The social instinct

One of the definitions provided for “Social Instinct” by the American Psychological Association is: “the desire for social contact and a feeling of belonging, as manifested by the tendency to congregate, affiliate, and engage in group behaviors.”

We have few truly ‘hard wired’ instincts. As higher-order animals, our hard-wiring is reduced to natural tendencies and innate capabilities. And of these, the willingness to be social is one of them.

Whether we truly view ourselves as a social animal, as David Brooks suggests or are kinda less refined and a little more raw in our approach as Lyn Christian explores the outcome is the same: our brain (and our emotions) evolved so we can be social.

Which, right now, at the time of writing, makes this column painful. One of our most basic instincts is feeling us with fear. We are being asked to deny it because it has the potential to kill us and those around us. It attacks our capability for physical self-expression and limits our capacity for love and sex.

In that regard it, then, attacks many of the social schemas we have in place and becomes a hidden assault on our sense of self and our awareness not just of who we are, but of who we can be. Self-isolation is hard to deal with as one study of Italian subjects uncovered.

Loneliness is a real issue. Staying connected, during the lockdown requires a thinking strategy. Much like, working from home, requires structure and a plan.

We are, in this first global crisis of the 21st century, in uncharted waters. We know that things will change. We are not, quite, able yet to truly fathom how. Regardless, we all have to do the same thing: Successfully navigate the uncertainty we are encountering and find ways to be socially connected while physically, we are apart.

Find your tribe. Your people. Be with them as you would with a real-life tribe. Then spread the cheer, warmth and hope of that connection to as many others as you can. Being social is a hardwired instinct in the sense that it allows us to unlock the one true superpower we have: cooperation.

To survive what’s coming will take all of us. To navigate the new future will require a focus on the things we value and the values that drive us. None of us can do this alone.

We’ve always been ahead of our time: engaging in the ritualistic drinking of coffee and the consumption of many sweet things each week, apart yet together. Stay safe and have an awesome Sunday wherever you are.

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