an instinct that’s neutral, neither a focus nor neglected. This is often the most balanced instinct: you’re aware of it without needing to think about it. Third is the instinct that’s currently a blind spot for you. If you don’t actively think about processing the world in this way, you likely neglect it entirely.

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