When we say we all have ups and downs, we’re really saying that we are more or less insecure. What is insecurity? As a feeling state, it is uncertainty, discomfort, anxiety. It is out of sorts, out of synch, out of control. We try to ease insecurity by clinging to the familiar, asserting whatever control we can, avoiding risk, rejecting change, blaming others or circumstances.
Where does insecurity come from? It comes from negative, fearful, unsettling, self-conscious thinking taken seriously. More importantly, where does it appear to come from? It appears to come from a scary, unsettled, threatening world that is beyond our power to influence.
We pay a personal price for misunderstood insecurity because it is an unpleasant, unproductive, unhappy state in which to spend time. It is a detriment to health and well-being. But, to the point here, the whole world pays a huge price for unrelieved, misunderstood insecurity spreading across populations because it generates intense resistance to change, desperate attachment to the past, and irrational commitment to defending the known, keeping the unknown at bay at all costs.
The same insecure thinking that keeps a young person from signing up for a challenging math or science class keeps organizations and institutions from changing direction when old ideas stop working. It keeps whole populations from supporting innovation or getting behind new solutions with as-yet unknown outcomes. It keeps nations from choosing strategies that work for all peoples, rather than strategies that only protect themselves, regardless of the consequences. Misunderstood insecurity is not only unwilling, but unable, to enter the unknown to fearlessly embrace change and look to resolve differences.
The answer is not to eradicate insecurity. The answer is to understand it for what it is, and thus deprive it of any power over us whatsoever except fleeting distress. The difference between misunderstood insecurity and understood insecurity is like the difference between a child being terrified by loud noises coming from a home she passes every day, imagining horrible things happening there, and the child discovering that the man who lives there uses noisy power tools to build heavy furniture in his garage. Until she understood the logical explanation for the dreadful noises coming from the house, she made up scary theories to explain them and generated fears. As soon as she understood the logical explanation, she lost all fear of the house and the noises, although they were the same noises as before. Knowing where they were coming from protected her from fear.
The logic of insecure thinking is that it arises in the same way that all thinking arises. We are always creating thoughts, becoming conscious of our own thoughts so that what is on our mind appears to be the way it is out there in the world. Insecurity has no life of its own, no stranglehold on our future. It could dissolve in a moment as we realized that it is a thought-created experience, not an experience-created thought. Once we see that logic for ourselves, insecure thinking looks no different from any other thinking — silly thoughts, cheerful thoughts, sad thoughts, fantasy thoughts. In every case, we see that we are simply making it up and seeing it as real, and that the experience lasts only as long as we hang onto the thinking. We can allow insecure thinking to pass as easily as any other thinking. The thing that stops us is that insecure thinking looks and feels dark and serious, so we are more inclined to try to fight it or analyze it or deal with it somehow, rather than simply accepting it and letting it pass as our minds naturally turn elsewhere. With understanding comes wisdom, with wisdom comes perspective on all our thinking and a sense of being OK to let our minds work as they will and just know that all thinking comes and goes.
In the words of Sydney Banks, from The Missing Link, p. 134:
“Wisdom cleans the channels of your mind and brings sanity into your life.”
I recommend that whole chapter on Wisdom, pp. 137-142. I recommend it to the world. We can no longer afford the human price of insecurity.