In this article we will discuss about fourteen major types of instincts seen in individuals. The instincts are: 1. Escape 2. Combat 3. Repulsion 4. Parental Instinct 5. Appeal 6. Sex 7. Curiosity 8. Submission 9. Self-Assertion 10. Gregariousness or Herd Instinct 11. Food Seeking 12. Acquisition 13. Constructiveness 14. Laughter.
Every creature loves its own life, and as a result, whenever its life is threatened by dangerous situation, it makes frantic efforts to save it. Man runs away to save himself on seeing a snake, a lion or any other dangerous creature. Similarly, the deer in the forest run as fast as they can on smelling an approaching lion or tiger; so do rats on becoming aware of the presence of a cat. The tendency to run in fear in order to save one’s life is called the instinct to escape. This instinct is sometimes activated on experiencing acute physical pain, the sudden movement of an object or the perception of a strange or mysterious object, since the emotion associated with it is fear.
Whenever, the emotion of fear is aroused, the creature reacts by trying to escapes. This also clarifies the fact that instinct of escape may be brought into operation by seeing an object, hearing a sound, inferring some dangerous situation or hearing an account of a dangerous situation. Very often parents and other elders try to frighten children exclaiming, “Son look there’s a ghost coming”. Although the child can certainly not actually see a ghost coming, the mere inference of its approach frightens the child and makes it run.
The tendency to fight is called the instinct of combat, or pugnacity. The instinct is seen to develop in children at the age of eight or nine, but it is common to all living and conscious creatures. This instinct comes into operation as the natural result of a creature’s perception of some threat or harm to itself from any external agency.
Every creature, whether cow, buffalo, bitch, dog or monkey, rushed to the protection of its young ones if they appear to be threatened and attacks whatever appear to offer the threat pugnacity is also manifested when the satisfaction of other instincts such as sex desire, food seeking or acquisitiveness or constructiveness are hindered by other creatures. The emotion associated with this instinct is ‘anger’. Whenever anger is aroused, the instinct is pugnacity may come into play, and if this instinct is not kept under due restraint, the individual may wreak havoc, not merely for himself, but for the whole of society. This happens especially when he organizes his friend into a band to overcome some enemy.
This instinct is activated when the creature comes into contact with some object or material which he dislikes intensely. It is given emotional expression by the feeling of ‘hatred’. In operative terms, a person may spit out-something repulsive that he has swallowed by mistake. This instinct is found in all creatures from the moment of birth. Animals grazing in the field may mistakenly swallow some repulsive material, but as soon as it touches the palate, it is spat out. Human beings behave in the same manner. This instinct occupies a very significant place in the child’s pattern of development, because it is repulsion which can turn a child against falsehood cruelty and other detestable forms of behaviour.
4. Parental Instinct:
The instinct is considered to be the mother of intelligence and mortality, and the emotion associated with it is ‘tender emotion’, or what is commonly called the maternal feeling. It finds expression through the love shown by elders towards their progeny, by the protection and food given to children, etc. It becomes manifest at a very young age, as the child is found showing love for feeding or clothing his toy animals or dolls. It reaches its maturity in adult and its peak arrives when a person begets children of his own.
In general, it is found to be more intense in the case of women, although both parents do their very best to provide every facility for their children and also manifest great fondness for objects belonging to the children. This instinct plays a profound role in the development of all creatures because, in its absence, the young and weak would never be protected but left to die. In fact, all the best features of civilization can be traced back to this instinct.
This instinct, too, is a universal one, found existing in all creatures. It is aroused when other instinctual activities result in failure. Thus, the cognitive aspect of this instinct is the failure of the combative instinct; distress its associated emotion. It is manifested by cries for help. Other manifestation of it can be collection of donations for some noble aim, readiness to join the army for the defence of one’s nation in times of war, etc. Its success lies in adapting its manifestation to the time, the place and the need created by the situation.
The sex instinct implies the desire to see a beautiful or attractive person or to see his erogenous zones (existing part). It is found existing even in quite small children. In infancy, it finds expression in the child’s behaviour towards its parents, whereas in childhood it is expressed to one’s companions. Its most important growth and development takes place during the period of adolescence, but is onset can lead to the development of many complex and dangerous physical as well as mental ailments, but the sublimation of this instinct leads to social service, love for art, literature, science, worship of God, etc. It is best sublimated by using time in healthy activities.
This is another instinct found in all conscious creatures, and it impels the creature to obtain knowledge about any object, especially a novel one. It is a very important part of the natural behaviour of men and other animals possessing developed mental abilities. It tends the individual to find out more about the object presented to his awareness. The emotion associated with it is ‘wonder’. Curiosity a major characteristic of childhood, but it usually does not decline even in the later periods of life, although change in age may lead to a change in the sphere of interest or curiosity.
The things which strike a child as wonderful appear common place and dull to the adult. On entering this world, the child has to understand everything and develop the capacity to face it, and hence he is intensely desirous of finding out everything he can about everything he sees, hears or observes.
This instinct is part of the developmental process which manifests itself through outward actions, but it continues to work internally without manifest symptoms. For this reason, it should never be repressed in children, because such an approach may block the child’s mental growth and develop many harmful complexes. In fact, the proper development of this instinct is essential for the proper development of the individual at every stage of life.
In cognitive terms, the instinct for submission requires the presence of a senior member of one’s species for its expression. The emotion which helps express it is negative self-feeling, and in its operative form, it makes the individual submit himself completely before another person. An example of it can be seen in the dog who sticks its tail between its legs on being threatened by a stronger dog and finds itself helpless in facing the latter.
In fact every individual behaves politely, docilely or even fearfully when confronted by a more skillful, intelligent or powerful individual. He behaves politely towards his parents, teacher and guardian. Besides, he affords respectful behaviour towards anyone senior to him. All these forms of behaviour manifest the instinct to submission.
This instinct is very important for organizing society by putting every individual in his rightful place. All the polite forms of behaviour in every culture and society bear the imprint of this instinct. However, excessive intensity of this instinct makes a person cowardly and slavish, with the result that he loses his self-respect and tends to obey other compulsively. He develops a strong inferiority complex and thus sacrifices his respect in the eyes of others.
The opposite of the instinct to submission is the instinct to self-assertion, which is most frequently manifested in the presence of a younger or weaker member of one’s species. The emotion associated with it is that of ‘positive feeling’, or what we normally speak of as self-respect. In active or operative form, we manifest it by displaying our power in some way.
This instinct begins to develop as soon as the child develops awareness because it is seen that even a young child wants to attract and impress others by his beauty, skill or intelligence. A child’s tendency to stamp it feel while walking is a manifestation of this instinct. He is often found obstinately insisting on wearing his best clothes when being taken out of the house. Similarly, a person’s desire to win the first place it is no exaggeration to say that the instinct of self-assertion is present, directly or implicitly, in almost every activity in which we indulge.
However, any repression of this leads to infliction of cruelty on persons weaker than oneself, and it may even tend a person towards immoral deeds. On the positive side, self-assertion motivates the individual to undergo considerable difficulties and sufferings to make progress. Hence, it is not desirable to repress this instinct. Instead, every individual should get opportunities for the healthy development of this instinct.
10. Gregariousness or Herd Instinct:
It is true that man is a social animal who detests loneliness. The tendency towards gregariousness that is, living in a group is found to exist in every conscious creature. It is associated with the emotion of loneliness, the arousal of which impels the individual to join the herd, to be among other creatures like himself. Loneliness fills him with dread and anxiety, and the individual finds life meaningless and burdensome.
The first manifestation of this instinct occurs early in life, which is seen in the waiting of a child when it is left alone for any length of time. Even adults find a lonely life uninteresting, burdensome, and even maddening. It is for this reason that hardened criminals who appear to be incapable of reform are sometimes sentenced to solitary confinement. It is this gregarious instinct which sometimes makes a person choose death to social ostracism. Tulsidas has rightly stated ‘social ostracism is very troublesome’. This herd instinct satisfies the need for protecting oneself and one’s species or group. Any repression of this instinct means obstructing the individual’s development.
11. Food Seeking:
The instinct of food-seeking is perhaps one of the most dominant instincts because preservation of life is not possible in its absence. It is also a completely universal instinct, found in every creature, an instinct which has been part and parcel of life from the moment of creation. Cognitively, it is brought into play on seeing or smelling any edible object, and the emotion which puts it into operation is ‘hunger’ which Charles Lamb, the famous English essayist called “eldest, the strongest of the passions”.
Its active manifestation is the search for food and the act of eating. Excessive development of this instinct makes an individual a glutton. It is, therefore, desirable to train a child in the habit of eating desirable and nutritious food at the right time. If bad habits become associated with eating, they can hinder a child’s mental development.
The instinct for acquisition is found to exist in human beings and other intelligent creatures. The search for objects of food or those suitable for buildings nests or houses constitutes the cognitive aspect of this instinct. The emotion through which it expresses itself is that of possessiveness which is manifested through the act of seeing an object, liking it desiring to possess it a subsequently protecting it from harm or theft. This instinct begins its development with the emergence of awareness.
Even such creatures as birds, ants and bees exhibit this instinct. Birds, for instance, are often observed collecting twigs, feathers and pieces of thread when they wish to build their nest. Similarly, ants and bees collect items of food for a rainy day. Like them, man collects many more necessary things for satisfying his various needs.
However, in this case too, unbalanced or excessive development of this instinct can lead to maladjustments and defects of character, but an adequate and properly directed development of acquisitiveness can make a child a constructive participant in the growth of human civilization. The various symbols of ancient civilizations that we have been able to discover have come to our hands because of the instinctive acquisitiveness of our ancestors. The repression of this instinct can lead to an unbalanced personality, but its sublimation or refinement can develop many very productive qualities in the individual.
The term ‘constructiveness’ refers to the instinctive tendency to make a new thing or to create an environment in which some new thing can function. The lower creatures express their constructive tendencies by making cobwebs, digging holes in the ground by insects, building nests by birds, etc., whereas man, possessing a more highly developed intelligence manifests it through more complex activities. The emotion of creativeness is associated with it. In its operative form, it involves finding some suitable material and becoming engaged in making something out of it. The infant usually begins to manifest this instinct by the end of his first year of life.
Initially, he exhibits a strong desire to alter and modify the objects within his reach. He may pull down something lying on the table, or lift it up from the floor and put it on the table, but gradually this constructiveness changes into the desire to actually make things, for instance, making cups, kettles or pots and pans out of clay by the children.
This is creativeness at its most obvious. This spontaneous activity indicates the child’s innate desire to make sometimes new. The development of this instinct can make the child and engineer who will derive intense satisfaction from constructing massive buildings and imposing bridges. The repression of this instinct causes the child to lose his self-confidence because the earnings aroused by it are prevented from being put into operation.
Mc Dougall has classified laughter, too, as one of the instincts, and this is probably correct, because it becomes manifest in very early infancy. However, it found to exist only among human beings. Cognitively, the instinct comes into play when we are confronted with any laughable situation, for instance, the falling of a rider from his cycle, or the tripping of a running person. Another person’s foolish words move us either to laughter or to anger.
Nature has endowed man with the instinct of laughter by means of which he can avoid anger or sympathy. The individual in whom this instinct is not well developed either becomes morose on seeing someone else’s sorrow or suffering, or alternatively leaves his task or, becomes excessively angry and involves himself in quarrels and conflicts. Either of these situations makes life difficult for the individual.
Nature has, thus, been very kind endowing man with the instinct of laughter, because it often enables the individual to overcome overwhelming odds and achieve success. A brave commander can lead his soldiers to victory with a broad smile expressive of contempt for his adversary. But, it should be remembered that lack of control upon laughter can make us appear uncultured. Senseless laughter is often symbolic of lack of self-control, foolishness and the repression of the instinct for self-expression or self-assertion. Hence, it is desirable to keep even this instinct under suitable check.