Instinctual Stackings: Synflow vs Contraflow – Cultural Dynamics and Cycles

I mostly see the difference between synflow vs contraflow in their general attitude towards and effect on humanity and cultural dynamics. (That is probably very Social first of me.)

Synflow: Social > Sexual > Self-preservation

Sp/So stabilizes society; So/Sx entertains and stabilizes, Sx/Sp intensifies human relationships. In that manner, all synflow stackings form an ecosystem.

Another way to think of the flows is by imagining a cycle. Here is an example of a very Sp/So-synflow cycle, which goes clock-wise.

Just like the water evaporates from the “ground” up (technically the oceans etc “on the ground”), forms into clouds in the heavens, and then leads to rainfall back to the ground, so does it all start with Sp/So from the ground up, the self-preservation instinct – the most grounded instinct that most likely has developed first; from there, you are being lead into the groundless heavens of So/Sx, and from there you move back to the ground in an intense downpour of Sx/Sp.


Contraflow: Self-preservation > Sexual > Social

The contraflow stackingsalso create an ecosystem of their own. Sx/So brings paradigm shifts of thought into the picture; So/Sp creates new impulses in the sense of how the environment and society could be better stabilized; Sp/Sx is the underground world beneath the surface, those individuals can also bring about different paradigm shifts by resisting the influence of others around them or challenging the status quo indirectly; their focus is on individuals and stabilizing intensity.

I find the contraflow stackings tend to “disrupt” the ecosystem of the synflow people, in the way they send those re-shifting impulses into society.

The cycle of contraflow, goes anti-clock-wise. We start deep in the ground, underneath the surface, in the world of Sp/Sx. There is a lot of pressure down there. Over time, the Sp/Sx will turn into magma, this intensity cannot be contained forever, it erupts into an Sx/So explosion of lava and spreads all over the earth in an aggressive and destructive fashion, forcing the world to change. After a while, the lava of the Sx/So will have cooled off, new So/Sp trees and plants will have grown and the lava will have turned into the solid rock of So/Sp.


Flow Interaction and Purpose

Both ecosystems are overlapping; both synflow and contraflow people are part of all societies, though one ecosystem tends to “reign” over the other in certain cultures, or at least be at the forefront.

Most Western people seem to be Synflow, though there are quite a bunch of Sp/Sx individuals in the mix, forming the bedrock of society (alongside Sp/So). The richest people in the world are typically So/Sp – money is power, and the “loudest” and most influential humanitarians are typically Sx/So.

In sum, it feels like the flows are balanced; yes, there are more synflow people, but the fewer contraflow people are “louder” and more influential.

Dynamically, it is like there is a constant tug-and-pull between the synflow and contraflow ecosystems.

Contraflow movements can change the mindset of a culture for centuries, or at least a decade or two. Then stability sets in more or less; the new ideologies get “cemented” by the synflow individuals.

Like for example the acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage; first ignored or even detested by most of society, but over time the wind shifted and synflow people (myself included) started to support the movement, and this eventually lead to that kind of acceptance becoming more “mainstream”.

But over time, another seed of disruption and innovation will have spawn, and another movement will re-orient the flow of events. Perhaps this is nature’s way to ensure that people keep adapting to new situations and do not stagnate.

It seems like a society made up of only synflow people would stagnate and not develop into more varied shapes. On the other hand, a society made up of only contraflow people would be “lop-sided” and lack the stability.

The water cycle is crucial for obvious reasons; we humans all need to consume water to survive. We do not need volcanic eruptions, but afterwards those can lead to a re-newed world. Or in other words: “The good thing is that volcanic soil is very rich, so once everything cools off, plants can make a big comeback!”

In human society, the contraflow stackings can essentially give us a fresh new plate to go off from.

Both flows can benefit from each other (as a whole): the contraflow’s agenda is best stabilized and implemented by the synflow people and the synflow people are being “awakened” or “stirred” by the contraflow ones.

However, because both flows have different agendas, often even quite contradictory ones, it can take quite a while until they have reached to a consensus (and this tension is not ideal in an intimate romantic relationship).

You could perhaps compare the misunderstandings but also fruitful collaborations between the stackings to the ones between the male and female sexes. Females and males have different brains and different reproductive strategies and agendas, but together they are the most successful. And the same could apply to synflow and contraflow in our human society/split collective unconscious.


  1. I’ve never claimed coming up with the theory on my own. I will link the site in the article. Usually I link to other sources, but this time I simply didn’t think of doing so, because synflow/contraflow has become such a common term just like instinctual stacking. I have written articles about instinctual stacking before, but never claimed to have come up with theory either, nor have I referred to whoever has; because I honestly don’t even know.


    • Sometime ago the Fauvre’s postulated about the primary instincts that when seeking a mate: self-preservational goes to social, social goes to sexual, and sexual goes to self-preservational.

      A bit after that, in the mid-naughts (2000s), a discussion group called Ediots broke off from the EI discussion board. While I believe the ideas of first, second and last instincts had floated around the Ennegram community for a while, I think they were the first ones to coin the term “stackings” and to write these stackings as SO/SX or SO/SX/SP. A member of Ediots called Jase came up with an idea of two cycles of these stackings: so/sx -> sp/so -> sx/sp -> so/sx and sp/sx -> so/sp -> sx/so -> sp/sx, and postulated that a person integrates along the stackings in the order of the arrows, and disintegrates in the opposite direction.

      Synflow and Contraflow I have no idea about. They seem to have similarities with ideas from Socionics? Assuming they were appended to the above theory development, and not invented de novo, they came after my time. David Gray was around during the Ediots time though and probably knows how this idea developed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ahh interesting, the Ediots matter is new to me. Sounds like David Gray adopted the idea from them. I don’t think it’s directly related to Socionics though.


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