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The Biology of Belonging

Why Oxytocin is Hard to Trigger and What You Can Do

written by Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD June 22, 2021
The Biology of Belonging

When you see a group of animals, you may think they have the kind of togetherness that you are missing. But the fact is that animals have a lot of drama in their social groups. They create this drama with the limbic brain that we have inherited. It’s easier to understand your social frustrations when you know how the biology of belonging works with animals.

Social support promotes survival, and natural selection built a brain that rewards you with the good feeling of oxytocin when you find social support. When a mammal leaves its group, it feels threatened. This motivates it to return to the good feeling of safety in numbers.

Oxytocin helps create the good feeling that it’s safe to lower your guard. Sharing the burden of vigilance with others allows a mammal to relax enough to fill its belly. But a herd only protects you if you run when the others run. You may not like to be a herd follower, but if you don’t keep track of what others are doing, you can find yourself isolated and in danger. So you run when the others run, even though they have a lot of false alarms.

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