Stage 0, Survival

The Survival Stage is that mode of being by which we seek to survive primal wounding in our lives. This wounding is the result of a violation we all suffer in various ways, a violation in which we are treated not as individual, unique human beings, but as objects. Here our supportive milieu—whether early caregivers, peers, institutions, or society at large—does not see us as we truly are, and instead forces us to become the object of its own purposes.

Faced with this treatment, we will tend to develop not authentic personality which expresses our true natures, but survival personality which seeks to survive this primal wounding in any way possible. We in effect become who we must become for the other, forgetting the authentic sense of who we are.


Identified with survival personality, we are in a trance, a survival trance (The Primal Wound) —we do not see reality, but only experience it through the “lens” of the survival personality. We are thus largely out of touch with ourselves, other people, and Self.

In order to maintain this state we must continue to avoid the experience of the wounding, and we do this by means of compulsions and addictions. Here we may become addicted to food, sex, alcohol, drugs, relationships, power, money, work, service, spirituality—virtually anything which will serve to stabilize the survival personality and prevent the underlying wounding from emerging. Any failure in these survival strategies will touch the hidden tip of the “ice berg” of earlier wounding, and feelings such as anxiety, shame, and abandonment will begin to emerge. This enthrallment in compulsive attitudes and behaviors, this survival trance, is the source of the “fundamental infirmity” addressed by Assagioli’s four stages, and the essence of the stage of Survival.