The power of nature, especially for introverts

A few years ago I read a fascinating book called “The Righteous Mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion” written by Jonathan Haidt. It’s one of those books that bends your mind in a way that allows you to view life and humankind from a totally different angle. It contains some complex ideas and I, admittedly, only absorbed a small part of it. Yet it still opened my mind in new and wonderful ways.

For me, one chapter stood out. In chapter ten “The Hive Switch”, Haidt presents a hypothesis…

“We have the ability (under special conditions) to transcend self-interest and lose ourselves (temporarily and ecstatically) in something larger than ourselves. That ability is what I’m calling The Hive Switch.”

He goes on to describe how when we form groups, such as sports, religious and political affiliations, we lose our sense of self and become “simply a part of a whole”. And that when we practice any kind of ritual within that group (like chanting a school song at a football game) we experience “passion and ecstasy” that bonds us and helps fulfill our desire for belonging and meaning in life. Haidt believes, through activating the Hive Switch, that people generally become less selfish and more loving.

He goes on to explain that it doesn’t necessarily require a group experience to activate The Hive Switch. One of those is to experience “Awe in Nature”. In reading this I was better able to understand why my introverted self feels so nourished in the great outdoors.

“Awe acts like a kind of reset button: it makes people forget themselves and their petty concerns. Awe opens people to new possibilities, values, and directions in life. Awe is one of the emotions most closely linked to the hive switch, along with collective love and collective joy. People describe nature in spiritual terms precisely because nature can trigger the hive switch and shut down the self, making you feel that you are simply part of the whole.”

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind

I’ve always had a hard time fitting in, and group settings have always made me feel wildly out of place. But I’ve always been drawn to nature and never fail to experience an overwhelming sense of peace when I am in wild places. Triggering my hive switch is allowing me to experience how I am a part of something larger than myself. This explains my pull to nature in a way I never could have deduced on my own. I garnered a wonderful sense of comfort from this.

I can now better understand the draw to group settings like concerts and sporting events. They are how extroverts tap into the hive switch. For us introverts, that portal is through nature rather than communal activities. A powerful piece of knowledge for any introvert seeking a deeper sense of being.


I’ll end this by saying, this book is a highly researched piece of literature written by a very well-educated social psychologist. I pulled only a few words from a fascinating chapter and tried my best to make sense of it in a way that I could share. If you’re remotely intrigued, I highly recommend reading it for yourself.

3 Comments

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  • That is a great explanation. I look forward to reading this book. I myself have become introverted as I get older. It is more peaceful, less drama. I find when I spend time alone, I am more at peace.

  • I bet we could talk for hours. I have enjoyed your posts so much especially this last one. I’ve often wondered why the outdoors was so restorative for me. I’ll have to give this book a read. Oh and thanks for the Notes from the Road April 24. That was great also. The bicycle couple is mind blowing. I rode across the US in 1988 so I can appreciate their efforts.

  • Thank you friend. You have a talent at writing with depth and simplicity at the same time. I thoroughly enjoy reading all your posts…I always finish thinking “well-said!”.
    Thanks for taking your time to share with us. ♥️

About

We’re Mark & Michele, modern-day nomads perfecting the art of slow, full-time travel.  Our tiny home on wheels and slow-paced travel style allows us to minimize our expenses while maximizing our freedom.  May our unconventional way of life inspire you to design a life that you love.

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