The Dangers of Safety
We all crave security and stability – some of us more than others. Human beings are like geese – we mate for life (or at least plan to). And we are pack animals like wolves and gorillas – we form tribes, societies, and groups to belong.
Security can look like a steady job, being in a long-term relationship, having a growing 401K, staying in the same town or church, having the approval of those whose opinions matter to us, and more….
But safety doesn’t make us happy all on its’ own. We all have varying degrees of needs for….
· Finding meaning in our days and lives
· Fun or enjoyment
· Love and authentic connection with others
· Good health
· To be respected for who we truly are
I feel best when I honor all of these – in their own time. When I walk the dog of my friend who just had surgery, I honor my need for meaningful contribution and connection. When my husband and I sit on the couch and watch Wanda Sykes, it’s not terribly meaningful – but her outrageous humor makes me laugh so hard I cry. Or when I go to get scraped at the dentist next week, it isn’t fun, but it honors my need for good health.
We all sacrifice and deny these various needs as a price for security. And our wise bodies and emotions will send signals that we are off-track from heading toward our best lives.
· You might notice that the longer you stay in that well-paying, unfulfilling job, the more depressed you get.
· Maybe you sacrifice a healthy weight for security. As you try to not upset your spouse who gets angry when he drinks too much, anxiety and emotional eating grows.
· Or you’ve noticed a correlation between back pain and visiting critical in-laws.
· Perhaps you aren’t going on a dream trip to Alaska because you want to be a “good son” and your mom doesn’t want to hire any help even though she can afford it.
· Or you find yourself irritable each time you see the kids’ principal and realize it’s because you really don’t want to volunteer for the PTA fundraisers anymore.
So here’s the question to ask ourselves regularly: “Today, where might I be squashing my needs or wishes in order to protect the status quo or to not lose others’ approval?”
The great news is that we don’t have to do anything drastic – don’t have to blow up our lives – in order to start tending more to our non-security needs. Maybe you trim that trip to your mother-in-law’s from 4 nights to 3. Or you start opening up to a trusted friend about your husband’s drinking. Perhaps you experiment with not signing up to volunteer at next month’s event at the kids’ school and see how that feels.
Judy O’Neill, MSW
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