Why You Need a Tribe

Let’s trace back. Pick any time that is considered an ancestral time. A time when people were embedded with laborious work. Cold in the winter. Hot in the summer. Worried if they would have food the next day because of a seasonal drought. Staring potential death in the face over a minor cut.

Why in the world would we want to go back and observe this? Because after studying our ancestors, we discover amazing features. Features missing in modern times. Communities free of chronic disease, yes.  But let’s look a little closer. What do we find? We find intricately woven communities full of happy people. Happy even with the conditions they faced each day. Conditions that would potentially tear a modernized individual apart in no time. These were tribes. Am I sugar coating these times to reach my bottom line? Let’s see….

A tribe, as Seth Godin writes in his book Tribes, is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader (or group of leaders), and connected to an idea. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate. Geography used to be important for tribes, but now we have the ability to form tribes that come together both virtually and physically thanks to social technology.

As the founder of The Oil Tribe, I want to expand on why I formed this tribe and why the timing is perfect. Perfect for you. Perfect for me.  No sugar coating in between. After having 4 children and spending the first 5 years searching for the right “mom” group, I retreated to isolation and licked my wounds for the next 2 years. Those mom groups. Whew! Not all are negative, but I tell you what, if you join an attachment parenting group and do not cloth diaper, you better sleep with one eye open. SHAME ON YOU. Yeah, that was not for me. I have never operated well under prescribed conditions, as ironic as that may sound given that I spent my college days loving (and hating) life at the Naval Academy. Believe it or not, those times were the happiest social times in my adult life until recently. Why? Because we were all part of a tribe called a company. We all wore the same outfits, followed the same set of rules, and that left us room to be free. We all struggled immensely, both mentally and physically. We struggled together. We worked very hard and earned our tribe time together to play. I tell ya what,  that was one very smart person who studied our ancestors and structured the labor-intensive Naval Academy into a series of tribes. It’s strange because freedom really does have a wide range of meanings. I love freedom. I mean, I REALLY LOVE my freedom. But somehow merging freedom into a tribe that revolves around shared interests brings me great peace. I have faith that all of our tribe members feel the same peace.

Back to the story. After about 2 years void of social support (that means running fast away from just about all mom and/or homeschool groups), I found myself buried in homeschooling 4 sons, living 30 minutes from the nearest store, and I developed chronic loneliness. I had eaten organic food for 7 years, owned everything “natural” to the moon and back, yet I still had chronic issues caused by loneliness. I love my husband. He is my best friend, hands down. Even so, I had spent my entire time as a mother void of a tribe. During my early years, I jumped from one judgment-filled group to another. Those were not tribes. Those groups were full of people wearing masks. When the oils found me, I desperately needed them. I needed them to open up my heart to form a tribe. I knew for many years that I was called to, but I did not have the confidence to be vulnerable enough to do so. And when I say vulnerable, I mean the “standing in front of a crowd naked desperately trying to find your clothes” kind of vulnerable. This world that we inhabit is ruthless. To form a tribe in order to save those ruthless people from themselves is not an easy undertaking.

 

Why? Why did I reveal everything in order to form The Oil Tribe?

 

Have you heard of the Roseto Effect? This was a series of studies, the first beginning in 1966, which observed a close-knit Italian-American community in Roseto, Pennsylvania. This village came to be a living laboratory because social researchers wanted to know how they were able to live long, happy lives. The men of the village smoked and drank copious amounts of wine. They spent their days immersed in hard labor, working 200 feet below in slate quarries. Back on the home front, dinner tables were covered with traditional Italian food, rich in flavor, but also rich in dietary fat since much of their meat was cooked in lard.

The burning question smoking from the researchers’ brains: Why was this community so healthy, free of disease, crime, and just so darn happy even though they drank alcohol, smoked, and ate a seemingly poor diet by any dietician’s standards? Well it seemed like those nightly table-side rituals buried in jolly laughter with a wine glass in hand nourished both the spirit and the body. In “The Power of the Clan,” an updated study that covers a time period from 1935 to 1984, they found that mutual respect and cooperation within the Roseto community contributed to the health and welfare of them. That love and acceptance for each other translated to longevity.

Why did the Roseto community form? Well, tracing the history, sociologists found that early immigrants were shunned by the English and Welsh who dominated that corner of Pennsylvania. The Rosetans built their own tribe and culture that revolved around hard work followed by joyous celebrations and love.  Everyone worked in this community towards a common goal – a better life for their children. Sadly their culture began to change when the white-collar class began to infiltrate. The younger generations built suburban homes, achieved material success, and found gains at the expense of the traditional values that once defined them.

 

“I’m sorry we moved; everything is modern and we have everything I need here, except people.”

 

Humans must remain connected. We need each other. New research from Carnegie Mellon indicates that feeling connected to others, especially through physical touch, protects us from stress-induced sickness. The article continues to write, “Social support can broadly be defined as the perception of meaningful relationships that serve as a psychological resource during tough times. Interpersonal conflict can cause people a lot of stress and thereby weaken their immune systems. Yet regardless of how much conflict they endured, participants in this study with a strong sense of social support developed less severe cold symptoms than those who felt socially deprived. In other words, both social support and hugging prevented against illness.” The findings from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reveal that the “personal benefits of social groups come not only from their ability to make people feel good, but also from their ability to make people feel capable and in control of their lives.”

So what happens when we are chronically isolated, lonely, and full of judgment towards others? Well, research proves that loneliness and not having a small social network (that means NOT HAVING A TRIBE), corresponds with a lower antibody response, meaning a weaker immune system. Research also points towards the stress that lonely people feel increases cortisol levels, which leads to a domino effect of negative health effects ranging from adrenal fatigue to elevated blood pressure.

Just as you may prioritize healthy eating and exercise, you need to prioritize quality time with loved ones and a tribe of accepting people who LOVE you. How in the world will you ever be able to love yourself if those around you do not love you?  Our culture judges a smoker but accepts the act of living in isolation? Health advocates demonize heavy drinkers but welcome gossip & judgment? Parents fall into the socially-led trap of over scheduling their children but accept the media’s defined perceptions of perfection for those same children?

I have been saddened by these conflicting acceptances for a very long time. People do not really change until 100% ready. You can all relate to that, I am sure. We adopt a 14 day cleanse only to return back to our original food culture. We buy that Groupon to the gym for 3 months and then resort back to a sedentary life stepping on the scale daily. How do we change and never look back? Well, one day a dear friend pointed me to literature written by Dr. Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine. She wrote, “One day, you will love yourself so much that you will decide you’re done with the habit, you’re ready to accomplish the goal, and the time is now.” After I read this, I realized who this tribe really is. We love each other and teach each other how to find that beautiful person inside each of us waiting for the same recognition. We support each other on hard days when our light shines a bit dimmer than usual.

We are a tribe founded on ancestral health principles. Now do you see what it truly means? The Oil Tribe was founded on the intrinsic need to socially connect but also on the need to execute healthier lifestyles with food, sleep, exercise, and living!

The oils bring us together. It’s our shared interest. We all desire to be healthier. It’s our shared interest. We come together, and we change each other for the better. That’s who we are.

I am so glad that you found us. I love you for who you are and welcome you into the tribe. You are safe here (even if you don’t cloth diaper). You are free to be YOU.

See you very soon for that hug,

Ashley

p.s. this video by Dr. Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine, is worth a watch.

 

Resources:

Grossman and Leroux “A New Roseto Effect” Chicago Tribune 1996.

Scientific American “A Hug a Day Keeps the Doctor Away.”

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology “From We to Me”

Lissa Rankin, MD “Mind Over Medicine” and supporting literature