Our Drive to Bond
"It is beyond our imagination to conceive of a single form of life that exists alone and independent, unattached to other forms." — LEWIS THOMAS
If you’re a survivor of multiple failed relationships, you may wonder why you keep trying. I can assure you that you don’t persist just for the (sometimes short-lived) good times. And you don’t persist because of TV ads featuring loving couples on tropical islands. You persist, despite your track record and despite dismal divorce statistics, because you are designed to bond. Human beings are not meant to live alone.
There is a fundamental biological imperative that propels you and every organism on this planet to be in a community, to be in relationship with other organisms. Whether you’re thinking about it consciously or not, your biology is pushing you to bond. In fact, the coming together of individuals in community (starting with two) is a principal force that drives biological evolution, a phenomenon I call spontaneous evolution (which I covered in depth in the book of the same name).
There are, of course, additional biological imperatives designed to ensure individual and species survival: the drives for food, for sex, for growth, for protection, and the ferocious, inexplicable drive to fight for life. We don’t know where or how the will to live is programmed into cells, but it is a fact that no organism will readily give up its life. Try to kill the most primitive of organisms and that bacterium doesn’t say, “OK, I’ll wait until you kill me.” Instead, it will make every evasive maneuver in its power to sustain its survival.
When our biological drives are not being fulfilled, when our survival is threatened, we get a feeling in the pit of our stomach that something is wrong even before our conscious mind comprehends the danger. That gut feeling is being felt globally right now—many of us are feeling that pit in our stomachs as we ponder the survivability of our environmentally damaged planet and of the human beings who have damaged it.
…The social nature of harmonious animal societies can provide fundamental insights directly applicable to human civilization. One great example is an ant, which, like a human being, is a multicellular social organism; when you take an ant out of its community it will die. In fact, an individual ant is really a suborganism; the true organism is actually represented by the ant colony. Lewis Thomas described ants this way: “Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into war, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves, engage in child labor, exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television.”
…As for human communities, we can fend for ourselves as individuals longer than a single ant can, but we’re likely to go crazy in the process. I’m reminded of the movie Cast Away, in which Tom Hanks plays a man who is marooned on an island in the South Pacific. He uses his own bloody hand to imprint a face onto a Wilson Sporting Goods volleyball he calls “Wilson” so he can have someone to talk to. Finally, after four years, he takes the risky step of venturing off the island in a makeshift raft because he’d rather die trying to find someone to communicate with than stay by himself on the island, even though he has figured out how to secure food and drink—that is, how to survive.
Most people think that the drive to propagate is the most fundamental biological imperative for humans, and there’s no doubt that reproduction of the individual is fundamental to species survival. That’s why for most of us sex is so pleasurable—Nature wanted to ensure that humans have the desire to procreate and sustain the species. But Hanks doesn’t venture off the island to propagate; he ventures off the island to communicate with someone other than a volleyball.
For humans, coming together in pairs (biologists call it “pair coupling”) is about more than sex for propagation.
…Instead of cursing our bad luck in relationships, we need to recognize that our efforts at bonding are a fundamental drive of Nature, and that these bonds can be cooperative and harmonious. We need to heed Rumi’s sage advice: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” When we start living in harmony with Nature (and with ourselves), we can move on to creating the Honeymoon Effect in our lives, where relationships are based on love, cooperation and communication.
Excerpted from The Honeymoon Effect: The Science of Creating Heaven on Earth. © 2013 Bruce Lipton
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #41.
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