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How Instincts in Humans Affect our Social Development

Meredith has a keen interest in the human mind and enjoys following developments in the field of psychology, anthropology, sociology.

Grasping Baby's First natural instinct

Grasping Baby's First natural instinct

Understanding Human Instincts

It's easy to see examples of instincts in animals such as birds. They instinctively know to fly south for the winter and how to construct a nest without being shown. These are instincts which are hardwired into their DNA.

We are aware of some instincts in humans such as the ability to grasp. As any parent of a newborn will tell you, it is one of the reflexes which is first noticed. Similar to other mammals, the majority of our skills are learned from our parents and society, let's look at these.

You may believe that the decisions you make are based on logic and reason. Would it surprise you to know that most of the time your life and the choices you make are driven by your instincts?

Instinct is a natural impulse that does not depend on our will, reason or feelings. It is more a biological function or an inbuilt intelligence that throughout the development of the human race was there to guarantee our survival.

Our responses happen fast, we act before we realize what we're doing and this is why it is difficult to isolate them. Those instincts have already decided our behavior before our reasoning mind has had a chance to weigh up the pros and cons of a given situation.

By looking at our instincts and understanding how they work, it can help in understanding how they can interfere in relationships, both personally and professionally.


The 3 Types of Human Instincts

There are three types of instincts needed in our lives:

Self-Preservation Instinct: This important instinct is related to the conservation of our life. It is closely related to our physical survival and is ever alert to anything that may constitute a threat or aggression to our life. This instinct can be seen in the following areas of our lives.

  • Health
  • Safety
  • Work
  • Rest
  • Comfort

Social Instinct: This is the instinct that pushes you to integrate into society: This can lead a person to worry about their role in a relationship and in interactions between members of a group of friends or even among colleagues within a work environment. This instinct wants to be socially recognized and is commonly associated with a sense of:

  • Belonging
  • Group
  • Common interests

One to One / Sexual Instinct: The third instinct is responsible for close relationships. Such things as the quality of the relationship, and level of intimacy. This is the instinct that makes us want to be desired. It can be seen in the following areas.

  • Effective bonding
  • Attraction
  • Harmony
  • Power


Balancing your Instincts

One of the greatest challenges of self-development is balancing the three instincts.

Ideally, we would have the instincts balanced and harmonized in a way where we could activate and enjoy the benefits of every instinct when necessary and at the correct moment. Without making yourself aware of how your instincts work, this rarely happens. Our own personality, life history, traumatic events all can distort these instincts and they become unbalanced causing stress in our lives. In these stressful situations, and in their aftermath, the following generally occurs.

  • dominant
  • rejected
  • normal

The dominant or exaggerated instinct is one we live by as though it were the most important thing in our life. This is because in this area of life we miss something that has not been sufficiently filled in childhood, and thus, this instinct becomes dominant in the attempt to compensate with an excess of what was lacking during our younger years.

One of the three instincts can become rejected. In other words, we don't know how to deal with an area so we block it out, and avoid it or even grow to hate it. This can be the result of a traumatic childhood experience or a strongly negative experience that left the feeling of not knowing how to deal with a certain type of situation. The result is avoidance and sometimes, hatred.

The other instinct can be called normal because it is in an intermediate position, closer to normality. This instinct appears when it is necessary.

Even if we train our rejected instinct to develop, the dominant instinct will continue to express itself effortlessly, as a natural, innate tendency.

Identifying the Dominant, Rejected and Normal Instincts

To identify your dominant instinct think about your life as a whole, and answer the following questions:

  • Where do I channel most of my energy?
  • What has been most important in my life?
  • What can I do better?

In what area are you skilled, where this talent comes easily and naturally?

Now make a connection between your answers and the three types of instincts. What is the conclusion you have reached about your dominant instinct?

Our rejected instinct is easier to identify because when we think about it we usually feel a type of repulsion towards it.

It pays us to take the time and pinpoint the areas greatly affected by our instincts because they are the mechanisms that unconsciously drive our actions. Becoming aware of our instincts helps us understand affinities and differences and overcome possible disagreements in relationships and can also help in the development of the rejected instinct, bringing a balance to relationships.

Our challenge is to balance the use of our three instincts, to use according to our needs and in the correct moments.

When you've identified your dominant and rejected instincts, you can begin down the road of self-improvement. Begin suppressing your dominant and raising your rejected instinct. By consciously making positive changes towards keeping all three equal, both you and your relationships with others will be greatly improved.

© 2017 Meredith Davies

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