Tribalism

Tribe is a word we hear a lot of these days, but what is a tribe and why is it so appealing to so many of us? According to the definition, a tribe is a group of individuals that are tied together because of a common religion, culture, language, or any of a variety of other factors. We all define ourselves by the groups we belong to. Some of these are groups are large, like a political party and some are small, like a book club. Some are light and fun like a running club and some are deep and intense like a self-improvement group that makes you push past comfort zones. Some we choose and some we are born into. So why are Humans so inclined to be a part of a tribe? Survival.

Homo sapiens are like most other primates in the fact that we are social by nature and tend to live in groups. When we look back at the majority of the time our species has been on the planet, we see small tribes, usually less than 150 individuals.  Living communally provided food, safety, and social bonding. For many individuals, the tribe may be the only people they ever get to interact with. These tribes meant everything to the members. This deep reliance on the tribe means that early human ancestors evolved adaptations to help them survive within the group because survival without it was far more difficult. 

One adaptation is the idea of tribal loyalty. Many of the dangers to the tribe were threats from the outside. This could be animals, other tribes, or if you were an early Homo sapien, this may even have been other hominid(human) species. The key to defending against an outside opponent was to band together and present a united front. This trait evolved very early in social species. This means over time as a species we became biologically driven to be loyal to the tribe, and in turn, to fear those outside of it. In the world of today, we no longer belong to just one tribe, in fact, we now all belong to dozens of them. One thing that hasn't changed is the drive to be loyal to these tribes. This loyalty is the reason for the intense arguments about sports teams or truck brands. Once we have chosen our tribe, team, brand, then all others are a potential threat. I know this sounds silly but that is how our biology sees the situation. This biological urge to defend the tribe is strong and can lead to dangerous prejudices if not thought about logically.  

Another adaptation that our species evolved was tribal accountability. Cooperation is key to the survival of any social group, be that ants, dolphins, or primates. Cooperation means trusting the other members of your tribe to do their part. In ancient tribes, if you did not carry your weight then you risked being expelled from the group, which often meant death. This is why we fear rejection so badly, and why embarrassing moments feel life-threatening. We hold other members of our tribes accountable for their actions and intentions, and they do the same for us. Each tribe has different guidelines or membership requirements, most are unofficial and flexible. These guidelines are what each member is held accountable to. 

These adaptations are built into our DNA, they are a part of us, that doesn't mean they get to dictate how we act, in fact, we can use them to our advantage. If we get to choose what tribes we belong to then we can choose who we are loyal to and who we are accountable to. This means you get to choose to be in tribes that support you and what you want to achieve. By connecting with other people that share your motivations and goals you can support each other and hold each other accountable.

Loyalty and accountability are like many of our evolved biological systems,  they originally served as a survival advantage and in a way still do, only now it is more about thriving than surviving. I have seen tribal loyalty and accountability help individuals change habits and programming that they have had for years. This is why I use this principle in my 12-week men's group. As we change nutritional, movement, stress, and connection habits, we have a group of men who are in a similar situation that we can support and be supported by, all within the tribe.  

So as you go through your month think about the tribes you belong to, the ones you choose and the ones you didn't, and really look at the membership requirements and what you are being held accountable for. Then decide if they deserve your loyalty, if they don't support your growth then you need a new tribe. 

Keep Evolving,

E William