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Instinct - Are We Born With a Protective Instinct?

Updated on September 28, 2020
Pamela99 profile image

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Instinct – Born with Natural Instincts

The protective instinct we were all born with helps keep us safe, helps us succeed in life in various endeavors, and the instinct is very strong when it comes to protecting our children. We have seen numerous examples of heroic instinct in wars, which saved a person or sometimes a whole squad.

Parents who protect their children are exhibiting a normal protective response. On a personal level, when we are faced with danger, the flight or fight physical symptoms kick in when our life or the lives of family members are threatened. This does not mean learned behavior is not important.

One of the reasons humanity has survived for thousands of years is the flight system, as it is an in built alarm that triggers the brain. This is a complex hormonal system, which secretes over 30 stress hormones, for example, adrenalin, cortisol, etc., and they have a quick, widespread effect on the body chemistry. It will increase your strength, alertness and the speed necessary to deal with the perceived threat.

Mother Protecting Child

The child protective instinct is readily apparent in the true story of Cindy Parolin. She was with her children when a cougar attacked.

Without hesitation, she jumped in front of her son and fought the cougar, wrestling the cougar for hours, while her son was removed from danger by his older siblings. One might ask, what causes this bravery? This woman was willing to sacrifice her life to save her son.

“Trust your instincts, and make judgements on what your heart tells you. The heart will not betray you.”

― David Gemmell, Fall of Kings

Man’s Natural Instincts

A man’s masculinity is also distinctive, and men think about situations a bit differently than women. Most men are tough-minded when taking care of their families also.

Men are typically more muscular, therefore, physically stronger. They tend to be assertive and aggressive when necessary.

Men have a strong instinct to protect their families, which is an innate core of their masculinity. Furthermore, some of these characteristics are learned as a boy, but men seem to be born with this strong protective instinct.

Are most people born with protective instincts? Are they passed down in our DNA? I think that people are probably born with this instinct, but there is no proof or research that I could find of the subject.

New Dad's Protective Instinct

People Without Empathy

There are some people who do not seem to have empathy for other human beings, and they typically fall into a category of personality disorders. Fortunately, they are just a small segment of society. A sociopath or psychopath tends to take advantage of anyone, as they are interested only in their own needs and wants.

Recognizing a Protective Instinct in Others

A strong protective instinct is fairly easy to see in other people. Take the movie “The Blind Side”. Sandra Bullock’s character recognized the protective instinct of "Big Mike." He excelled in football when he tapped into his protective instinct.

The Blind Side (2009) Trailer

Morality Test

The Harvard website has a morality test concerning human instinct. It takes just a few minutes to take the test and see where your beliefs lie in relation to society.

Professions Reflecting an Internal Protective Instinct

A few other examples of professions associated with the internal protective instinct are firemen, nurses, doctors or secret servicemen who are willing to lay down their life for the president.

Another example of this instinct has been seen in several animals, but particularly in dogs and cats. There are numerous stories of a dog waking the family with a house fire, and they certainly protect their owners if they are physically attacked. Cats have been known to lie next to a dying person. They somehow seem to know when their owner is dying before anyone else.

Gut Instincts

The dictionary definition of a gut instinct is an “inborn tendency to behave in a way characteristic of a species; natural, unlearned, predictable response to stimuli,” and “a primal psychic force or drive, as fear, love, or anger; specific., in Freudian analysis, either the life instinct (Eros) or the death instinct (Thanatos)".

A gut instinct can help you make good decisions that are logical, rather than emotionally based. Some things can certainly interfere with making a good decision using gut instinct, such as alcohol, drugs, depression or other emotional problems. Knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, plus accepting yourself as you are, will guide you down the right path most of the time.

Views on Inborn Instinct

Do you believe we are born with the instinct to protect ourselves and our children?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy,

    I agree with you about the the precious birds and the personality disorders. I saw a protective instinct at work when I was working as a nurse and with friends. Thank you for your comments. I hope you have a good week, Peggy.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    5 months ago from Houston, Texas

    Your photo at the top of this page is amazing! What a great photo capture! Except for personality disorders and mental illness, I do believe that most people are born with protective instincts.

  • Robert Sacchi profile image

    Robert Sacchi 

    14 months ago

    Thank you.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    14 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Robert, I only know of the Harvard look at this question. I think instinct is such an interesting trait to ponder. Animals are so interesting to observe as they take care of their own. Thanks so much for commenting Robert.

  • Robert Sacchi profile image

    Robert Sacchi 

    14 months ago

    An interesting article. I wonder what studis have been done on humans. I know the party line use to be we don't have any. One problem might be the definition of insticnt is when an animal has a behavior considered too complex for its "intelligence". With humans it's a case of trying to eliminate rational thought to figure out if there is anything left to attribute to instince.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Treasureofheaven, I agree with you, I also think Blindside is a very good movie. I am glad you enjoyed this hub, and I very much appreciate your comments.

  • Treasuresofheaven profile image

    Sima Ballinger 

    6 years ago from Michigan

    I voted for "Born With Instinct." I think we are born with it, but may be afraid to use it at times. I appreciate the video about the fathers and Blindside trailer - that's a brilliant movie. Good writing and topic too!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Brenda, I am so glad you enjoyed the hub and of course, I agree with you about inborn instinct. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 

    8 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    First of all, I love, love, love that photo. It is amazing and so perfect for the piece of writing. I firmly believe this instinct is inborn. We all have seen many examples of it. Sure it can become degraded by the life experience especially as you noted in cases of childhood abuse. But it is there or none of us would survive a generation. This is a fascinating Hub. I enjoyed it immensely.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    rajan jolly, I agree and I thought that photo was perfect for this hub. Thank you for your comments.

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 

    8 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

    Pamela, we are definitely born with the instinct of protection in as much as we are born with the instinct of survival.

    The first photo beautifully illustrates it all.

    Voted up and interesting.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Rosemary, A baby swimming is a good point. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • Rosemay50 profile image

    Rosemary Sadler 

    8 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

    I believe we are all born with a protective instinct. If you put a baby in deep water and let go it will swim, the instinct to protect itself, self preservation.

    I think that protective instinct has several levels, that of a mother protecting her child being the strongest.

    Well written and a thought provoking hub.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Tammy, A mother's love does feel very natural. I have certainly enjoyed all the comments. Thank you for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    b. Malin,I think you are right that many things can happen in life to alter our natural instincts for better or worse. I had been thinking about the topic for a while and wanted to see what others thought also. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Bobbi, I feel in love with that photo also. I was the protector in my family too, then I became a nurse. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • PurvisBobbi44 profile image

    Barbara Purvis Hunter 

    8 years ago from Florida


    I love the photo of the Mama bird, that is so precious. And I enjoyed your hub very much. And yes I believe we are born with the instinct, as an older sister and the oldest cousin I was always the protector. And this has followed me through life, as I fight for the rights and protection of others.

    I voted up and awesome.

    Your Hub Friend,

    Bobbi Purvis

  • b. Malin profile image

    b. Malin 

    8 years ago

    I too agree we are all Born with the Instinct for self preservation...but lots of things go on in one's life good, and bad, that can alter one's normal Instincts. We are so protective of our Momma Bears in Action. This was a very Thought Provoking Hub Pamela, which brought out so many Wonderful Comments.

  • tammyswallow profile image


    8 years ago from North Carolina

    I am pretty sure mothers are born with this instinct. It just seems to come naturally. Very interesting look into the nature of instincts and protection. Voting up and sharing!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    farmloft, You make some very good points. I definitely think we are born with self-preservation also. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • farmloft profile image


    8 years ago from Michigan

    I think most of us are born with self-preservation instinct but empathy is a learned behavior. I've seen too many toddlers and teens with no clue of how to protect someone else or able to even view others as needing protection. Unless they've been taught or modeled about taking care of others, few actually come up with the idea on their own. We have to mature into it.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Ruby, Mental illness and children that grow up with severe abuse are not going to have normal instincts unfortunately. I think we are born with a survival instinct and love also. I really appreciate your comments.

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    8 years ago from Southern Illinois

    I think we are born with a natural instinct for survival and love. I know there are those who lack the ability to love and also feel no guilt when committing murder or evil. Mental illness is so complex. Thank you for a great hub. Very interesting indeed..

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    fpherj48, I hadn't thought about that example, of that very sick woman, but the baby trying to survive is pertinent to the topic. Thank so much for your comments.

  • fpherj48 profile image


    8 years ago from Carson City

    Pamela99.....Superb topic to write about. All subjects pertaining to human nature and instinct are so interesting and important for us to discuss.

    What came to mind as I read, was the horriffic tragedy/crime of Andrea Yates, who drowned her 5 small children. She later told that even the baby who was merely months old, struggled with all her might to survive the drowning. To me, this is not only amazing but proof positive. UP ++

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Nell Rose, I think most mothers would do anything to protect their children. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Will Starr, Well stated! Thank you for your comments.

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    8 years ago from England

    Hi, Yes I think we are definitely born with the instinct, and even more so when our children are involved. Most of the time we may have a two second reaction to whether to get involved or not, but where our children are concerned we don't even think, we just react as that woman did saving her child from a cougar! Wow! I think most of us would do that for our kids, but what bravery!

  • WillStarr profile image


    8 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    We are without a doubt, because it's absolutely necessary for the survival of our species. That's one of the reasons our forefathers sought to protect our natural and essential right to self defense. What good is the instinct if the means are forbidden?

    Excellent Hub!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    prasetio, This was an interesting topic to research. I'm glad you picked up some new things and I appreciate your comments.

    marshacanada, I thought that picture was perfect for this hub. I think the maternal instinct is very strong. I remember when my first son was born and the instant love I felt. Thanks for your comments.

    Cardisa, I think we were born with the self preservation instinct also. I'm not sure about the rest. I appreciate your comments.

    SunRob, I always liked babies and children but the amazing love and instinct really happened with the birth of my first son. Thanks for your comments.

  • SubRon7 profile image

    James W. Nelson 

    8 years ago from eastern North Dakota

    Well, Pamela, I had to vote with group 2. Of course I think a big part is instinct, but just to narrow it down, I wasn't that crazy about children until I had a child in my life thanks to a girlfriend with a young daughter. That changed everything.

  • Cardisa profile image

    Carolee Samuda 

    8 years ago from Jamaica

    I believe we are born with self preservation instincts but other instincts are developed over time as be mature into caring and nurturing human beings. Not all mothers protect their children but yet they will protect themselves no matter what. In such cases, they have not acquired the child protective instincts.

    This is a wonderful subject Pamela, thanks for sharing.

  • marshacanada profile image


    8 years ago from Vancouver BC

    Thanks to this instinct usually the bonding between parents and children happens quickly and our parents love and protect us.A friend told me she felt she had suddenly fallen in love with her newborn baby and it hurt to be separated from him. My mother is 93 and still playing her role. I loved the picture you included of the mother bird sheltering her teenaged chicks under her wings.

  • prasetio30 profile image


    8 years ago from malang-indonesia

    Very inspiring hub, Pamela. Actually, we were born with natural instinct to live. But you describe this topic very well and I learn many things from you. Especially about man's natural instincts. Thanks for share with us. Good job and voted up!


  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    drbj, I really like that example. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Debborah, That is my view also. Thank you for your comments.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    8 years ago from south Florida

    You picked the perfect example, Pamela, to illustrate the quality of a protective instinct. The film, 'Blind Side,' demonstrated how that instinct allowed a football player to be particularly effective in protecting his quarterback. Excellent research and analysis. Voted up.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Billybuc, Thank you so much for your comments and I also think we are a fascinating species.

    Lawrence Da-vid, Abused children can certainly go either way. We see some children that come out of the slums with a terrible childhood do great things, although that is not the majority. I appreciate your comments.

    teaches, I loved that movies and thought about that particular scene. I was lucky to find it. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • Deborah Brooks profile image

    Deborah Brooks Langford 

    8 years ago from Brownsville,TX

    Pamela what a wonderful hub.. I do believe we are born with these Instincts to protect....Of course there is the exceptional to the rule..

    Blessings to you


  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    8 years ago

    Personal instinct is strong within us, and when it is used to help others it is amazing! I love your inclusion of the blind side video. Also, your research on the subject is well done. Voted up.

  • Lawrence Da-vid profile image

    Lawrence Da-vid 

    8 years ago

    I don't believe a protective instinct is exactly a birth concept. It is a learned behavior. In most loving families, children are aware and mentally store what made them happy and to feel protected. In a dysfunctional family, children that become parents can go either way. Some abused adults end up determined to prevent harm to their young. Other abused adults learn from that behavior and end up passing that behavior along to their young. Fortunately though, a high percentage of young adults that find themselves with child, are, for the most part, extremely protective and in some cases, over protective.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    8 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I totally agree with the excellent points that you make. As a species we are fascinating to behold. Thanks for sharing this great hub!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Galadriel Arwen, I agree with you and I appreciate your comments. I think childhood if abusive can damage that instinct, but in a normal childhood the instinct would be intact.

  • Galadriel Arwen profile image

    Galadriel Arwen 

    8 years ago from USA

    We are born with self preservation. We learn how to help each other as a survival instinct.


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