“the Individual and the herd instinct”

The herd instinct is real. I mean, ever wondered why we have words like “The Outcast?” “Social Stigma?” Or in a more modern perspective, the “Cancel Culture?” Ever wondered why we personally feel like we are not enough, at least most of the times? The restlessness in most of us, occasioned by feeling like we need to fit in?

I came across this beautiful piece of work from Nietzsche that said;

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

Freidrich Nietzsche

It had me wondering quite hard about it. Why? I asked myself. Why is it that we are not instinctively okay with being our own individuals like we are with being part of something we perceive to be bigger than our own ‘self ‘?

Why does one have to be “frightened and lonely” often if one chooses to embrace being different? Why does one have to actively struggle to remind oneself that being one’s own individual is much more liberating than belonging to a crowd? Why does anxiety seem to almost always show up when you are by yourself most of the times? Is that freedom too much to handle? Do we not know what to do with it?

Why is there not so much huddles and struggles when we decide to join a crowd? Why is there less anxiety and “loneliness” on this side? Why is there a ‘sense of belonging’ in a crowd? Perhaps it is because of the herd instinct. Because the pressure comes from the herd; and what ‘better’(easier) way to deal with that pressure than to cross that line into the herd?

In the herd, they have no room for exceptions; no room for those who stand out; no room for “misunderstandings”. I mean why would there be when the herd requires a uniform mentality? The kind of mentality where everyone has to take a certain mental shape and certain values. The kind of mentality that requires you to more often than not, level down in terms of your intellect or principles just to fit in. What a way to live!

“Some lose all mind and become soul, insane.
some lose all soul and become mind, intellectual.
some lose both and become accepted”

Charles Bukowski

In the herd, there is a blatant misvaluation of concepts. Like the “average” being highly valued and the “uncommon” being despised. Like the “unknown” being feared and the “overt” being respected. In the beautiful words of Kahlil Gibran “…..That to be enthroned is to be enslaved…and to be understood is to be leveled down”. He was not wrong. Not even by any shred of imagination. At least, not to me.

“Too much struggle on the one side; less to no struggle on the other.” Is this really a coincidence? That being one’s own individual is a daunting task and belonging to a crowd is almost effortless? Do we really ask ourselves these questions? Isn’t that what we call instinct? Instinct- The impulse, the natural aptitude. Is there really anything that manifests as easily as that? I do not think so.

Are we so afraid of ourselves? Our own undiscovered selves? Our own potential? Do we loathe ourselves so much we would rather cling onto others lest we get left alone to deal with our own monsters? Nietzsche said “Your bad love to yourself makes solitude, a prison to you.” But then again, the huddles are not something all of us can bear. So taking the easier choice is indeed a reflex.

“An individual in a crowd is a grain of sand amid other grains of sand, which the wind stirs up at will.”

Gustave Le Bon

Don’t accept a debilitated version of yourself. Do not run from the darkness of your own soul by seeking a safe haven. Accept it and embrace it, then work to deal with it. Never give up the privilege of owning yourself.

“When you decide to run away from yourself, you risk running for the rest of your life. Because your own soul will always want to be found.”

Ahmed O. Salim

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