The group exists within the relationships among individuals. I have referred to this as a spiritual space. The group is comprised of social emotions which are defined as having evolved at the associational level. When Alfred Russell Wallace, the co-discoverer of natural selection, states that “…the whole raison d’etre of the material universe…is to serve the grand purpose of developing human spirits in human bodies,” I assume he is referring to the force that has resulted in the formation of human groups, which in this Narrative is a living spirit comprised of the collective emotions-and-motivations of groups themselves.
The currently reigning paradigm assumes the primacy of cognition over emotion and motivation: there is nothing in a group but individuals each calculating what benefits a cooperative interaction has for them. But emotions need not play second fiddle to such cognitive baggage. I propose that the social emotions existing within the relationships among the individuals of a group are expressions (phenotypes) of genes that evolve by selectively replicating and reconstituting themselves to again compete in each new generation. So, this living entity, the protagonist in the Narrative, lives its life in the ethereal world of those emotions that promote the formation and survival of groups in nature. Far from being corrupted into tortured Machiavellian machinations, the emotions and motivations of groups possess a singular purity and constancy of purpose: that of ceaselessly pushing and pulling individuals together. Richard Dawkins expounded a “gene’s eye” view of evolution in The Selfish Gene (1976). Here I portray a “group’s eye” view.
The villain in this drama, in which the group is the hero, is the antisocial responses of fight and flight. The protagonist emotions residing in primate groups have already been introduced as the two fundamental fears of interpersonal separation and of being “trapped” at the bottom or periphery of groups. Stated another way, one fear is of increasing distances from interpersonal relationships (e.g.: mother–offspring bonds) and the other is the fear of decreasing distances from the periphery of groups. These two fears exerted a relentless cohesive force that entered into a continuous dynamic with the primeval divisive force of the fight and flight response, thus restraining individuals from chasing one another out of their groups. The gradual establishment of stability in the dynamic between these two sets of opposing emotions produced the social molecule of the dominance–submission relationship among the individuals of a primate group. Determined by the dynamically constrained impulses of fight and flight, the mentalities of dominance and submission naturally organized their primate participants into vertical social hierarchies.
Just as birds became specialists in the spatial ecology of the air, primates became specialists in the emotional “ecology” of the dynamic hierarchies of their groups. Far from physical, this ecology is comprised of a fluid, “publically held” registry of a group’s most recent social interactions. In the book, Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind (2007), authors Cheney and Seyfarth determined that every single baboon knows exactly where he or she stands at a particular moment in time in their somewhat fluid hierarchies of approximately one hundred animals, and all behave according to these hierarchical “rules.”
A game is competition with rules. The fight and flight emotions were drawn into creating a game produced by their interaction with the two social fears of separation and being trapped. Over the course of millions of years primates became the most intelligent animals on earth because they evolved competitive skills honed by playing this internal hierarchy-game, which became all-consuming, particularly among males. Primate cognitions focused on competitively reading each other’s minds are adaptations to an environment comprised entirely of social emotion.