BY: T. Franklin Murphy | November 2017
We need a sense of security to thrive. If we are continually frightened, we will pull into ourselves and limit opportunity.
We seek safety; an evolutionary drive to live. But security is continually shaken in the constant dishevel of change. Life is unpredictable, surprising at every corner. The unplanned events jump from the shadows, startling our resolves. We expend vast energy attempting to create a comfortable and stable environment.
To achieve stability, we build a psychological framework to explain the world in simple controllable terms. We create a distorted world that we pretend to control, building a false sense of safety. This false vision limits explorations into the unknowns, beyond safety of our protective cocoon.
Overprotective existence eventually fails. We can’t control the world; events will intrude, piercing the armor, exposing our vulnerabilities. The world and the countless contributing factors don’t march to our independent beat of how things should be. By excluding ourselves from experience, we stunt our growth, leaving us naked and afraid to the harshness of reality.
Safety, however, can be strengthened, providing a shelter from the hazards of living. Here are some avenues to explore that will enhance your sense of safety:
If we don’t feel safe, but live a risky lifestyle the fears are legitimate. We must first address behaviors, habits and environments posing serious risk to our physical safety and emotional well-being. Dangerous living rightfully ignites fear of injury or harm. Dismissing the emotional signals of danger invites the tragedy of consequence. Careless intoxication from drugs and alcohol lowers inhibitions, while ignoring ordinary precautions; unscrupulous eating heightens risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes; unprotected sex opens vulnerabilities to destructive diseases; dangerous partners injure and kill. Security demands wise living.
We are social animals. We need others to support, and share resources. Healthy relationships create a safety net of secure attachment. If our lifestyle continually borrows from others but fails to give, we lose the creditability as an equal partner. The security eventually dries and the welcoming hands close. We are left to our own ruin.
Escape from Dangerous Thoughts
Our thoughts become a felt reality. If we constantly mull over the future, fearing impending doom, we will fear life, shrinking from the liveliness of living. The dangerous patterns of anxiety ridden thought are often a gift from the past—critical parents, dangerous environments, and unfortunate tragedies. Changing these patterns requires new skills. Yoga, non-judgmental reflections, meditation, mindful experiences deviate from normal processing allowing the small details of feeling to permeate instead of the running commentary of our minds. The idea is learning to experience life in a different realm rather than in high-alert for possible danger.
"We can’t control the world; events will intrude, piercing the armor, exposing our vulnerabilities."
Develop Skills that Expand Opportunities
Life is complex and futures remain in flux. We prepare for the unknown by expanding our skills in a variety of disciplines. Specializing creates competitiveness; and we should work towards specializations but not ignorantly filter all knowledge outside of a chosen domain. Knowledge is power.
Challenging Catastrophic Thinking
The constant threat of catastrophe grates on our soul, keeping the body in constant fear of destruction. Most of our catastrophic ponderings are bunk, building upon small slivers of threat and creating exploding bombshells. We must identify and challenge these damaging thoughts.
A daily or weekly journal can draw focus to the overlooked success. We routinely surmount obstacles both small and large. We can relive these successes by writing them down, recognizing our resiliency to the ordinary challenges of life.
These are tools—ideas. Psychological growth and healing is a dynamic process, not solved with mathematical precision. Tools are incomplete. They must be integrated and molded to our individual needs. Sometimes fears are quickly resolved; more often they must be slowly coaxed into more workable companions. Our childhoods are complex; our experiences dynamic. True safety doesn’t come from avoidance of feeling but engagement of feeling. We grow through contact. Over time, successes nourish a growing trust that we can approach and conquer the vicissitudes of life. When we have faith in our strength to deal with the unplanned changes, the world no longer appears as scary. With self-confidence, we find courage to face new challenges and constructively approach the surprise events. Failure doesn’t shake our foundation because we know failures are temporary and instructive. We can’t control our children, partner, or employment but can enhance our skills to manage the difficulties.