Tribal Passion: How Our Need For Survival Can Hold Our Compassion Hostage

The Prime Minister resigns. Cue huge split in opinion. But not about the fate of the country.

About compassion.

David Bird Cognitive Hypnotherapy Leighton Buzzard, Connection, feeling alone, outcast, outsider

I watched my social feeds erupt with polarising responses. And I found it interesting. The stark contrast of opposing left-leaning views: rationalising and dismissing her tears ("she's only crying about losing her job"). Versus seeing a relatable display of human emotion ("actually, I really felt for her").

Why the divide?

To feel compassion, we have to identify with the person on some level. It fosters a sense of connection. Understanding. So sparks a desire to help. And this makes sense from a survival perspective. If a member of the tribe is suffering, we all benefit once they're not.

A tribe has to be safe too. And weary of outsiders. So we have a have a tendency to create them-and-us dichotomies. But we don't just favour 'us'. We actively seek to be superior. And will often demonise the 'thems'.

The problem is, our minds create a them-and-us with very little encouragement. Forget political ideology. Gender. Skin tone. Just arbitrarily assigning people into groups can set this bias in motion.

Think about how angry classmates could get at the just-decided 'other team' during a school sports lesson. Or how rival football club supporters swiftly come together for a World Cup. Things can switch quickly.

We all want to be on the winning team.

So, for the happy-she's-leaving crowd, those tears can bring conflict: a need to maintain status and righteousness in celebrating the defeat. And connecting with the pain of a defeated fellow human being.

Arguably a moral mindfcuk.

I'm not debating whether we should feel compassion for our departed PM or not. What's more important is recognising how our mind's biases can shape our perception of the world. And thus how we respond.

If a friend lost their house we'd likely offer them to stay a while. Or at least lend some cash. So why do many of us struggle to acknowledge a homeless person and offer a few coins?

Sometimes it's worth enquiring if our reasons do, in fact, stand up to reason.

(Struggling with how you feel about other people, or feeling like an outsider? Cognitive Hypnotherapy in Leighton Buzzard can help you. Get in touch to learn how).