Posted on 1st March 2023 at 07:31
We were struck the other day by how different our requirements are for what makes us feel safe, not only personally, but in life generally. In our homes it’s easy to see. For some, it’s simply a case of shutting the front door when they get home. Phew, home at last (!). For others, it’s much more complicated. Putting the chain on, drawing the bolt – or bolts – and the rest. Perhaps it’s more like Fort Knox, than a home, with security lights and CCTV, which has to be checked regularly just to “make sure.”
But it isn’t just in our home security that our requirements for what makes us feel safe varies hugely. It can be seen in our day to day lives too. The beliefs, habits and routines we adopt to help us feel “safe.” In other words, to be certain of the outcome. And, this need for certainty is always a hint that we’re not in the driving seat of our lives, but someone else is. Yes, you’ve guessed it, the Little Monster in our heads.
Perhaps they’re driven by a belief that, if we do things in a certain way – or at a certain time – then we’ll be safer in some way. Or, just as often, don’t do something then everything will be ok. While some of these are perfectly understandable and sensible, say, remembering to lock the front door at night or not walking down a dark alley on our own, others are not. More often they’re simply copied – or learnt – from someone else, who probably did exactly the same thing themselves, without any conscious thought either. And, so, beliefs are handed on from person to person without anyone ever being aware of it…
Or, maybe, they’re driven by routine or habit. “I’ve always done x, y or z and I’ve always been safe”. Linking together certain events or actions when, in reality, neither has a bearing – or guarantees – the other. Sitting in a certain seat at home, at work or on the bus and this somehow keeps us safe. Perhaps doing things in a particular order, when doing them in any other order – or not at all (!) – makes no difference. We can all be a little obsessive or compulsive in certain aspects of our beliefs and behaviour, whether we’re aware of it or not.…
So, the question is whether this actually make life more certain or safer for us? And there are no prizes for guessing the answer. In reality, “no.”
At the same time – as with everything in life – this need or beliefs have a tendency to grow over time. One quickly leads to another, making our lives much more cumbersome and restricted. Whether additional bolts on our front door or becoming increasingly rigid on what we do and how we live our lives – or view the world around us.
So, why do we do it?
Well, as we’ve already mentioned, it’s all about trying to create certainty in our lives. What will happen and when it’ll happen.
Unfortunately, there are at least two big flaws – or oversights – in this logic.
The first is that there is certainty in life. And, “no”, we’re not talking about death and taxes (!). While we don’t often think about it, the only constant in life is change. However similar something may be, it never happens in exactly the same way as before. There are just too many variables for us to be able to predict, with 100% accuracy, what’s going to happen. Trying to rigidly control matters just doesn’t work. So, it’s always about using our experience and knowledge to make a “best guess” and act accordingly. While it may seem completely counter intuitive, flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances are what make us feel safe, rather than trying to rigidly control what happens.
The second follows on from this. That our little controlled cocoon will keep us safe. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is true. It becomes a prison, whether a physical one or in our emotions / feelings. And an ever more restrictive prison. Taking the joy of spontaneity and doing new things out of our lives.
So, regardless of the source, the end result is the same. More and more precautions are needed for us to feel safe but, by a twist of irony, we end up feeling less safe.
So, where are we going with this?
Well, again, it’s about actually noticing – often for the first time (!) – the things we’re doing to help us feel “safe” and the beliefs driving them. Do they really reflect who we are AND have the desired result? Often just asking these questions is all that’s needed for us to gain a different perspective on what we’re doing and the beliefs driving them. Realising that many have nothing to do with us or who we are, but come from other people. Are driven by fears - False Evidence Appearing Real (!) - rather than what is actually happening. It’s then simply a case of replacing any that don’t resonate with us or reflect who we are. And while a few simple – and sensible – precautions don’t go amiss, provided we’ve weighed up the situation beforehand, many only restrict us and our enjoyment of life.
As always, the choice is yours.
Photograph by unknown author
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