Our brains and bodies were built for short term stressors that have a beginning, middle, and end in rapid succession. That is not the sort of adversity we are facing in life these days. The challenges we face now are not ending, we are so tired we often can’t regroup in time to see the beginning of the next one, and everything is the middle. We are just in a constant state of stress and tension.
The good news is we were built for surmounting adversity and challenge. There are ways that our brain and body re-engage in the fight for survival. Do not despair, we were built to adapt to adversity. So, even though the human may not have been built to last through longitudinal stressors without the coping strategies that keep people well, we can adjust.
The trick to this adjustment is to evaluate the strategies that worked to keep us surviving and thriving for millions of years and to attempt to replicate using a slightly adapted strategy. One of the strategies that effectively kept us living and growing was facing hardship as a community. We used to be born into a tribe and survive in a tribe. That tribe had rhythms of survival where each of us at strengths we brought to the community comprised of skills and assets and each of us had needs and deficits. The community cared for those tender spots while capitalizing on each of our useful attributes.
We have moved farther and farther away from our loved ones and our communities are electronic and technological. These advances of course have added value to our world, but it has left many of us feeling alone and lonely facing adversity. We are left feeling like we, by ourselves, hold the weight of our life. We feel like the strengths we have are the only accessible tools. We feel like our deficits define our identities. We are without the support from the tribe we need to surmount obstacles and challenges.
The tribe is no longer given to us by birth, we have to create it. Our hearts and minds need to feel as though we are not alone when facing challenges. Our families need to have someone to reach out to. Our kids need layers and layers of community to go to when they are struggling. Our spouses need circles to share their challenges of the relationship and vulnerability. This is the tribe we must build.
This can feel impossible; when we were naturally selected, we weren’t chosen for our ability to build a tribe, we were chosen for our ability to thrive in a tribe. This need is so recent, our brains and bodies haven’t caught up. We don’t know how to build a tribe, we often take what is given to us by proximity or family or convenience. This agreeing to the situation or environment is not building a tribe but rather, it is surrendering to settling. Creating a tribe for ourselves is purposeful, intentional, deeply valuable, and critical to our wellbeing in the face of ongoing adversity and challenge.
Tips for creating your tribe:
- Look for people that have dissimilar skills and traits and abilities. (You do not need to live with these people, they need to be in your tribe for when you are facing adversity)
- Ask people questions about when, how, why, and in what way they would be willing to show up for you.
- Know yourself so that you know what you have to offer to others.
- Love yourself the way you are, especially your tender and most vulnerable spots so you can accept supportive help.
- Take when you need, give when you have extra.
- Understand this is a gift you are giving to yourself and others, it won’t be easy but it is necessary.
- Discuss roles, discuss strengths, and discuss deficits.
- Show up when your tribe needs your assets so they will show up when you need theirs.