The nonlinear instability of general linearly stable systems allowing linear negative-energy perturbations is investigated with the aid of a multiple time scale formalism. It is shown that the basic equations thus obtained imply resonance conditions and possess inherent symmetries which lead to the existence of similarity solutions of these equations. These solutions can be of an explosive type, oscillatory or static. It is demonstrated that at least some of the oscillatory and static solutions are normally linearly unstable. (orig.). 5 figs.