You’ve probably heard the fable about the scorpion and the frog. The scorpion comes to the bank of a river, wanting to reach the other side. He sees a frog nearby and asks her to carry him across the water.
The frog initially resists, but is eventually talked into carrying the scorpion, who then proceeds to sting her when they’re halfway across the river. On feeling the sting, she cries, “But why?”
“I can’t help it,” says the scorpion, drowning beside her. “It’s my nature.”
However, evidence has been accumulating since Darwin’s time, and it’s pretty much indisputable. The truth is that like animals, much of what we do is motivated by unconscious drives (often communicating with our conscious minds through emotions). The Enneagram of Personality classifies these drives, or instincts, into three main types. Although each of us is motivated by all three, most of us have a single primary instinct driving most of our behavior.
I’ve given “WildWoman” names to the three primary instincts:
The Huntress (self-preserving instinct)
The Queen (social instinct)
The Siren (intimate or sexual instinct).
Our primary instinct is unconscious and pervasive. Just as it’s difficult for a fish to recognize water, we have difficulty recognizing the lens through which we observe the world. We assume that everyone else experiences life the same way we do, but that’s not the case.
External behavior is an important clue, but can be deceiving, especially when we’re in certain life phases or going through particular challenges. For example, during the initial phase of falling in love, most people will feel like the Siren. When we’re struggling for sufficient income, the Huntress will be more evident. When we feel excluded or shut out, the Queen shows up.
When identifying our primary instinct, it’s more important to consider the overriding motivations that continually drive us over time. These stem from particular issues for each type, such as sources of fear/anxiety, focus of attention, and desirable attributes. There are also some twists to the instincts that can contribute to confusion regarding our own primary. So much to explore! Let’s start with an overview of each instinct.
1. The Huntress (self-preserving instinct)
The self-preserving is our most primitive instinct, manifesting in everyday life as the drive for personal security, well-being, and comfort. The focus is on the physical world - the body, resources, and essentials for life. It motivates us to avoid feeling uncertainty, that we lack resources to survive, or that our self is at risk of destruction.
The Huntress is typically self-sufficient and grounded. She’s often serious and her attention goes towards getting her own needs met. She sees friendly and intimate relationships as a vital resource that keeps her alive, well, and happy. On the other hand, there may be caution about losing herself to either a partner or a group. This is quite different from the next type, the Queen.
2. The Queen (social instinct)
The social instinct drives us to seek inclusion, to pay attention to others around us, and to belong to a group or community (“safety in numbers”). The Queen pays attention to social relationships with other people, groups (like our “tribe” or “circle”), and society at large. She wants to avoid feelings of loneliness, not belonging, and alienation.
The Queen is usually friendly, sociable and open, although she can present the opposite impression and reject others who don’t belong to her circle. Regardless of manner, however, she’s always paying attention to her relationships (or lack thereof) with others within her groups or to society at large. The Queen might be a social activist, desiring to unite or inspire people/society to improve the world in some way. Intimate relationships are especially important within the context of social groups. Again, this contrasts with our third instinctual type, the Siren.
3. The Siren (intimate/sexual instinct)
The intimate/sexual instinct drives us to seek personal intimacy, and one-to-one relationships (“If I have an intimate partner, I will be safe and protected from danger.”) If the Queen focuses on “breadth” of relationships and networks, the Siren focuses on depth and intensity of connection. The Siren wants to pair-bond, to create intimacy, and she wants to avoid invalidation and loss of appeal to her intimate partners. She is often looking for her soulmate - someone to complete her.
The Siren has a special sort of charisma and intensity, a personal magnetism about her. She may be either promiscuous or abstinent, but she is constantly monitoring the depth of connection with her intimates and/or the “targets” of her desire. This includes close friends and family members. Intimate relationships are her primary focus, and without a partner connection, she might find life dull and meaningless.
But I don’t fit any of these types… what does that mean?
Our primary instinct is definitely operating on an unconscious level, which makes it difficult to recognize in ourselves. Also, each instinct has two polarities. For example, the self-preserving instinct can show up as the self-destructive anti-Huntress - wild risk-taker or daredevil, recreational drug user or gambler. The focus remains on the physical self, only negatively oriented.
In the negative polarization, the Queen can appear more anti-social - a loner without friends or belonging to any social groups. The key to recognizing this anti-Queen is that she defines herself by this lack of relationships. She might still be searching for “her” particular tribe.
The anti-Siren might abstain from intimate relationships with a partner, but focus on a field of study or a spiritual calling. The focus remains on the depth of connection.
The Enneagram of Personality describes three dominant instinctual sub-types, which I have translated into “Wild Woman” language: The Huntress (self-preserving instinct), The Queen (social instinct), and The Siren (intimate/sexual instinct). The Huntress reflects our drive for personal security and well-being. The Queen reflects our drive to belong to a community, and the Siren reflects our drive for intimate partnerships. For most of us, one primary instinct “runs the show.” However, they are so ingrained into our worldview and unconscious, it’s often difficult to recognize them without close consideration.
If we understand our instinctual nature, we can avoid drowning in the river
Once we get clarity on how we work individually, it’s much easier to anticipate challenges and create healthy solutions that work in various aspects of our life. Learning our primary instinctual type is just one step, but it’s a big one in the right direction.
Can't wait to figure out your instinctual type?
Take the Wild Woman Instincts Quiz and let me know by sharing your results on our Facebook page @WildWomanUnleashed.me