How to Know your Dominant Basic Instinct (without Removing your Underwear)

If you have never seen the movie Basic Instinct, allow me to fill you in.

In the movie’s iconic scene, Sharon Stone’s character, Catherine Tramell, re-crosses her legs while sitting in an interrogation room, thereby revealing her underwear-less crotch in front of the detectives. 

This article isn’t about exposing yourself during police interrogations. But it is about how to identify your instinctual variant – which is way more useful. 

Knowing about your instinctual variant helps you to understand yourself and others Click To Tweet

Knowing your instinctual variant will help you to understand why you do what you do, and to see where you might be unevenly weighting things in your life. It also helps you to understand other people.

Let’s get to it.

the three basic instincts 


Humans have three basic instincts driving our behaviour:

Self-preservation (SP): for preserving the body, and its life and functioning.

Sexual instinct (SX): for extending ourselves in the environment and through the generations.

Social instinct (SO): for getting along with others and forming secure social bonds.

your instinctual stack


One of the three is the dominant focus of your attention and behavior. It is what you attend to first in life: your priority.

But this isn’t the complete picture. We each also have a second instinct that is used to support the dominant instinct, as well as a third instinct that is the least developed—a blind spot in our personality and our values.

This produces our instinctual stack. 

So there are 6 instinctual stackings (dominant/secondary):

  • SO/SX
  • SO/SP
  • SP/SX
  • SP/SO
  • SX/SP
  • SX/SO

the three basic instincts in depth 


Self pres:

  • Chief concerns – physical safety, comfort and wellbeing. 
  • Main focus – security, comfort, and environment (lighting, temperature, comfortable furniture, etc.).
  • Primary ambition – creating a secure environment in the home and workplace.
  • Stresses – money, sustenance (where is the food? when will it come? will we like it? does it fit with our diet?).
  • Coping methods (unhealthy) – over-stocking, overbuying, overeating, overpurging, oversleeping, undersleeping, overindulging in aesthetics or comfort foods.



  • Chief concern – intense experiences, connections, and contacts in order to find something to complete them inside (e.g. deep conversations, or sky diving). 
  • Main focus – people and attractions promising intense energy and charge.
  • Primary ambition – looking outside themselves for the person or situation that will ‘complete’ them.
  • Stresses – lack of intense mental or emotional stimulation; lack of an intense connection or experience.
  • Coping methods (unhealthy) – scattered attention, lack of focus, sexual promiscuity, intensely avoiding intense experiences and connections, and possibly a fearful and dysfunctional attitude toward sex and intimacy.



  • Chief concern – building a sense of personal value, accomplishment, and security of place with others.
  • Main focus – the status, approval, and admirability of themselves and of others in the minds of any number of different groups; power structures and politics; and knowing what is going on in the world.
  • Primary ambition – interacting with people in ways that will build personal value and a sense of accomplishment; touching base with others to feel safe, alive, and energized; possible also the pursuit of attention, success and fame.
  • Stresses – being able to adjust to others and be acceptable; hyper-awareness of being accepted or not; avoiding intimacy.
  • Coping methods (unhealthy) – antisocial behavior; detesting or resenting society at large; displaying poorly developed social skills; stubbornness against doing what is necessary to get along with people; social resentment; and avoidance.

how to know your stacking


If you cannot tell from the descriptions what your dominant and secondary instincts are, try taking this test

There is another sneaky way of knowing – you can try to work out what your least expressed instinct is. 

The third variant in the stack is your least used instinct. Subconsciously, we think that this area is uninteresting and unimportant, and that we can do without it. But because we secretly feel a sense of deficiency about it, the traits riles us when we see it in others. 

the third instinct is our least used one. Often, there is shame and a sense of deficiency Click To Tweet

SP-last people might grow impatient with those who devote a lot of time and effort into making themselves well fed and comfortable. They’ll also feel bored if they find themselves trapped in a conversation about food, home decorations or furniture, local deals, home prices, salaries. SX-last people might feel uneasy when they see PDAs. SO-last people might get impatient with having to make ‘small-talk’ and get frustrated when required to network.

This is how our stacks wind up playing a pivotal role in our relationships: we get along better with those with similar stacks. 

Note that none of the instincts are better than the others! The point is simply to improve self awareness. 

a tip to counteract your dominant instinct 


Knowing about instinctual variants has improved my self awareness. It has helped me to ‘catch myself in the act’ of overfocussing on self preservation needs. 

Seeing that I have an under-emphasized sexual instinct, I have worked to cultivate more of an interest in my levels of attraction with the people around me. This helps me to balance out the over expressed SP instinct. 

This is a tool you can use too. When feeling anxious, depressed, or frustrated due to inability to satisfy the needs of the primary instinct, try devoting your attention and efforts to the third instinct. It may alleviate anxiety and compulsive behaviors prompted by fixation on the primary instinct.



Instinctual awareness is a great tool for self discovery.

Observe yourself to figure out what your stacking is. When you notice yourself over fixating on the dominant instinct, create balance by focusing your attention on the blind spot instinct.

This will probably help you to create harmony and balance in your life.