It is quite common for people to be rated according to how secure they are, especially people who are perceived to be low on any such rating scale – that is, people who are viewed as ‘insecure’. But what does it mean to refer to someone as ‘insecure’? Or as ‘secure’, for that matter?
The world is a very insecure place, in the sense that, as the old saying goes, the only certainties are death and taxes. No one knows what is going to happen next. Our lives could potentially be turned upside down at any moment, with horrendous consequences. Disaster could be just round the corner.
But it probably isn’t.
Yes, it is true that many people will face disaster every day, but then there will be literally billions who do not. So, it is important to get things in perspective. We are constantly surrounded by risk. Some form of danger is ever-present. But most of the time, in most situations, we are quite safe. No one is ever going to be totally safe in all situations. The technical terms for this are ‘contingency’ and ‘flux’. Contingency means there are no guarantees – things can change at any moment (for the better or for the worse). Flux means that things are constantly changing, albeit generally at a very gradual pace. But what do these technical terms mean in practice?
Contingency means that we can’t be 100% sure that things will go according to plan. So, we need a Plan B; we need to take account of ‘contingencies’. Depending on how important and/or complex the circumstances are, we might also need a Plan C at times. Flux means that we need to be ready to adapt to change – an attitude that assumes that the way things are now is the way they will always be is one that will set us up for heartache sooner or later.
This does not mean that we should go to the opposite extreme and start panicking or over-reacting. While we don’t have much by the way of certainty to go by in our lives, probability is a very helpful friend and ally. And, just as change is all around us, so too is continuity. Indeed, change and continuity can be understood as two sides of the same coin.
So, what is called for is a balanced approach to risk – one that is realistic about the dangers we face, but also manages to keep anxiety in check. People who tend to be described as ‘insecure’ are generally the ones who focus more on the risks and less on the wider context. There is therefore a tendency to adopt a distorted approach, one that overemphasizes the dangers and thereby creates unnecessary anxiety. And, of course, anxiety has a nasty habit of creating a vicious circle in which it makes people more sensitive to risk (‘risk averse’ to use the technical term), and that it turn generates more anxiety.
So, what it boils down to, in a sense, is that a genuine feeling of security comes from being well equipped to deal with the very insecurity of life – avoiding the two extremes of being complacent about potential threats to our well-being, on the one hand, and being overanxious and over-reacting to such threats on the other. This calls for a calm and careful consideration of the risks we commonly face. What can also be useful is a degree of self-awareness, a degree of insight into how effective we are in balancing our sense of danger and ours sense of safety – in other words, how realistic we are in assessing the risks we face.