Well, welcome back to the second episode of the Awareness to Action Enneagram podcast. My name is Seth Creekmore. You can call me Creek, and I'm with two other people you may know of. We have Mario Sikora.Mario:
Hey, what's up, Creek?Creek::
Hey hey, and we have MJ, María José.María José:
Hi. Nice to see you again.Creek:
So today we are talking about the infamous instinctual biases. Biases? Biases? Biaseses? What's the correct English?Mario:
Yeah, so I believe the correct terminology would be biases when we speak about multiple.Creek:
All right, great. Glad we got that out of the way.Mario:
Yeah, I'll have to double check my Merriam-Webster here, but we refer to them as the instinctual biases.Creek:
Okay. All right. Great.Mario:
So I just went against what I just said. There you go.María José:
That's how you like to call it. That's what you'd like to call it. That's it. That's enough.Creek:
María José, how do you say it in Spanish?María José:
Well, that's a problem because people don't use that word a lot, but it's sesgo instintivos.Creek:
Okay. So...María José:
An alternative would be like tendencias instintivas, which would be like instinctual tendencies. That people get more, but I still use sesgo instintivos. I use the kind of the correct word because people should learn.Creek:
Yeah, that's true. People should learn. And that's the end of the podcast and we're done.María José:
Get a dictionary, folks and then come back to us.Creek:
So, Mario, I have a few questions. This is about instincts in general. And since you were kind of the founder of Awareness to Action, we thought you will probably be the one talking the most in this episode and in a lot of situations, but you know, we'll give you the permission this time.Mario:
Thanks. It'll be less obnoxious in this context. Yes.Creek:
So let's start with to your knowledge, what is the origin of the instinctual biases? And why are they a thing in the Enneagram?Mario:
Okay, great. So you're talking about the broader context for the three things most people call the three instincts, right. And so the traditional way of thinking about the human nature, and the Fourth Way tradition, which has been heavily influential on what we know of as the Enneagram of Personality today, is this idea that there are, I think, seven centers and the lower belly center includes three instincts traditionally called self preservation, social and sexual.
Oscar Ichazo did a fair amount of work on this, on delineating these, and you can read about his approach to this and the arica.org website. And honestly, it's kind of crazy pants, right? I mean, what he talks about from a biological perspective, you know, it doesn't really make a lot of sense, right? This evolved over time. Different people using it, and Naranjo would talk about these three instincts and character and neurosis.
He describes his thinking about it, and even in that book, admits the shortcoming of the terminology, right. He says basically implies that well, yeah, you know, I know there's a lot of quibbles with this, but in general, it works. Well, I won't get into the problems yet. We'll save that for what we're about to go into, but, you know, so that has led to the three quote unquote, instincts being part of the Enneagram literature, working in tandem with the types to create 27 subtypes, right. Nine types, nine fixations, interacting with three instinctual biases, creating 27 subtypes.María José:
Did you think that one of the problems is that they take this metaphor used? Like, it's in this place where the instincts are and it's three? And so they're trying to describe a phenomenon they see in a way that sounds biological, but it isn't.Mario:
And people take it literal, I think.Mario:
Yeah, it's biological, but it's not biologically sound, right? And, you know, are scientifically sound, I'll say. Okay, so, and there's a couple of reasons and I can kind of jump right into that. But it's a tendency, and this is a big part of human nature. This tendency to reify things, right. To take an idea of metaphor and analogy, and make it something concrete. Make it something real, and then...Creek:
...trap, tangible right? But something that actually exists sits in and of itself. And so all of a sudden, this concept that there are these three nebulous sort of drives, then becomes viewed as something real. Okay, so we have three instincts.
And that becomes a problem because instincts are not a word. Instinct is not a word that's really used in biology anymore, right? It's kind of an old concept. And the idea that we have three instincts just doesn't make any sense in terms of science, right. And so this was one of the things that bothered me early on. That, wait a minute, this just doesn't make sense from the perspective of science.Creek:
You arrived at that this doesn't quite make sense. Why did you choose to keep trying to find a way to integrate them?Mario:
Because I saw that there was something hugely valuable here. There was something hugely descriptive, and identifying why different type Eights were different from each other. And I can share an experience with you. I can share one very vivid way in which I started to see this. So both my wife and her mother are Sevens. And they're hugely different people. And we were at my in-laws one night. It was Christmas Eve. And they were both talking about the challenge of finding jeans that they liked.
Now, as you can imagine, I was riveted by this conversation. And but I was actually trapped in a corner. So I had no choice but to observe and listen. And what occurred to me is that even though they were both Sevens, they were coming at it from an extremely different angle. My mother-in-law, who's what I would call a Transmitting Seven, was focused on finding jeans that were interesting and different and exciting and would get attention for her. Whereas my wife, who's a Preserving Seven, was just focused on finding jeans that were comfortable, because she's tall.
And so I started to think, you know, same Enneagram type, same problem, two profoundly different approaches to it. And what I realized is they were both coming at it from the angle of their instinctual bias, not their Seven-ness. So that's just one example. And we'd see this all the time. There are other explanations of why people are of the same type or different wings, for example, or some people would get in a tri-types. And, you know, I have issues with those ideas as well. But the instinctual biases explain a huge amount, so it was worth exploring for me.Creek:
And this is a question for both of you. Why do you think the instinctual biases are so hard to understand?María José:
To be honest, I don't think they're hard to understand. I think they're really easy to understand if they're explained correctly. But Mario and I keep sharing experiences with clients, where we explain the instinctual biases to them in a really short time, and they get it.
And the names are sticky. It makes sense to them. And they can draw conclusions from that very easily. So I would say that if you explain them correctly. But in order to explain them correctly, you need to understand them in a particular way. So you define them well, and then you explain them according to those definitions. And it's very, very easy.Mario:
I'll just add on to that. As you know, one example of this, just last week, I was working with a team, and I was doing an hour and 20 minute session with them. And the instinctual biases was only one of three topics that I covered. And I literally spent 20 minutes explaining the three instinctual biases to them, and they got it right away.
And they started applying it to their business right away. The people that it's hard for us to teach the instinctual biases to are people who've studied the Enneagram and learned about the subtypes or instincts in other ways. Freshfield, it's piece of cake to teach this stuff to people.Creek:
Sure. Maybe another question along those lines. So maybe people can cognitively understand those those three domains being able to see it within yourself and in this particular action that I'm doing in which domain would this fit?Mario:
Yeah. So it's always harder to see things in ourselves than it is to see it in other people. And there's reasons for that. Number one, everybody thinks they're more complicated than other people are. And I see this all the time. And I'm sure María José would say the same thing. We teach the Enneagram to people and they say, Well, I can see why he's this type and she's that type and he's that type. But me I'm more complicated. I'm a combination of these.
And everybody in the room is sitting there saying, oh my goodness, he's such a One, you know, or whatever it is. And this is just the nature of the way the mind works is that we see ourselves as very complicated and other people is very simple. So it always happens that people can't, you know, the proof of concept is in other people. And then it starts to sink in how we see in ourselves, okay. So it does take a little longer for people to see it themselves.María José:
And there's also the strategy. So our personalities defined, or we can see it through the lens of the instinctual biases and the strategies. And sometimes, certain behaviors that could be seen in a particular instinctual domain are similar to what happens with people that are a particular type. So it is more complicated than just... If it were possible to isolate both dimensions, it'd would be easier, but it's not possible. We are a combination of both dimensions.
So sometimes it is a bit confusing, especially with people who are... For example, I was working with a team on Friday. And same as Mario, just a short time explained the instinctual biases. And some of them saw it very quickly. But some of them, for example, a Transmitting Six was not sure if he was preserving or transmitting, because he had transmitting kind of drives, but then a lot of things around security that made him wonder if he was a preserver, so... But it came from the strategy of striving to feel secure.
So I think that there's that angle where it becomes a bit complicated, especially for some people where they instinctual bias and the strategy are not kind of going in the same direction.Mario:
There are other cultural implications as well. There's a cultural overlay and also a sex overlay. So it's common for women in most cultures to see themselves as preserving, because that's the sort of cultural expectation of women to deal with things in the nest.
So there are these biases that come up that can make it hard to see. But as far as understanding it conceptually, it's really easy if you get the language right and if you get the concepts right, so and this might be a good place to talk about why, you know, I changed the terminology way back.Creek:
Yeah, I was going to transition us there so...Mario:
Okay, you weren't doing it fast enough, Creek.Creek:
Calm down.María José:
Look, this episode is how can we get Mario to talk about all the things he needs to get off his chest. And then we can go on with life and talk about the other things around the instinctual biases.Creek:
That's great. All right.Mario:
Look, I got a lot of scars on this topic, so I've earned my space here.María José:
I've learned that as well, when he needs to get something off his chest, let him do it, or he will do it anyway. He will do it anyway. Just wanted to put new names and make a name for himself. And just be...Creek:
I decided I wanted to be an Enneagram guru and this was my fastest road to all the riches and glory of being an Enneagram teacher.Creek:
How's that working out for you?Mario:
Really well. So, there's a couple of things. I mean, obviously, there are some terminology issues built into the way that the three instincts are referred to. I'll tell you what, let me start there with the word instinct. Okay, so again, it's not a biological term. What really is going on here is that we have clusters. We have many evolutionary adaptations. Many wired in impulses or drives, that are mechanisms that helped our ancestors survive in the past.
And we have inherited those because they increase the chances of reproduction. We have many drives. We don't just have three instincts, but they do seem to cluster into three broad groups. And those clusters display themselves differentially, meaning we each have a bias or a tendency toward one of those clusters over the other two.
Now, we call those clusters domains. Okay, so there are three instinctual domains. And an instinctual bias is a bias towards one of those domains to value it more, to pay more attention to it, to think it's more important than the other two. And there's a differential bias in that area that I'm sure we'll get to in a moment.
People go and change that to, from sexual to one-to-one, and talk about a one-to-one instinct. And I have found that to be highly problematic, because number one, it's extremely limited in what is happening in that domain. And it causes huge confusion, and you start to see a lot of preservers identifying themselves as one-to-one, because there's a huge one-to-one impulse in the preserving domain.
But you know, all that aside, the three names that have been traditionally used were a bit problematic for a couple of reasons. Okay, so number one, the term sexual, right? I'm somebody who works in organizations, and you can't go into an organization and say, Well, you know, the problem is you're a sexual subtype, and you know, et cetera, et cetera. You know, you can do that once. And then you know, HR is going to escort you out of the building and not invite you back.María José:
Wouldn't you say that sexual, even if it weren't problematic, is limited as well?Mario:
Absolutely, right. And all three of the traditional terms were limited in my feelings, in my experience. Number one, self-preservation, what I started to see through observation was that the correlated behaviors that I would see in people who would call themselves or I would call self-praise subtypes wasn't just around self-preservation, it was around preservation in general. It was a tendency to like traditions, for example, wanting to preserve traditions, wanting to preserve the well-being of the offspring, you know, etc. So wanting to preserve societal norms. Okay, so it was about preserving in general, and not just self preservation. So I changed that term.
The social subtype, in English at least colloquially, social tends to imply extraversion. People will, you know, are outgoing, want to be around people, always want to be talking to people, that sort of thing. I am a, you know, quote unquote, social subtype, but I don't really like to talk to people that much if I don't have to. Okay, unless... I like to talk at them, María José, I saw that face.
But I'm not somebody who wants to go to the Starbucks and start chatting people up, and talking to the person sitting next to me. And I'm not big on parties and those sorts of things. So I started to say, you know what, there's something else going on here. It's not just about being social. And it's not just about adapting to other people, which a lot of people will talk about. I'm not an adapter. So that certainly doesn't fit me.
What seemed to be in common with all the people who had this label were, it was a desire to understand people. To observe, to take in information, to share that information strategically. So it was about navigating. How do I navigate the social group? How do I make sure that I keep my role in the group without losing it?Creek:
Which does involve adapting?Mario:
It does. It does, but it also involves us... it can involve establishing a role. So you take, for example, a Navigating Eight like me, and it's not so much about adapting to other people, but making them adapt to you in some ways, you know?María José:
So I think what it could involve adapting, but it's kind of crafting my position and crafting my identity, which sometimes might involve adapting, and sometimes is just communicating or sending messages of what my role is. So it is more than that.Mario:
Yeah. And that's the thing. It's the more than that part that is relevant. And that's what's behind all these names. And so with transmitting rather than sexual or one-to-one, what started realizing was that this domain was all about behaviors that increase the chances that one could transmit something to others. Okay.
And the analogy we always use is the peacock. The peacock spreads their feathers. So there's display behaviors, which were not really discussed in the literature before I started talking about it, that I'm aware of. It's about sharing ideas. It's about selling our artifacts, you know. It's about creating a legacy. It's about branding. All these sorts of things that are displays of reproductive fitness quite frankly. And so the one-to-one connection is only part of that. And sex for sure is only one part of that as well.
And I've had people say to me, Well, you know, when we say sexual, we mean something broader. I actually had an Enneagram teacher say to me one time that well, you know, Mario... María José waving me away on this story because she's heard it before, but I'm gonna say it anyway, you know. He said, Look, Mario, you can have sex with a sandwich or a book too in this context, to which I replied, Please stay away from my sandwiches and books.
But you know. So, I try not to contort words, whenever possible. You want to find the right word to express the idea and for me transmitting captures it much better.María José:
Yet, the same time that I was working with the other day, this Transmitting Six, I don't think you could say that he's seductive or that he's attractive, kind of physically attractive, necessarily, or drawing attention in that way. But he draws attention in sharing ideas. And he wants to transmit those ideas. He wants to mentor people. He wants to leave a legacy. And he's a transmitter in that way. But would he be seen as sexual. Not necessarily, but when we talk about transmitting, he is.Mario:
And the strategies are specific ways of carrying out these instinctual biases. And this is another thing we didn't, I haven't touched on this yet, but we always use verbs, or we try to use verbs. So it's preserving, navigating and transmitting. So it's about what people do. That includes thoughts, patterns of thoughts, patterns of emotions and behaviors.
So we focus on what is it that people are doing. They're transmitting. They're navigating. They're preserving. And each of the Enneatypes brings their own way of satisfying those needs. So María José is a is a Navigating One, "Striving to Feel Perfect." She navigates very differently than I do as navigating Eight.María José:
Yeah, to me, it's the perfect navigating, but it's part of my thing. For Mario's, it's the perfect, I'm sorry, the powerful navigating, so it's a different flavor to navigating. We haven't even discussed how the 27 subtypes might come from the three instinctual biases and then build on kind of the different strategies on top of the instinctual biases. Not as most people see it today, that the nine types have three subtypes. We see it almost the other way around, or could be seen the other way around.Creek:
That's a great point. I'm curious, I want to reiterate what you said, Mario, the thing that has really helped me understand your approach better is as soon as I sense that I'm starting to get into noun territory, how do I reframe this thing that I'm working through in more verb language? Like, instead of being what is a navigator, it's like, what do navigators do?
The rest of these episodes that we're going to be recording, if you find yourself starting to think in noun ways versus verb ways, stop yourself and try to adjust, because it's going to make a lot more sense in the long run. I also wanted to bring up one more thing with transmitting, or rather a question is often people equate transmitting with intensity, but I don't always think that's the case. Can you all speak to that?Mario:
Yeah. So we want to, you know, again, intensity is a subjective word. What's intense for one person is not intense for another, et cetera. But for me, it's not so much about intensity. You can see that in people. Sometimes transmitters seem more intense, but what I tend to see more so than intensity is an activity. There's a movement. There's a pushing. There's an attempt to make this happen. Okay. So it's more, I would call it more industry than intensity.María José:
I would also add that it's more focused. So I think that because transmitters tend to pay attention to more specific things or people that interaction or attention is more intense than for navigators. For example, where your attention goes all over the place because you're looking at the whole landscape. So it feels more intense in that way, because it's more focused to a particular thing or person.Mario:
Again, the strategy has something to do with it. So a Transmitting Nine is not going to be as quote unquote, intense as a Transmitting Eight will be. And María José referred to this sort of mixture combining of these two forces. Sometimes they combine in a way that actually causes a dissonance right or a stress between them or a pulling apart.
Transmitting five is a good example of that. They're striving to feel detached and a desire to transmit. Other times they reinforce each other. Transmitting Eight is a you know, a real transmitter. So we certainly will see this variability there.María José:
Now, if we look at a Transmitting Five to continue with your example, hopefully the way in which they talk when they're talking about their ideas will be seen as more intense than a Preserving Five or Navigating Five. So there's a bit of that, I think of that intensity, but it doesn't look the same for every transmitting subtype.Creek:
So we're about out of time here, but I think we've grazed over generally what the instinctual biases are, and lots more to come. So, Mario, why don't you fill in the listeners on what they can expect in the next episode.Mario:
So to kind of put a cap on this episode. For me, it's just important to understand that the terminology that we use is not random, and it's not arbitrary. And it's not just to put our own labels on things. Any terminology that we use in the Awareness to Action approach is out of necessity. I'm not someone who wanted to come up with a new way of thinking about these things just because, but started running into problems with the language that existed in the application.
And so the terminology developed out of that, and the terminology is not just switching names To the point María José said, when we talk about transmitting, we're not really just talking about the same thing that other people are talking about when they say sexual or one-to-one. It's a broader scope in our view, which leads us into what we'll talk about next time, which is okay, well, what's within that scope. What are the, what we call subdomains that fit in there, and we can get into the whole pattern of expression thing next time.Creek:
Awesome. Well, thanks everybody, and we'll see you next time.
Thanks for listening to the Awareness to Action Enneagram podcast. If you're interested in more information or talking to Mario, MJ or myself, feel free to reach out to us through the links in the show notes or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. All episode transcriptions and further information can be found at awarenesstoaction.com/podcast.