The 5 Faces Of Fundamental Human Conflict

Faces Fundamental Human Conflict

2. The Fundamental Human Conflict Related to Group Projects at School

You are in a group of four students and your group PowerPoint is due tonight at midnight. It is 7pm. You had fully planned on doing your part on time. Just as you sit down at the computer, you get a text from a friend saying that she has just turned up an extra ticket for a concert of your favorite band who happens to be in town for one special performance tonight. 

3. The Fundamental Human Conflict in Family Situations

You are planning to go with your family to your brother’s house for Thanksgiving tomorrow, as you do every year. You just got a text from your brother telling you that your uncle Joe will be attending. Last year, Joe slighted you and your whole family hard at the dinner table and you have since, quite publicly and clearly, fully cut off ties with Joe. And you know full well that your bother knows the deal.

Read 14 Ways A Narcissistic Grandmother Can Harm Your Children

4. The Fundamental Human Conflict in the Choir

You were passed over for a solo during last year’s winter performance and you have been hell-bent on making sure that you have a solo this year. As it turns out, you’ve also recently been promoted to the position of musical director for your choir.

Your friend Sarah just tried out for the solo that you are gunning for. It is from a new Taylor Swift song and Sarah truly brought the house down. It is clear to everyone, including yourself, that her performance has it all over yours. In your role as musical director, you get the final say. 

Eliminate everything that gives conflicted feelings
The 5 Faces Of Fundamental Human Conflict

5. The Fundamental Human Conflict in Relationships

It is your partner’s birthday tomorrow and the only thing she has asked is that she gets to spend it with you. You have booked reservations at the finest restaurant in town for 7 pm. At about 3 pm you get a text from your college roommate whom you haven’t seen in years.

He and three of your other buddies from college are heading down to Atlantic City for the night in a limo. They ask you to join, all expenses paid.

Read 3 Human Desires To Thrive: How To Make Someone Feel Seen, Loved And Understood 

Bottom Line

Constantly in life, we must balance what is in our own interest against what is in the interest of some broader group or community to which we belong. From an evolutionary perspective, this situation arises from the fact that across human evolutionary history, we have been shaped by both within-group pressures, to benefit ourselves, and between-group pressures, to act in the interests of some broader group to which we belong. In an important sense, we can think of this fact of human social life as the fundamental human conflict. And variants of this conflict exist across any and all spheres of our social life (see Geher & Wedberg, 2020).

Understanding the nature of this conflict and its evolutionary underpinnings might help us see such situations more clearly and might help guide us toward making relatively wise decisions in the long run. 


Dawkins, R. (1976). The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Geher, G. & Wedberg, N. (2020). Positive Evolutionary Psychology: Darwin’s Guide to Living a Richer Life. New York: Oxford University Press.
Wilson, D. S. (2002). Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion and the Nature of Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Wilson, D. S. (2007). Evolution for everyone: How Darwin’s theory can change the way we think about our lives. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.
Wilson, D. S. (2019). This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution. Pantheon: New York. 

Written by: Glenn Geher, Ph.D.
Originally appeared on Psychology Today
Republished with permission
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The 5 Faces Of Fundamental Human Conflict
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