The Vital Rings of the Instincts (Enneagram)

The 3 instincts (SocialSexualSelf-preservation) fundamentally drive our behavior and are the key to our personal fulfillment and development. In terms of Enneagram, that means that improving your instincts is the sure-fire way towards moving up the health levels. There are underestimated different layers, dimensions, or Vital Rings that can symbolize the facets of each instinct in a more distinct way. Your vitality depends on fulfilling each Vital Ring.

I’ve arrived at the concept of the Vital Rings of the Instincts by observing high-functioning role models (e.g other coaches), but also by analyzing my own situation and the lives of many others. I noticed that many people, if not most, tend to limit themselves to certain facets of their instincts, thereby fulfilling the instinct partially but not completely. And that limits your sense of personal satisfaction and sense of purpose.

Knowing about each of the instinctual Vital Rings will give you the blueprint towards optimizing your personal development and level of satisfaction. You may unknowingly be lop-sided in a certain area or Vital Ring currently, and by reading this article, you’ll know which Vital Rings you can focus on to improve your experience (and of existence as a whole).


There are 3 Vital Rings that everyone will need to fulfill or tap into (on this earth). Those 3 Rings are the foundation of our instinctual vitality. Even though they expand from the center outwards and are ranked in that manner, that does not mean that they are ranked in terms of value. Each of these Vital Rings has the same level of importance. Then there are two additional Rings that you can see as an extra or additional layer. Once you have fulfilled the fundamental 3 Rings, you may want to explore those two other Rings for a higher ascension.

Imagine you are at the center of your experience, one little person, and each Ring surrounds you from your core being.

First Ring: The Self.

The Self in Self-preservation Instinct

This area is about your personal core needs for each instinct. The average person is primarily concerned with this Vital Ring, often in negative or dark ways. Role models, helpers, coaches and similar often neglect this Ring in favor of the other two, even though the first Ring is the most vital for your personal fulfillment. If you only focus on this Ring, then you can appear to be “selfish”. However, neglecting this Ring doesn’t make you more noble, either. Exaggerated “selflessness” is a (spiritually) fatal imbalance as well. Your purpose as a human being is also to meet your own needs, so don’t forget this first Vital Ring. If you neglect your own needs in this area, your vitality will suffer.

Self-preservation (Sp)

Your Self-Preservation Needs. Preserving yourself with “self care”, such as nutrition, exercise, clothing, housing, finances etc.

Social (So)

Your Social Needs. Socializing and social bonding for their own sake, such as with friends, social groups, social events etc.

Sexual (Sx)

Your Sexual Instinct Needs. Making yourself a more attractive mate, intimate bonding (in a relationship), creating something (in your personal passion) for your enjoyment.

Second Ring: Inner Circle.

The Inner Circle in Social Instinct

This area is about the instinctual needs of those in your “inner circle”. For each person, the extend of this area can differ. The average person will mostly have family, friends, and co-workers in this circle. Coaches, teachers, mentors, and similar professions will include those that they serve and interact with on a closer (professional) level: their coacheés, students, etc. If you continuously hurt people in this area or let yourself be hurt by people in this area, your vitality will suffer.

Self-preservation (Sp)

The Preservation Needs of the “Inner Circle”. Preserving your “inner circle”, helping and aiding with their nutrition, exercise, clothing, housing, finances etc.

Social (So)

The Social Needs of the “Inner Circle”. Helping and/or collaborating with others (teamwork), social groups, social events etc., usually from the perspective of improving social dynamics.

Sexual (Sx)

The Sexual Instinct Needs of the “Inner Circle”. Helping and aiding your loved ones’ personal growth and intimate bonding, helping others become more attractive or creative or impassioned, creating something that increases the passion for life for others.

Third Ring: Global.

The Global in Sexual (and Social, Sx/So)

This area is about the instinctual needs of the entirety of humanity (on this earth). On a smaller scale, this could also mean the entirety of humanity within a certain nation or society. Mostly politicians, world-famous celebrities, innovators, and other highly influential people reside in this area most frequently (depending on how much influence and impact they have), but even the average person is capable of meeting the needs of this Vital Ring, even if just a little bit, but a little can go a long way. The average person will attempt to indirectly meet this Vital Ring’s need by bringing children into the world. Another example is creating products and services that change or impact the entire world in some way. If you deliberately engage in activities that harm the entirety of humanity and/or the earth, then your vitality will suffer.

Self-preservation (Sp)

The Preservation Needs of the “Globe”. Preserving humanity and/or the earth, helping and aiding with everyone’s nutrition, exercise, clothing, housing, finances etc. (For example: recycling, environmentalism/sustainability, fighting world hunger, vaccines, etc.)

Social (So)

The Social Needs of the “Globe”. Aiding and/or improving the social structures, social relations, social cohesion, social advancement for everyone. (For example: American Civil Rights movement from 1995, invention of social media/Internet etc.)

Sexual (Sx)

The Sexual Instinct Needs of the “Globe”. Aiding and/or improving the sexual/romantic bonds and relations, personal growth, creating human life and/or passion for life for everyone. (For example: Attachment style theory, (Gay) Marriage, Love Stories etc.)

Those 3 Vital Rings are crucial for your human satisfaction and purpose on this earth. You need to fulfill all those areas above.

Now unto the 2 additional Vital Rings, which are still very amorphous and difficult to describe at this point in time. You could neglect those 2 following Vital Rings and still be very content and purposeful with your life as a human being.

But if you want to push it further and are bored with the above, you can engage with those 2 extra Vital Rings.

However, I would not advise focusing on the following Vital Rings whilst neglecting the previous ones, because that usually leads to existential dread/depression/despair and a disconnect from life. It’s best you engage with the 4th and 5th Vital Rings only once you have a better standing in at least one of the first 3 Vital Rings.

Fourth Ring: Universal.

The Universal in Self-preservation and Social?

This area is about the instinctual needs outside of our earth, extending towards the universe. In the most practical sense, this could mostly mean fulfilling our instinctual needs on other planets. On an even wider scope, it could mean fulfilling the instinctual needs of the entire universe, including the needs of other species/”aliens”/lifeforms.

Fifth Ring: Transcendental.

The Transcendental in Self-preservation?

This area is about the instinctual needs of life/spirit/matter/aliveness/consciousness itself. You can also call it energy, life force, soul. Possibly, this area could even include anything outside of our universe. The average person attempts to reach this Ring through some kind of spirituality or attachment to (a) God. This Ring is the most elusive one to this day.

You want to ask for more insider knowledge about this subject?: Type•Consulting.

You want to be coached on your instincts in your own life?: Type•Coaching.

You want to know your instinctual stacking?: Get•Typed or Speed•Typing.


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