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  • Writer's pictureJulia Gillis

Book Review: Tribe by Sebastian Junger

(*warning-this blog is probably full of spelling mistakes...)

I am big on the importance of building & maintaining a healthy tribe.

It was huge for me while I was doing recovery from a low nurture childhood. The term 'tribe' for me is synonomous with the words community, village & social ecosystem.

Learning that "love & belonging," as explained in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, was a biological craving for humans offered a deep 'aha' moment during my creation of a meaningful & happy life. Especially in regards to the tolerance of abuse people will sustain in order to feel connectd to others & the deep suffering people experience in the absence of human connection.

From the website link above, "Examples of belongingness needs include friendship, intimacy, trust, acceptance, receiving and giving affection, and love.

This need is especially strong in childhood and can override the need for safety, as witnessed in children who cling to abusive parents."

I came across this book by it being mentioned in a Tim Ferriss podcast (though I can't remember which one.) It sat in my Amazon 'Saved for Later' list for quite some time before randomly choosing to add it to a lucky group of necessities, like a tourist hitching a ride.

I remember the title caught my attention & it must have been accompanied by a description that captured me. I doubled down on my interest when reading the back leaf:

"Tribal society has been exerting an almost gravitational pull on Westerners for hundreds of years, and the reason lies deep in our evolutionary past as a communal species. The most recent example of that attraction is combat veterans who come home to find themselves missing the incredibly intimate bonds of platoon life. The loss of closeness that comes at the end of deployment may explain the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by military veterans today. Sebastian Junger argues that the difficulties many veterans face upon returning home from war do not stem entirely from the trauma they’ve suffered, but also from the individualist societies they must reintegrate into.

Drawing from history, psychology, and anthropology, Tribe illustrates the irony that—for many veterans as well as civilians—war feels better than peace, adversity can turn out to be a blessing, and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations. Junger explains why we are stronger when we come together, and how that can be achieved even in today’s divided world."

The mix of topics tied a nice bow around some of my favorite research porn: anthropology, physchology, PTSD & trauma and sociology. Plus, since becoming a military spouse - it was extra spicy.

When the book arrived I was shocked at how short of a read it is, topping out at 136 pages. This writer is more often known for his journalism so its length is well suited. More importantly he gets straight to the point. Out of the 4 chapters in this book, the first 3 are extremely compelling portrayals of our deep seeded human wiring for close connection. It makes comparisons between the egalitarian behavior & tight support found in the indigenous culture, military life on tour & with people (civilians) in war torn geographical locations.

The way he dscribes our current 'civilized' social design feels like he simply kicks away the dust that covers something so obvious - but many of us are to distracted to aknowledge. Our political & social organization robs many of us of the opportunity to connect. Humans live in a communal way for the safety, protection & benefit of what it has to offer. But we have created so many things that allow for us to depend only on ourselves that we no longer require a 'village' to function or access resources for most of our lifetime. Yet this causes emmense suffering at a low hum within us.

We often struggle to describe why we feel so disconnected, isolated & a lack of anything. But there are so many people around us, everywhere.

Junger is able to spell it out, loud & clear. Circumstances like platoon life, war, natural disasters or anything that requires everyone to shut the hell up & work together so as many people will survive as possible are what draw the best out of humans.

It takes more than a celebration or event to feel connected with others. People require purpose. Humans have this awesome frontal lobe development that pushes us to create identity, self actualization & seek a sence of worth or usefulness during our short time on earth.

The second facinating topic covered in the book is the relationship between PTSD development & duration with a person's sense of connection & community. The third chapter has an amazing explination of the correlation between having a supportive 'tribe' - whatever that looks like for someone - and their potential recovery from traumatic events. This is completely outside of the biomedical model of mental health help. He showcases some cultures where, despite war being a common part of their history & daily lives; PTSD (and it's symptoms) are basically nonexistant.

"...modern society reduced the role of community..."

For myself, being a part of a tribe or community was essential for my recovery from a toxic background. The number of resiliency skills that must be built in conjunction with building relationships far outweight the reseliency that is build in the privacy of our own mind. Things like integrity, boundaries, conflict resolution, knowing your purpose, accountability & ownership - all need witnesses. They require us to be seen. They require us to have other participants; both when we ask for help & when we role model.

I highly recommend this book. It covers a lot of ground in a very direct way with amazing stories laced throughout. I was honestly shocked at how short the point was & how much I gained from it.


If you would like to start building your Core Resiliency Skills contact Coach Julia today. You will learn how to Thrive beyond your damage, become a Transitional Character, break abuse cycles in your family cycle & build the core resiliency skills most often missed when being raised in a low nurture environment.

Julia is a Holistic Health Consultant, holding a Double Diploma in Community Support & Addictions Work, is a Certified Transformation Specialist, Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach & a Lvl 2 Reiki Practitioner. She specializes in Trauma Informed Practice & Resiliency Coaching. 

If you are seeking material on parenting beyond your damage, check out the first of my workbook series Parenting Beyond Your Damage on (and

You can work through The Pillars of Resiliency while learning to bond with your child to end the intergenerational abuse cycle.

Units 2-6 are do to be released soon.

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