Before you continue reading, I want to make clear that I use the term “Karma” sort of loosely here, in the sense that I am slightly altering its original meaning to something more tangible: “Karma” being the collection of our past early experiences/actions in this one life or the lives from our ancestors, opposed to our “pasts” from many different lives of ours. Personally, I do not believe in several past (or future) lives in the traditional Buddhist sense. I apologize if me altering the term offends any Buddhist – keep in mind I am simply trying to teach a personality type lesson.
The experiences from our early childhood form our personality in significant ways – particularly the vitality of our Instinctual Stacking.
According to its definition, Karma is about our actions in past lives influencing our current (or future) life. I would argue that our early childhood is like a past life of its own. Our entire past is our “past life” – as time moves on our past life becomes larger and our future life smaller in scope. In addition, the past lives of our ancestors (previous family members) lives on in us, adding to the overall Karma we are carrying.
Connecting the idea of the Karma from a past life with our early childhood, and the fact that our instinctual stacking’s mental health and capacity is strongly impacted by our childhood experiences, we can arrive at the assumption that our instinctual stacking – primarily our first instinct – is our “Karmic Lesson” (Enneagram type itself likely being a part of it).
I have found that most people share the same instinctual stacking as one (or both) of their parents/close caregivers. In most families, one instinctual stacking and/or first instinct is being dominant. Once in a while, a child will have a first instinct that does not seem to fit with the rest of the family. Why that is, is not easy to tell – it is most likely connected to the fact that the child has a personality type configuration that does not make the instinctual stacking possible for their personality, or it might be a mutation or recessive gene.
You could say that the dominant stacking within a family is the Karmic Lesson of the entire family. If two stackings are dominant (which usually occurs when a new person enters a new family in the form of someone’s life partner, and their kids have their stacking – like it is the case with me and my family: my siblings, mother, and I are all So/Sx, whereas my father’s side of the family is predominately Sp first), that would mean that the (new) family has technically two Karmic Lessons.
But what do I mean by “Karmic Lesson”? What is it made of, and what is its purpose?
In our early childhood, we were faced with situations that threatened our survival in one way or another. Our instinctual stacking predisposed us to favor or distress over certain aspects more than another. We believe that this particular thing has to be attained or cared for in order for our survival to be ensured. What exactly this “thing” is, depends on our instinctual stacking, and has a great impact on how we perceive the world to be – safe or unsafe, fulfilling or unfulfilling – based on the fulfillment of our instinct.
The purpose of the instinctual stacking, and with that of the Karmic Lesson, is essentially securing our survival for the present and the future.
That is why the drive of the first instinct is so powerful – on an unconscious level, we believe that we will die if we do not find a way to fulfill it, hence it pains us so deeply when the first instinct finds no fulfillment. Based on how well we were able to find fulfillment with our instincts in our childhood, our “past life” equipped us with certain instinctual strengths and weaknesses, urging us to fulfill the Karmic Lesson of ourselves, our family and our ancestors, so that we survive and can pass on our genes to the next generation. As you can tell, there is a lot of value in understanding our Karmic Lesson and how to deal with it – because how well you are able to fulfill it will determine whether you feel fulfilled with your life in general, or whether you fall into depression and deem your life to be meaningless.
The first instinct is the “thing” that your unconscious believes is vital to your survival, so you have to develop yourself in this area and/or to keep an eye out for its fulfillment at all times. Its lack of fulfillment or violation causes the most pain and needs to be resolved, in order to harmonize our instinctual well-being.
SX (Sexual instinct) first individuals who are unhealthy did not get the love and bonding they required or desired (for example, their parents got divorced and/or their main caretaker was being dismissive of them when they were young). They feel that a close bond with their parent(s) or another important person in their life seems to solve all their problems, so it has to be ensured the individual always gets their “dose” of SX bonding to survive. As an adult, the SX first person will always (consciously or not) seek out this “special someone” or “something”, and only find internal rest and happiness once they have secured them/it. (Depending on how badly the person got “scarred” in their early life, romantic partners may always fall short to their expectations, because no living human being can be like their “ideal” of the “perfect partner” the SX first person has created in their mind when they were little for compensation. And/or the individual may have developed an anxious attachment style.)
SO (Social instinct) first individuals who are unhealthy either experienced that their social status was “too low” (in their eyes), which they believe prevented or hindered them from living life to the fullest (mostly the “thing” of So/Sp), or that they were not accepted by the group/society. As adults, So/Sx people will feel the need to be part of people’s lives, belong to one or several social circles, and entertain and/or enrich the life experience of the people in their culture/society; whereas So/Sp people will work hard on raising their social status and try to get to know the “right people”.
SP (Self-preservation instinct) first individuals who are unhealthy grew up in a family with little means. Their parents had to work hard to make sure they and everyone else in the family got fed. The living conditions were minimalistic or perhaps even archaic, for example rooms may have been too small or there was no running water. In extreme cases, they grew up in poverty. All of those factors weighed heavily on SP first individuals’ mental health. As adults, SP first people will always be focused on making sure their basic needs – food, home, work/money – are in check. Even when they become rich (which is a dream for many SP first individuals; or on the other hand, frugality), they will never take the money for granted and tend to continually worry about losing it all and becoming poor (again).
The second instinct is the tool by which you may try to fulfill your first instinct. It can be experienced as an urgent need as well, but it is generally more flexible and hence less neurotic.
SX second people use intimate bonding, passions/interests, intensity and so forth to aid their first instinct.
SO second people use networking, friendships and so forth to aid their first instinct.
SP second people use grooming, “taking care of oneself”, acquiring/managing resources, and so forth to aid their first instinct.
The last instinct is the one that does not deserve any special kind of attention, because it neither is perceived to be necessary for your survival, nor does it prove to be a useful tool for helping your first instinct (likely because you are naturally weak at it, but not necessarily).
SX last people do not see how close bonding with others or deepening their hobbies and creativity would be beneficial and necessary for their survival, so they typically never tried to acquire (or strengthen) that skill. As adults, they generally refrain from establishing close intimate connections with others for the sake of attaining “more important” goals related to their first (or second) instinct.
SO last adults are generally autonomous, not needing other people to feel like they matter or are “someone”. They may also try to keep their number of friends to a minimum because they don’t value friendship too highly. They tend to be the least emotionally affected by society’s demands on them.
SP last people do not find Sp-related activities to be helpful or paramount for their survival. They feel that interacting with others in beneficial ways is helping them more with (fulfilling) survival than caring about self-preservation (especially when they are not good at it naturally). As adults, they tend not to worry or avoid the material world of resources and so forth, preferably relying or focusing on others to get their personal needs met, directly or indirectly through connections and benefactors.
Now that you know that your first instinct is your Karmic Lesson, which essentially is the way your unconscious tries to ensure your survival and happiness, you may see the neuroses of your first instinct in a different light. Yes, your Karmic Lesson is a burden of some kind. But, it is what you are meant to learn and get right – otherwise your instinctual being will feel highly troubled. So, don’t fret, don’t give up – and fulfill the purpose of your Karmic Lesson.
If you want me to guide you specifically with your Karmic Lesson or ask questions about the subject, you can book a Type•Coaching/Consulting session with me. 🙂