Self-preservation instinct
Survive and preserve life

Everything that lives needs safety, health, well-being and physical comfort to satisfy the organism’s fundamental needs and continue to live.


In all animals this instinct deals with energy conservation, resource management and safety. It is the one that recognizes and warns about tiredness, need for food and water, to urinate and defecate, the adequacy of temperature and the physical discomfort. It is very grounding, entrenching and protective. He senses danger and risk.

In animals, the Instinct of Self-Preservation leads them to seek refuge, to build nests and dens, to store food, to seek shade or sun, to heal themselves through fasting or by seeking suitable foods and herbs.


In humans it manifests in the need for autonomy, security, physical well-being, care for oneself and one’s health, in the modulation of the use of physical energy, in the storage of food, in saving money, in the management of time and finances, in the sense of home and domestic life. It is also expressed in manual skills, physical exercise, organization and order, habits and rituals, interest in lifestyle and coherence.


When it is healthy and functional it makes we feel comfortable and relaxed to manage any condition and when it is less healthy it requires particular conditions to feel good. The more sophisticated the organism, the more the Self-Preservation Instinct concerns the construction, maintenance and optimization of one’s comfort and well-being. It leads not only to eating when necessary, but to following a diet and favoring certain foods; not just having a house as shelter, but creating comfortable environments; not just to have money, but to ensure a secure economic future. It pushes us to seek a sense of well-being in contact with our partner’s body or in her presence, wear comfortable clothes and prefer functional environments and conditions.


Individuals with dominant Self-Preservation Instinct appreciate what is structured, are pragmatic and know what it means to have their feet on the ground. Their focus is on self-sufficiency and increasing their personal safety. They like to be informed about what awaits them, they want to feel solid and able to deal with everyday practical reality. They evaluate regularity, habits and consistency. They have a particular sensitivity for physical comfort and the optimization of physical well-being, they are the first to notice symptoms of illness, they worry about hygiene or the possible transmission of pathologies. They are likely to own many medications and are interested in experimenting with different methods and modalities of treatment. They often have deeply held opinions about food, nutrition, and diet, or they use food as a sedative. They are concerned with their sleep and rest and calculate how much time and energy is needed to do things because they consider time and physical energy as a precious and limited resource and do not want to waste it. They want to be practical and prudent in managing money, with diversified portfolios, different income streams and insurance. They are creatures of habit and can be couch potatoes, tending to accumulate, put away and stow objects and food.


Unhealthy Self-Preservation Instinct leads to poor self-care, obsession with health and nutrition issues, or difficulty managing money. It pushes one to act in deliberately self-destructive ways, for example by excessive consumption of comfort foods, alcohol and medicines or by strictly controlling one’s diet or exercising too much. It encourages us to be extremely careful and meticulous in planning our life, to want to control resources obsessively, to have difficulty understanding the needs of others and to change our lifestyle. It can hinder concentration on work because the surrounding environment is never suitable enough, or cause repeated delays because practical priorities that need to be sorted continually arise, or prevent healthy choices because work and earning always have priority.

(Selected extract from “Crescere con L’Enneagramma”, Maura Amelia Bonanno, 2018, Armenia Edizioni)