I am my tribe / I am my behavior: Stage 2 of our Journey

"You may drive out nature with a pitchfork, yet she'll be constantly running back." - Horace

Stage 2: "I am my tribe / I am my behavior" is the time in our lives where we find much of our identity from a group. This is the most natural place to land in life. To arrive here, it requires believing, agreeing, and behaving according to the group, church, and community you want to join. Richard Rohr observes that the majority of the world's population resides in Stage 2. This is when one navigates life through the lens of black and white thinking. It is dualistic thinking whereby you are "with me or against me" and "either / or" thinking. It is also a time where one begins to gain identity from those behaviors. It may sound legalistic and it is, while strangely necessary. We just don't want to stay and live there. 

The beauty and gift of this stage is that you learn to grow up some and follow rules and order. We need this early on in life. If not, we tend to struggle with addictions of every sort. That is why its necessary when we struggle with addiction of any sort to first focus on behavior and community.  The problem is we just don't need to keep living in this stage.

It is our nature to be and stay in our tribe. You see this happening every Sunday. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said "it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning." We must evolve in order to get out of that way of living. Otherwise we will remain in this stage most of our lives. Jonah Goldberg the senior editor of National Review in his newly released book "Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy" speaks directly to this. His premise is that never before until the 1800's have we evolved into a society as quickly and rapidly as we have in the last 250 years. In fact, it was a miracle that we were able to evolve into a democratic capitalistic society. The problem is that we are not aware of how precious and precarious our society really is and if we fall back into tribal thinking we lose any sense of democracy. As a result, our virtues become our vices. Thus, we become an oppressive society. Civilization is simply the story a society tells itself about itself. Whereby, when we are apart of a group and we only see life from that group lens we tend to have a very black and white viewpoint of either you are in or you are out.  Or we become very focused on protecting our group only.

As a result, this stage ends up being reactionary and creates cultural wars.  But the end result and goal is not a "us / against them" mentality. "They" are not the problem, nor do "they" need to be fixed or controlled. That way only leads to more power. The goal is ascending above the black and white thinking. It is in finding a new way or view life from a third perspective. For true lasting change, the ego has to die (individually or as a society) for this to occur and will be discussed more in Stage 5, 6, and 7.  The problem is we are numb to ourselves and stay in a denial of ourselves by focusing on our behavior, turning away from ourselves due to our wounds incurred in Stage 1. We end up living out of the compass of who others tell us to be. It is life lived as a human doing not a human being.  

The most extreme result of this stage is the tribal fundamentalism of any religion, sect, or group. You see this in religion whether it be islamic fundamentalists or far-right wing evangelicalism. Generally, the motivating factors in these groups are power and fear and trying not to lose something. On an individual level, people are generally living out of the thinking / rational brain. They are living out of their head and are not connected to their emotions or bodies. This predisposes people to be more narcissistic and self-centered, leaving little room for empathy and compassion. The way out of this is reconnecting ourselves to emotion and compassion.

I fell into this stage from my freshman year of college till about 30. It was the time in my life when I focused on my behavior and trying to "be a good Christian". Prior to college, it certainly was all about me and all about being seen as cool and popular. But then I entered college and fortunately came across newly formed friends that were more focused on their spiritual beliefs and faith than they were just on themselves. At the time, it was a crisis of faith because I was trying to reconcile my life with my beliefs. In so many ways, I am thankful for that period of my life because it helped me form a stronger belief system. And it kept me from running wild. Back then, I knew that it was "grace" that saved me but honestly it was still about being good.  I just learned to mask it. In reflection, I lived with the belief that if I could behave and live as my group lived the more I could be affirmed and liked. Unfortunately, the two unspoken requirements into the group (as with most) were beliefs and behaviors. If you did those well, you rose in esteem and good will within the group. That continued for me till my early 30s. What I inevitably did was perform, which ultimately caused me to lose and not live out of an authentic self. Instead, my compass was oriented in being appropriate and good instead of authentic and human. Fortunately, I was shown that I had to connect to my emotions and feelings. I remember when I first came across emotional language such as sad, angry, shame, hurt, etc. that it felt like I found a new language. I discovered that using the language of emotions allowed me to become more authentic and invited more emotional intimacy with others. It was the language of emotions that helped me move to Stage 3.

Ultimately, we must move out of our thinking / rational mind in order to be connect more to our emotions. It is not that we abandon our thoughts but instead find a way to feel more helping us connect more.