Better understanding myself and the world around me

{Photo of the day: On the way home to our property after a day in the city.}

I’m currently reading a fascinating book, “The Righteous Mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion” 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, am only absorbing a small part of it. No matter how much or how little of it I understand though, it is opening my mind in new and wonderful ways. It’s a revealing look at how complex our brains are as well as a deep dive in to where morals come from and why we’re able to differ on our interpretation of right from wrong.

In my favorite chapter “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”. Reading this was one of those moments where I felt like I was better able to understand myself.

“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 comfort when I stand somewhere that makes me feel small and insignificant. Triggering my hive switch is allowing me to feel 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 don’t know if this is true of everyone, but for me, there is a wonderful sense of peace that comes with being able to better understand oneself and why we do the things we do.

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. (Thanks to Claire & Brandon for loaning it to us and insisting that it’s a must-read.)

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By Michele


Hi, I'm Michele, a nomadic wedding photographer and lover of the great outdoors. I live on the road full-time and document my adventures daily. This is my personal blog where I share and record my thoughts on living simply and intentionally with less stress and more joy. Check out my wedding and portrait photography at


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