You are a social climber, aren’t you? No? Are you sure? Pretty much everybody is. So say the recent findings out of the National Institute of Mental Health.
According to the study, a region of the brain known as the “reward center” is stimulated when people process information about social status. This area, called the striatum, is also stimulated when people receive a monetary reward. Interestingly, a second study out of the Japanese National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Okazaki, Japan, has shown the reward center to also be stimulated when people receive praise–as in the form of a compliment.
The importance of these studies is that they show we humans have a complex neurological system, which drives us to act in socially beneficial ways. We are actually hard-wired to interact socially–that is, we have a “need to belong”. And why not? Sociability is one of the greatest survival strategies we have–it has allowed us to excel well beyond the other species on the planet, and to become the dominant life force on Earth. For good or bad, we have evolved civilization through our ability to socialize. And now we know it’s due, in part, to our biology. Interesting, huh?
Although the link between neurology and sociology has been made, I won’t dismiss the possibility of a spirituality influencing human drives and interactions. I definitely believe there is more to man than simply flesh and blood. It seems to me that if humans have conceived that they might be spirit as well as material, and that this intuition has been a part of human consciousness from the very beginning, causing every civilization to form some sort of spiritual belief and practice, then I’m certain there’s something to it. Every civilization of man cultivating the same intuitive beliefs, independently, is no accident. We know, yet we don’t know.
I believe that biology is an expression of spirit–it’s a manifestation of spirit on the material plane. Although we will certainly find the neurology to explain every behavior, drive or motivation, our bodies are simply the machinery, and not the originator. Biology alone cannot explain our individuality with regard to our drives and values–the elements that make us truly unique (not the DNA alone). And the more scientists search, the more they will likely discover evidence in support of that.
Our need to belong has definite advantages to survival–it has helped us persist and thrive. But I also believe it is a function of our energetic–or spiritual–connections. Only time will tell what this means in the bigger picture.