How do you cultivate a sense of security?
July 2, 2013 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Loss and change are inevitable, but what does it mean to be/ feel secure in spite of that? when most of life is actually good

1) What does security mean?
2) How can I feel more secure? as in, how can feeling secure be my default state, instead of doubting and feeling "on edge"?
3) How can I turn insecurities into something productive?

(Thank you Mefi for helping me figure out Life's Tough Questions during one's 20s)

Some adults in my life (parents, grandparents) are very insecure, although they have the necessities and what many others lack. I would guess Mitt and Ann Romney have secure lives, in that they don't need to worry about their survival-- but theirs is not the state I aspire to be. I know for a fact that achieving certain goals (family, house, retirement) and being actually secure, does not mean one FEELS secure. One, the more you have, the more there is to lose. But what other reasons are there??

How does one feel emotionally secure? The fact is people come and go, there will always be others who are better than myself, and human beings are permanently works in progress. It's not fun to think about but these facts never go away. How do you live with that and feel secure?

Maybe security is an elusive state, because everything CAN, in fact, be taken away or lost. One can easily feel insecure about everything they have-- appearances, losing your significant other to life or other people, losing money due to a disaster or not managing it well, children moving away, getting older, mortality itself. BUT the truth is, most of the time I have what I need in life-- so I have no reason to feel insecurity. At least in my life now, insecurity is an unnecessary feeling!

But knowing a few adults, especially people close to the end of their lives, feeling insecure, triggered this question. As well as recognizing that I really envy some people, and feel lacking, even though my life is just fine as it is. What purpose does insecurity serve??
posted by ichomp to Religion & Philosophy (18 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Stop watching all corporate news - local, national, public. It is full of nothing but death, misery and fear - and it holds our attention, and it;s hard to shake, and that shit is poisonous to feeling secure.

If you need to, use the Weather Channel website to check whether or not to bring an umbrella today.

I stopped years ago, and I have felt much better about life since then.
posted by The Blue Olly at 11:34 AM on July 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

I couldn't possibly summarize them in a comment, but The Wisdom of Insecurity (Alan Watts) and Comfortable with Uncertainty (Pema Chodron) are really good books on exactly this topic.

I will say this though - you sound like you're poised to go down a rabbit hole: "Am I secure enough? How about now? Now?" You can't be secure while thinking about how secure you are.
posted by desjardins at 11:37 AM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

1) figure out what you do actually NEED and stop comparing that with anyone else.
2) stop watching the news.
3) for me, security was realizing I would never be homeless or starving, even if that meant having to couch surf with friends and family. Because I have a wide security net of friends and family who would feed me and let me stay with them. Because I am a kind and reciprocal individual. And for me the answer to number 1 is to have food, shelter, and people.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:38 AM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

...losing your significant other to life or other people...

This happened to me. My wife died of cancer at 33. you'd think this could have shaken me to my core and had me questioning everything and worrying about my own health... but it didn't. Life for me has carried on, and I think that's the thing that makes me not worry too much about what might happen in the future. What could be worse than having your spouse die? Not much, really, but even still, I carried on. My life is still going OK. My daughter is healthy. You know what I did after my wife died? I bought a sailboat. My wife never really cared for sailing, so I had gotten rid of my last sailboat years before, but hey, seize the day, right?

But the fact is, every failure, every hard time, every difficult thing that's every happened to me, even the *really* difficult ones, has led me to where I am right now. And like you, where I am right now is pretty good. So what happens if another bad thing happens to me? I lose my job, or get sick? Well, probably, after a while, it turns out OK and I'm in a pretty good place again.

Sure, one day that won't happen. Something will kill me eventually. But that's inevitable and I'm not going to spend my time worrying about it. For now, "this too shall pass" and eventually everything gets better.

It's worked for me.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:38 AM on July 2, 2013 [18 favorites]

To me, security is knowing I can roll with whatever punches life throws me. As a very smart person once said to me, "It [the particular situation you're in] may not be ok, but YOU will be ok."
posted by MsMolly at 11:57 AM on July 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

The feeling of security boils down to having a little faith in yourself. You're not worried about losing what you have because you know you'll find a way forward, even if terrible things happen.

And, funny thing is, the less worried you are about losing what you have, the less desperately you cling to it; with relationships (of all kinds) this tends to make for a healthier, stronger relationship; and with things, this letting go, this lack of attachment liberates you from unnecessary cares and worries.

Now, all of that is easier said than done. But it starts with adopting a certain point of view; and then you just try to live it the best you can. It takes practice. And you have to keep the pratice up, so it's just part of your everyday life. And, ain't nobody perfect! We all succumb to worries or fears from time to time. That's OK, too. You just fall back on your practice, and soon you're back on track.
posted by fikri at 12:00 PM on July 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

But the fact is, every failure, every hard time, every difficult thing that's every happened to me, even the *really* difficult ones, has led me to where I am right now. And like you, where I am right now is pretty good. So what happens if another bad thing happens to me? I lose my job, or get sick? Well, probably, after a while, it turns out OK and I'm in a pretty good place again.

This is so, so wise and so much the heart of the matter.

In the end, for me, it has come down to telling myself: "whatever happens, I can handle it." And it's true; the fact that I've made it through every hard thing that's already happened (loss, pain, heartbreak, illness, the death of loved ones) proves that whatever happens, I can handle it. It doesn't mean that these things aren't painful and difficult; it just means that I know I can endure pain and difficulty, and remain myself -- even discover more about myself -- while going through them. I also know, through experience, that there are great discoveries and connections that can be made in the midst of even the toughest times.

Yes, in the end, everything can and will slip away. That's what makes it all so amazing.

Whatever happens, you can handle it.
posted by scody at 12:04 PM on July 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

Thank you for all the positivity! For anyone reading this is another relevant thread.

And, funny thing is, the less worried you are about losing what you have, the less desperately you cling to it

It is hard to find the balance, because I have also been on the other end of feeling so unattached and not caring about anything, when I didn't have things going on in life. So just how much should we cling on to things in life??
posted by ichomp at 12:05 PM on July 2, 2013

It is absolutely good to care about things, especially the people in your life, or the work (or play) that brings you a deep sense of satisfaction. Care a lot! But caring does not imply clinging.

Maybe you love someone. After a time, they discover that to live the life they need to live, they have to go somewhere far away. Maybe going with them will turn out to be the right path for both of you. But maybe your life compels you to stay. So what do you do? If you cling, then maybe you try to convince the other person to stay with you; or you end up going with them anyway, even though it's not the right choice for you. That almost never ends well.

But if you choose to let go, that does not mean you don't care. When I say 'you're not worried about losing what you have' it means you're fully aware of the risk of losing something that matters a lot. Because it's worth the risk. And because you have faith in your ability to be OK in the end, no matter how it turns out.
posted by fikri at 12:31 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

A wise person once said: "You have gotten through every single obstacle in your life up until this point. Every single one. Maybe the outcome wasn't always ideal, but you dealt with it, and you're here now. So, what makes you think you can't get through this obstacle?"
posted by danceswithlight at 12:34 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

I have to say that the whole "Family, house, retirement" paradigm is really not all that great.

I can't WAIT to sell my house and move into an apartment, in fact we're putting our house on the market next week.

I love the expression, "everything you know is wrong." Basically, if you're living your life based on what other people like, enjoy and have that makes them feel secure, you may NEVER have that feeling.

I feel secure when I have no debt. I feel secure when I have a good job. I feel secure with Husbunny.

I think you really have to know who you are, only then can you really understand what it will take you to feel secure.

No matter how with it you feel, there will be times when you're a sodden mess. Welcome to the human race.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:44 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

In the span of three months I got a rare cancerous brain tumor, got a call out of the blue from my estranged father on his deathbed who disowned me, lost my job and had to write off a number of once-important people in my life, including my best friend from childhood.

After that, everything's pretty much a walk in the park. Now my biggest problem is trying to keep a straight face while sitting in meetings where people wring their hands over inconsequential stuff.

Somebody smarter than me said "any idiot can get through a crisis. It's the day to day living that gets you down."

You can live your life scared and worried or you can get out there and experience life. I don't always heed my own advice but I sure try to.
posted by Atom12 at 12:56 PM on July 2, 2013 [10 favorites]

The cover story of Time Magazine this week is a very long article about The Pursuit of Happiness. I didn't read it, but surely it must talk about some of these things you are touching upon, including envy/jealousy and financial security, so you might want to check it out.
posted by Dansaman at 1:06 PM on July 2, 2013

I also stopped watching the news years ago. The news is almost always something negative. It is almost never news when things go right.

I say this pretty often and my optimistic view is frequently decried. So a couple of real world examples: 1) y2k was predicted as the end of the world, where banks would stop functioning, etc. When the day finally arrived and important systems had already been fixed by programmers working quietly behind the scene so most people experienced little more than now their old vcr couldn't be readily programmed to tape in advance, it did not get the same attention as the predicted impending doom had gotten. 2) When Saddam Hussein assholishly lit oil wells on his way out of the country during The Gulf War, initial dire predictions were months of burning, large scale (global) eco-catastrophe, etc. When crack teams from around the world converged on the burning oil wells and then invented new techniques on the spot to put the fires out in record time, that miraculous feat got almost no air time. When, in the aftermath of being inundated with smoke and water from the fires and firefighting, the desert bloomed like no one had seen in at least twenty years, if ever, that also was not announced with fanfare. It was sort of a footnote mentioned in passing in articles that focused on something else containing more drama.

There are reasons humans fixate on the negative. It is part of survival of the fittest. Paying attention to bad things keeps you alive. We blare announcements about killer storms because it can help save lives. We do not need to blare announcements about a pleasant sunny day because it probably isn't a danger that you need to be urgently warned about.

However, focusing too much on the negative does take its toll and has negative impact. "Counting your blessings" can help couteract that -- in other words, when I am freaking out, I intentionally list things that are going well. If I am too freaked to be rational, I ask my sons to list what is going well. I also try to frame concerns and projections within realistic parameters. Most of the time, the freak out moment centers around imagining some extreme scenario that isn't realistic. Taking a moment to assess more realistic worst case scenarios usually puts a stop to running screaming across the stage of life with arms flailing like Kermit the frog.

I also try to keep an eye on big picture items. For me, currently, life is pretty dicey and stressful. But my health continues to improve and my debts are going down and productivity is going up. So the long term view is on track and I expect day-to-day life to get easier in a few more months. If something unexpected happens, the months in between might be pretty darn freaking uncomfortable but they will pass, I will get to the other side, and I will eventually see a pay off. If the long view is on track, I try to not sweat the small stuff on a daily basis, even though it can be pretty crazy-making.
posted by Michele in California at 1:14 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

For me, security comes from knowing that while everything else is subject to change and loss (my job, my friends, my life, my house, my health, etc, etc, the one thing that is unchanging is God and his love for me. Through the ups and inevitable downs of life this has been my security; my comfort; my rock. Knowing that I'm not sheltered from terror but i have the hand of God to hold when things get scary has brought immeasurable peace and security. I lost my father, my sister, and my favorite dog to death within months of each other in 2011 and it was very difficult. But God saw me through to the other side.

There is nothing else that will never let you down except for God- cling to him and you can weather anything.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 6:55 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Read the news. Don't watch it.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 8:05 PM on July 2, 2013

For me the formula to security is this: What would it take for me to either find another job, or set up some kind of trade or business that could pay enough bills to have bread and a table to put it on? How long might that take and how much money would I need to stay afloat during that time.

If possible, save aggressively until you have a rainy-day fund that meets the value above.

Then breath a huge sigh of relief, and when you next get a paycheck, save a bit less this time and put the difference into a session of no-guilt relaxed retail therapy or whatever other luxury you've been hurting for from the months or years of belt-tightening.

(This simplistic formula works best if you're in good health and don't have kids, etc.)
posted by anonymisc at 11:23 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Part of this is constitutional -- some people are wired to have a more positive/hopeful outlook than others, and it sounds like you were raised in an atmosphere of greater worry. Just having this as a goal is a good start. It's ok to enjoy things, to have things that you own and like, but to keep in mind that it's the interior/intangible things that matter -- that is, that if you had to live in your car for a while, you might miss your favorite things but you'd still be fine. You'd still have things to think about, people to care about, etc. If you can find that balance -- or at least spend your life seeking it, you'll be doing great.
posted by acm at 8:21 AM on July 3, 2013

« Older That's a lot of Slim Jims and Slurpees   |   Help me cheaply improve my crappy apartment's... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.