What is Human Nature? Get to Know Yourself!
Knowing your own internal mechanism is vital for success in life.
Who are we?
What kind of creature are we?
What are the rules to our behavior and motivations?
Knowing the answers to these questions is the basis of our success in life on all levels.
It’s vital to understanding ourselves and our relationships. This self-awareness can determine whether we can heal our relationships, or continue to make the same mistakes.
It’s also invaluable to governing our societies and the world at large.
When you look at history, you can see that as humans, we have been going about life making every possible mistake. Simply because we don’t really understand our own underlying mechanisms.
The economist John Maynard Keynes once said of his Cambridge friends in the years before World War I — that while their conversations were all bright, amusing and clever, there was “no solid diagnosis of human nature underlying them.”
His friends, he claimed, had believed that the human race “consists of reliable, rational, decent people, influenced by truth and objective standards,” failing to see that there were “insane and irrational springs of wickedness” in people.
Scientists are still trying to decide whether or not man is a rational creature. The question of human nature is still unsettled.
My Research into Human Nature
As an academic, I was always struck by the lack of clear answers about who we are in modern science.
In all my years of studying psychology, and political science I have not seen one coherent model of human nature.
There is research that shows that we are a social species, born to share, cooperate and derive pleasure from it.
And then there is the research that portrays us as completely opportunistic and selfish.
So which is the truth?
It took me many years of extensive experiential, spiritual and academic research into human nature, to come up with an answer.
Which is that both are correct.
Here’s how we can solve this paradox.
Human Nature- Part 1
Ok, so let’s get this out of the way.
On the one hand, I discovered that our basic nature is self-concern. We are born with an inner mechanism that is constantly on the lookout for number one.
Think about it, what are you concerned about? Who is the object of your endeavors, fears, hopes, and dreams?
Whatever we do, we do because we think it will be good for us.
It’s not our fault, it’s a basic, default mechanism:
We always seek to feel good and steer clear of whatever might make us suffer or feel bad. That is our constant motivation in life.
Even if someone is harming themselves, or hating themselves, it’s because they can’t keep their focus off…themselves.
(Oh, and our kids? They are essentially part of us. So caring about what belongs to you is just more of the same).
Human Nature- Part 2
This identification with our self as a separate entity from the whole, with its internal mechanism of self-concern, can also be called:
It is not something bad or unnatural, but something we need to learn to accept and work with correctly.
The ego is important because it is our motivational engine, it helps us grow, invent, develop and create. We need to have a “healthy ego”. However, when it dominates or rules us, the ego’s narrow focus on our personal benefit or loss denies us the ability to sense others correctly. It interferes with our sense of reality itself.
On a global scale, our ego makes us feel distinctively separate from the whole, and therefore its goals are misaligned with it. This is why we are seeing crises at every level of our global society while our leaders are just not able to work together to correct them.
On a personal level, the ego keeps us constantly worried and anxious. It suffers when others succeed or when we perceive that we have less than.
We want to get to the top, and be the one everyone is cheering for. (But we still sense complete loneliness when we get there.)
Our ego is the source of our fears of failure and shame, which hold us back from being all that we can be.
In relationships, it drives us to criticize, belittle or see the other as faulted. It desires to control rather than accept, to create struggle rather than connect. It is why we see so much divorce, loneliness, and aggressiveness in our culture.
Competition, social comparison, and narrow self-interest are everywhere in our world. So is war, corruption, and abuse of others of lesser power.
This is the ugly side of our human nature.
Now let’s look at the other side of things.
The Human Super-Organism
Here’s is where psychologists like Alfred Adler are also right, we are also a social species. We do gain pleasure and joy from being together in connection.
We thrive when we are an accepted part of a group and feel that we are contributing to a larger cause.
We have empathy towards others at times, and we do our share of helping and reaching out.
Also, while we were busy individuating, succeeding at our personal endeavors in international commerce and global trade, we have become more interconnected and interdependent than ever!
The internet, the constant sharing on social media, the news, transportation- all of this has made us into one small global village where everyone is influencing everyone else.
So on the one hand, we as a species, are completely interconnected and built to become a marvelous super-organism that thrives on cooperation.
We crave love, intimacy and social support.
And on the other hand, we are individualists, with an ego that is often a hurdle to achieving what we long for most: connection with everyone else around us.
Solving the Paradox
In our time the tension between our individualism and our state of interdependence has become our greatest challenge.
We are so connected on the outside and yet opposite to this connection on the inside.
The next stage for us, as humans, is, therefore, to correct the paradox.
We need to align our self-interest, with the common good.
This is the crux of our current evolution, the point where all of our crises, on the larger and individual scale, can be solved.
As psychologist Alfred Adler correctly said, “all of our problems are interpersonal relationship problems”.
If each of us were to listen to that small inner voice inside, pulling you towards developing yourself, towards understanding yourself and others better- we can become fully aware of our basic human nature and learn how to work above it, in connection to others.
By that, we will have created the harmony that we all seek, in both our personal relationships and as a society.
If governments were to focus on this one thing: public awareness of our shared purpose, and education for connection- we would solve every other ail in our societies.
Because our ability to sense that we are all one body, with common goals, that are just as important as our individual interests, is vital to our ability to solve the environmental crisis, the economic instability and every other challenge our fragile world is facing.
Jean-Paul Sartre said that “hell is other people.”
But I have to disagree. Hell is when our ego criticizes, envies blocks us or otherwise deprives us of love and connection.
When we change that and learn to use our ego’s powerful engine in alignment with the greater good, we learn how to truly give to others in a self-expressive way, and they become our greatest bliss.
All the religions and faiths point to it:
“Love thy neighbor as thyself”.
It’s the formula for feeling heaven on earth.
On a personal level, it simply means that we become aware that we are one thing, one greater family or network.
It means we begin to notice where we are opposed to that, to identify our ego at work, and learn to rise above it.
Aligning ourselves with the well-being of the whole will guarantee the greatest success, for all of us.
What are your thoughts? Share your take in the comments!
Related Reading: How to Transform Conflict Into Love In Your Relationships