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Instinct - Are We Born With a Protective Instinct?

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Instinct – Born with Natural Instincts

The protective instinct we were all born with helps keep us safe, helps us succeed in life in various endeavors, and the instinct is very strong when it comes to protecting our children. We have seen numerous examples of heroic instinct in wars, which saved a person or sometimes a whole squad.

Parents who protect their children are exhibiting a normal protective response. On a personal level, when we are faced with danger, the fight-fl ight physical symptoms kick in when our life or the lives of family members are threatened. This does not mean learned behavior is not important.

One of the reasons humanity has survived for thousands of years is the fight-flight system, as it is an in-built alarm that triggers the brain. This is a complex hormonal system, which secretes over 30 stress hormones, for example, adrenalin, cortisol, etc. They have a quick, widespread effect on your body chemistry. It will increase your strength, alertness and the speed necessary to deal with the perceived threat.

Mother Protecting Child

The child protective instinct is readily apparent in the true story of Cindy Parolin. She was with her children when a cougar attacked.

Without hesitation, she jumped in front of her son and fought the cougar, wrestling the cougar for hours, while her son was removed from danger by his older siblings. One might ask, what causes this bravery? This woman was willing to sacrifice her life to save her son, and that is not uncommon.

Man’s Natural Instincts

A man’s masculinity is also distinctive, and men think about situations a bit differently than women. Most men are tough-minded when taking care of their families also.

Men are typically more muscular, therefore, physically stronger. They tend to be assertive and aggressive when necessary.

Men have a strong instinct to protect their families, which is an innate core of their masculinity. Furthermore, some of these characteristics are learned as a boy, but men seem to be born with this strong protective instinct.

Are most people born with protective instincts? Are they passed down in our DNA? I think that people are probably born with this instinct, but there is no proof or research that I could find of the subject.

New Dad's Protective Instinct

People Without Empathy

There are some people who do not seem to have empathy for other human beings, and they typically fall into a category of personality disorders. Fortunately, they are just a small segment of society. A sociopath or psychopath tends to take advantage of anyone, as they are interested only in their own needs and wants.

Recognizing a Protective Instinct in Others

A strong protective instinct is fairly easy to see in other people. Take the movie “The Blind Side”. Sandra Bullock’s character recognized the protective instinct of "Big Mike." He excelled in football when he tapped into his protective instinct.

The Blind Side (2009) Trailer

Morality Test

The Harvard website has a morality test concerning human instinct. It takes just a few minutes to take the test and see where your beliefs lie in relation to society.

Professions Reflecting an Internal Protective Instinct

A few other examples of professions associated with the internal protective instinct are firemen, nurses, doctors or secret servicemen who are willing to lay down their life for the president.

Another example of this instinct has been seen in several animals, but particularly in dogs and cats. There are numerous stories of a dog waking the family with a house fire, and they certainly protect their owners if they are physically attacked. Cats have been known to lie next to a dying person. They somehow seem to know when their owner is dying before anyone else.

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Gut Instincts

The dictionary definition of a gut instinct is an “inborn tendency to behave in a way characteristic of a species; natural, unlearned, predictable response to stimuli, and “a primal psychic force or drive, as fear, love, or anger; specific", in Freudian analysis, either the life instinct (Eros) or the death instinct (Thanatos).

A gut instinct can help you make good decisions that are logical, rather than emotionally based. Some things can certainly interfere with making a good decision using gut instinct, such as alcohol, drugs, depression or other emotional problems. Knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, plus accepting yourself as you are, will guide you down the right path most of the time.

Views on Inborn Instinct

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 26, 2020:

Hi Peggy,

I agree with you about the the precious birds and the personality disorders. I saw a protective instinct at work when I was working as a nurse and with friends. Thank you for your comments. I hope you have a good week, Peggy.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 26, 2020:

Your photo at the top of this page is amazing! What a great photo capture! Except for personality disorders and mental illness, I do believe that most people are born with protective instincts.

Robert Sacchi on August 09, 2019:

Thank you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 09, 2019:

Hi Robert, I only know of the Harvard look at this question. I think instinct is such an interesting trait to ponder. Animals are so interesting to observe as they take care of their own. Thanks so much for commenting Robert.

Robert Sacchi on August 08, 2019:

An interesting article. I wonder what studis have been done on humans. I know the party line use to be we don't have any. One problem might be the definition of insticnt is when an animal has a behavior considered too complex for its "intelligence". With humans it's a case of trying to eliminate rational thought to figure out if there is anything left to attribute to instince.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on July 12, 2014:

Treasureofheaven, I agree with you, I also think Blindside is a very good movie. I am glad you enjoyed this hub, and I very much appreciate your comments.

Sima Ballinger from Michigan on July 11, 2014:

I voted for "Born With Instinct." I think we are born with it, but may be afraid to use it at times. I appreciate the video about the fathers and Blindside trailer - that's a brilliant movie. Good writing and topic too!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 20, 2012:

Brenda, I am so glad you enjoyed the hub and of course, I agree with you about inborn instinct. Thank you so much for your comments.

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on September 20, 2012:

First of all, I love, love, love that photo. It is amazing and so perfect for the piece of writing. I firmly believe this instinct is inborn. We all have seen many examples of it. Sure it can become degraded by the life experience especially as you noted in cases of childhood abuse. But it is there or none of us would survive a generation. This is a fascinating Hub. I enjoyed it immensely.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 01, 2012:

rajan jolly, I agree and I thought that photo was perfect for this hub. Thank you for your comments.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 31, 2012:

Pamela, we are definitely born with the instinct of protection in as much as we are born with the instinct of survival.

The first photo beautifully illustrates it all.

Voted up and interesting.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 31, 2012:

Rosemary, A baby swimming is a good point. Thank you so much for your comments.

Rosemary Sadler from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand on May 30, 2012:

I believe we are all born with a protective instinct. If you put a baby in deep water and let go it will swim, the instinct to protect itself, self preservation.

I think that protective instinct has several levels, that of a mother protecting her child being the strongest.

Well written and a thought provoking hub.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 30, 2012:

Tammy, A mother's love does feel very natural. I have certainly enjoyed all the comments. Thank you for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 30, 2012:

b. Malin,I think you are right that many things can happen in life to alter our natural instincts for better or worse. I had been thinking about the topic for a while and wanted to see what others thought also. I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 30, 2012:

Bobbi, I feel in love with that photo also. I was the protector in my family too, then I became a nurse. Thanks so much for your comments.

Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on May 30, 2012:


I love the photo of the Mama bird, that is so precious. And I enjoyed your hub very much. And yes I believe we are born with the instinct, as an older sister and the oldest cousin I was always the protector. And this has followed me through life, as I fight for the rights and protection of others.

I voted up and awesome.

Your Hub Friend,

Bobbi Purvis

b. Malin on May 30, 2012:

I too agree we are all Born with the Instinct for self preservation...but lots of things go on in one's life good, and bad, that can alter one's normal Instincts. We are so protective of our Momma Bears in Action. This was a very Thought Provoking Hub Pamela, which brought out so many Wonderful Comments.

Tammy from North Carolina on May 30, 2012:

I am pretty sure mothers are born with this instinct. It just seems to come naturally. Very interesting look into the nature of instincts and protection. Voting up and sharing!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 29, 2012:

farmloft, You make some very good points. I definitely think we are born with self-preservation also. Thanks so much for your comments.

farmloft from Michigan on May 29, 2012:

I think most of us are born with self-preservation instinct but empathy is a learned behavior. I've seen too many toddlers and teens with no clue of how to protect someone else or able to even view others as needing protection. Unless they've been taught or modeled about taking care of others, few actually come up with the idea on their own. We have to mature into it.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 29, 2012:

Ruby, Mental illness and children that grow up with severe abuse are not going to have normal instincts unfortunately. I think we are born with a survival instinct and love also. I really appreciate your comments.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on May 29, 2012:

I think we are born with a natural instinct for survival and love. I know there are those who lack the ability to love and also feel no guilt when committing murder or evil. Mental illness is so complex. Thank you for a great hub. Very interesting indeed..

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 29, 2012:

fpherj48, I hadn't thought about that example, of that very sick woman, but the baby trying to survive is pertinent to the topic. Thank so much for your comments.

Suzie from Carson City on May 29, 2012:

Pamela99.....Superb topic to write about. All subjects pertaining to human nature and instinct are so interesting and important for us to discuss.

What came to mind as I read, was the horriffic tragedy/crime of Andrea Yates, who drowned her 5 small children. She later told that even the baby who was merely months old, struggled with all her might to survive the drowning. To me, this is not only amazing but proof positive. UP ++

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 28, 2012:

Nell Rose, I think most mothers would do anything to protect their children. I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 28, 2012:

Will Starr, Well stated! Thank you for your comments.

Nell Rose from England on May 28, 2012:

Hi, Yes I think we are definitely born with the instinct, and even more so when our children are involved. Most of the time we may have a two second reaction to whether to get involved or not, but where our children are concerned we don't even think, we just react as that woman did saving her child from a cougar! Wow! I think most of us would do that for our kids, but what bravery!

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on May 28, 2012:

We are without a doubt, because it's absolutely necessary for the survival of our species. That's one of the reasons our forefathers sought to protect our natural and essential right to self defense. What good is the instinct if the means are forbidden?

Excellent Hub!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 28, 2012:

prasetio, This was an interesting topic to research. I'm glad you picked up some new things and I appreciate your comments.

marshacanada, I thought that picture was perfect for this hub. I think the maternal instinct is very strong. I remember when my first son was born and the instant love I felt. Thanks for your comments.

Cardisa, I think we were born with the self preservation instinct also. I'm not sure about the rest. I appreciate your comments.

SunRob, I always liked babies and children but the amazing love and instinct really happened with the birth of my first son. Thanks for your comments.

James W. Nelson from eastern North Dakota on May 28, 2012:

Well, Pamela, I had to vote with group 2. Of course I think a big part is instinct, but just to narrow it down, I wasn't that crazy about children until I had a child in my life thanks to a girlfriend with a young daughter. That changed everything.

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on May 28, 2012:

I believe we are born with self preservation instincts but other instincts are developed over time as be mature into caring and nurturing human beings. Not all mothers protect their children but yet they will protect themselves no matter what. In such cases, they have not acquired the child protective instincts.

This is a wonderful subject Pamela, thanks for sharing.

marshacanada from Vancouver BC on May 28, 2012:

Thanks to this instinct usually the bonding between parents and children happens quickly and our parents love and protect us.A friend told me she felt she had suddenly fallen in love with her newborn baby and it hurt to be separated from him. My mother is 93 and still playing her role. I loved the picture you included of the mother bird sheltering her teenaged chicks under her wings.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on May 28, 2012:

Very inspiring hub, Pamela. Actually, we were born with natural instinct to live. But you describe this topic very well and I learn many things from you. Especially about man's natural instincts. Thanks for share with us. Good job and voted up!


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 28, 2012:

drbj, I really like that example. Thank you so much for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 28, 2012:

Debborah, That is my view also. Thank you for your comments.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on May 27, 2012:

You picked the perfect example, Pamela, to illustrate the quality of a protective instinct. The film, 'Blind Side,' demonstrated how that instinct allowed a football player to be particularly effective in protecting his quarterback. Excellent research and analysis. Voted up.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 27, 2012:

Billybuc, Thank you so much for your comments and I also think we are a fascinating species.

Lawrence Da-vid, Abused children can certainly go either way. We see some children that come out of the slums with a terrible childhood do great things, although that is not the majority. I appreciate your comments.

teaches, I loved that movies and thought about that particular scene. I was lucky to find it. Thank you so much for your comments.

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on May 27, 2012:

Pamela what a wonderful hub.. I do believe we are born with these Instincts to protect....Of course there is the exceptional to the rule..

Blessings to you


Dianna Mendez on May 27, 2012:

Personal instinct is strong within us, and when it is used to help others it is amazing! I love your inclusion of the blind side video. Also, your research on the subject is well done. Voted up.

Lawrence Da-vid on May 27, 2012:

I don't believe a protective instinct is exactly a birth concept. It is a learned behavior. In most loving families, children are aware and mentally store what made them happy and to feel protected. In a dysfunctional family, children that become parents can go either way. Some abused adults end up determined to prevent harm to their young. Other abused adults learn from that behavior and end up passing that behavior along to their young. Fortunately though, a high percentage of young adults that find themselves with child, are, for the most part, extremely protective and in some cases, over protective.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 27, 2012:

I totally agree with the excellent points that you make. As a species we are fascinating to behold. Thanks for sharing this great hub!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 27, 2012:

Galadriel Arwen, I agree with you and I appreciate your comments. I think childhood if abusive can damage that instinct, but in a normal childhood the instinct would be intact.

Galadriel Arwen from USA on May 27, 2012:

We are born with self preservation. We learn how to help each other as a survival instinct.

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