In spite of the sweltering mid-September heat, a hearty group of local Enneagram professionals and enthusiasts gathered at Golden Circle Spiritual Center in Tustin to better understand the hidden drives and Passions that fuel their animal nature. Enneagram experts Lisa Morrice and Richard Long trotted- out an audio-visual menagerie and enlisted panelists for a daylong workshop, “Demystifying the Instincts,” sponsored by the International Enneagram Association of Southern California.

Long led a meditation on the belly center, the “home” of the Instincts, to help attendees make contact with their life force energy. This kinesthetic awareness set the stage for the presentation to come. For while we may believe we can control our instinctual nature rationally, the workshop revealed how intrinsic these the instincts are — and that awareness and receptivity are key to working with these mysterious drivers of human behavior.

Morrice’s audio-visual presentation took full advantage of the animal kingdom to illustrate how we are beholden to our biological imperatives. A loyal beagle represented the Self-Preservation prerogatives for domesticity, caring for one’s needs, and the comforts of home. Two love-struck tigers embodied the Sexual/Attraction Instinct, while a pod of smiling dolphins and their off-spring tipped a fin to the Social/Adaptation Instinct.

Before delving into the complexity of the three instincts in humans, Morrice and Long highlighted how the Self-Preservation, Sexual/Attraction, and Social/Adaptation Instincts evolved through the animal kingdom. Where self-preservation is concerned, even simple, one-celled animals strive to thrive, manage their resources, and optimize comfort and well-being. So intense is the drive to reproduce, that animals compete and put themselves in danger, sometimes risking their lives, to mate. As animals become more complex, adults must parent their off-spring longer, forming sophisticated bonds with others to defend and nurture the young.

Morrice pointed out that when functioning in a natural and balanced way, the Instincts support us. When they become imbalanced, they can sweep us away. When fear runs the Instincts, we tend to over- use or neglect them.

In addition to using animal imagery, Morrice tied her presentation to three elements: earth represented Self-Preservation, fire symbolized Sexual/Attraction, and water illustrated the Social/Adaptation Instinct. She recapped each Instinct using music and evocative imagery: “Our House” played during the Self- Preservation segment, while “Whole Lotta Love” summed-up the Sexual/Attraction drive, and “We Are Family” fêted the Social/Adaptation instinct.

To punctuate the “non-negotiable” stance of the Dominant Instinct, Morrice used the visual of a sacred cow wandering the streets of India. Part One ended with an exercise inviting attendees to break into pairs to monologue about their Dominant Instinct. Each participant then explored which of the Instincts was their blind spot.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the workshop entailed the distillation of a talk by Russ Hudson on the Instincts at the IEA conference in Long Beach. Hudson posits that there are Three Zones within each Instinct — and they — like the Dominant Instinct, Secondary Instinct, and Blind Spot —have a hierarchy. According to Hudson, the Dominant Zone is emphasized by the personality and fear-based. The Secondary Zone receives some attention, while the Tertiary Zone is often ignored. This hierarchy may explain why people who share the same Dominant Instinct don’t always emphasize or include all of that Instinct’s behaviors equally.

Morrice’s presentation of Hudson’s work outlined the Three Zones by Dominant Instinct. For example, within the Self-Preservation Instinct, the Three Zones are:

  1. Self-maintenance, which includes health, nutrition, rest, and exercise
  2. Practical know-how, which includes being effective, efficient, and taking care of business and money
  3. Domesticity, including how to create, protect, and maintain your foundation or home base

The Three Zones outlined for Sexual/Attraction are:

  1. Evolutionary drive; risk-taking, pushing the envelope, using energy outside of your comfort zone
  2. Broadcasting; charisma, display, attraction and repulsion, and fear of not getting the energy
  3. Immersion; surrender, fusion, letting go to the extent that nothing else exists

The Three Zones for the Social/Adaptation Instinct include:

  1. Bonding; connecting, reciprocity, win/win
  2. Reading people; tuning in, interpreting, communication
  3. Participation; involvement, contribution, how we plug into the human world

Participants then broke into pairs to explore the Three Zones of their Dominant Instinct and to uncover which Zone they tended to prioritize — and which they tended to ignore.

Part three of the workshop looked at the 27 subtypes and the Passions that drive them. Morrice assembled pithy, appropriate music for each of the nine Passions. Participants not only got a good laugh, but understood the energetics behind each Passion in a visceral way.

Finally, Long broke attendees into panels by Dominant Instinct to reveal the very human element behind our complex behaviors. Self-Preservation types wanted others to have a little patience with their proclivities for enough time and space to arrange for comfort. Sexuals wanted people to understand that although they are intense, they don’t mean to scare, confuse, or give others the wrong impression. Social/Adaptation types wanted others to know that they want to make a difference in people’s lives and improve the greater good — it’s not just about joining groups and going to parties!

What did participants glean from this action-packed, dynamic workshop? We began to understand what our relationship to the Instincts is. We began to see how powerful the Instincts are and how they impact our lives. Understanding comes through our moment-by-moment awareness of and interaction with these powerful forces. We awaken as we decide to live with presence versus blindly allowing our fears to drive our decisions and our lives.

Richard Long has been an Enneagram instructor since 1996, and a Myers-Briggs consultant to businesses. He also teaches and coaches using the Enneagram in the greater Southern California area.

He is a professional member of the IEA and a board member of the International Enneagram Association of Southern California.

Lisa Morrice is a Riso-Hudson certified Enneagram instructor. She founded the Enneagram Institute of Orange County and began teaching, coaching, and working with organizations in 2004. She received her coaching training from WABC and The Enneagram in Business, and co-chairs the International Enneagram Association of Southern California.