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Survival Instinct

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Survival Instinct?

All of us have the instinct that amounts to the basic drive for physical survival; it’s part of being human. All social and sexual instincts are linked to survival. All our powerful needs and instinctual drives can become a force that completely eclipses the love of truth. 

— A. H. Almaas

: Our most powerful instinct is for the survival of the organism.

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Survival Instinct

All Animal Instincts Amount to the Basic Drive for Physical Survival

What’s important to see is that ultimately, all animal instincts amount to the basic drive for physical survival. And all our powerful needs and instinctual drives can become a force that completely eclipses the love of truth. This is true whether the survival instinct manifests as the need for security, support, safety, affection, social contact, comfort, or money. In reality, all social and sexual instincts are linked to survival. For example, you may just want somebody around or someone to talk to on the phone, and it doesn’t matter whether truth is involved. Just talking is what’s needed. What’s really happening is that you can’t be alone; you are operating unconsciously from the assumption that social contact is a survival need, and that takes precedence over the love of the truth. We need to deal with this level of our soul if we are to liberate our heart, for our heart can truly love only when it is free. The heart exists at the level of the human soul rather than at the level of the animal soul. And unless the instinctual drives in the animal soul are confronted, they will confine—and ultimately control—the human soul and heart.

How Do We Understand Instinctual Functioning?

We can understand instinctual functioning by observing it in the human infant. For the infant, only the survival instinct is developed and fully operative. It uses a fundamental aspect of essence for its operation, based in the first chakra. This aspect is that of strength and activity, which at the beginning of life is very closely aligned to the operation of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). At that time this aspect of essence operates in cooperation with another fundamental aspect of essence, the merging aspect, which is closely aligned with the operation of the parasympathetic branch of the ANS. When the infant is distressed, hungry or in pain, the strength essence floods the organism, and the sympathetic branch of the ANS is activated. This is expressed in activity—crying, thrashing, and so on. This brings the mothering person, who then by her caretaking ministrations removes the distress, by feeding or whatever. The stress is discharged, bringing about the dominance of the parasympathetic branch of the ANS, which goes along with flooding the organism with the merging essence, with its contented and quiet rest.

Instinct for Survival is the Energy Behind Adaptation and Conditioning

So the instinct for survival, which translates into fear of annihilation and death, is the energy behind adaptation and hence, conditioning. The child finds himself in the situation of having to be what his environment (parents) dictates in order for him to survive. So we can say that it is due to the instinct for self-preservation that acquiescence to the coercive forces in the environment occurs. The child, then, adopts his parents' values and attitudes or rebels against them. In either case, he is conditioned to be and to act in certain ways, which, through the passage of time, become so ingrained that he takes them to be his identity. Slowly he forgets his true identity and becomes what he is being conditioned to be and to believe.

Instinctual Development is Intimately Connected to the Development of the Ego and It's Identity

This process of instinctual development is intimately connected to the development of the ego and its identity, as we will discuss in the book referred to above. There is a very close connection between the structure of the ego and the functions of the instincts. This means that for the personality to let go and for its identity to dissolve, the individual must deal with the issue of survival because it is underneath the functioning of all instincts. Dealing with the survival instinct will lead to understanding death and its relation to the personality and to essence. There is an inner consistency and order for the process of essential development. There is no need for the mind to direct the process. In fact, directing the process by the mind can only lead to difficulty, for the mind does not know. Commitment to the truth is sufficient for the process to unfold. When the essential aspects are discovered and freed, when the incomparable pearl is realized, the process spontaneously unfolds in the direction of the instincts and ultimately of the survival issue.

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