We can identify both an individualistic, competitive side to the action of the life-energy and a collective, cooperative side. The first and primary impulse, however, is the competitive, and even when an individual participates in family, community or society, there is a major component of the individualistic enmeshed in that participation.
Sri Aurobindo observes: “In the family the individual seeks for the satisfaction of his vital instinct of possession, as well as for the joy of companionship, and for the fulfilment of his other vital instinct of self-reproduction. His gains are the possession of wife, servants, house, wealth, estates, the reproduction of much of himself in the body and mind of his progeny and the prolongation of his activities, gains and possessions in the life of his children; incidentally he enjoys the vital and physical pleasures and the more mental pleasures of emotion and affection to which the domestic life gives scope. In society he finds a less intimate but a larger expansion of himself and his instincts. A wider field of companionship, interchange, associated effort and production, errant or gregarious pleasure, satisfied emotion, stirred sensation and regular amusement are the advantages which attach him to social existence. In the nation and its constituent parts he finds a means for the play of a remoter but still larger sense of power and expansion.”
Thus, individuals are striving to ‘get ahead’ in society, to achieve specific results to satisfy their vital drives for domination, control, or for financial accumulation, ease and comfort of life and the physical well-being and enjoyment that wealth brings, or to obtain fame and acclamation for the other members of society.
Even those who abandon life in the world and seek solitude may do so from a sense of restriction of the individual rather than from a higher motive of spiritual seeking of some sort. In these cases, the individual egoism is active even in the rejection of the societal framework, as the individual seeks to aggrandise himself without the borders or limits imposed by the society.
There can, of course, be motives and actions not based on the egoistic drive for self-expansion, and thus, we may find that the other balancing forces that act upon the vital nature may come eventually into play; yet the first and foremost action is the one dominated by ego and self-control.
Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 16, The Suprarational Ultimate of Life, pp. 159-161