The context for these videos
Each post in this short series is from Alec’s weekly livestream to the Facebook group Finding the Balance with Anxiety Freedom Cards. Each week I focus upon one of our innate resources or needs as depicted in the Anxiety Freedom Cards. And the reason I’m doing this is to show you how you too can live a life free from anxiety and stress.
Please let me know what you think by scrolling to the bottom and commenting below!
Good afternoon and welcome to another Tuesday’s Two o’clock Topic on this Tuesday, the 8th of June, 2021. It’s good to be back with you.
The topic for today is our it’s the second week, second installment on the topic of our innate need for a sense of security. And this is one of our most basic needs, unless we feel safe, we really find it hard to focus on anything else other than becoming safe.
So if you have any thoughts about the issue of security and what helps you to feel safe or what even makes you feel fearful, please go ahead, drop a comment below and just say hello so that I know you’re here. And if you’ve got any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them during this short talk, I’m going to be sharing a personal story about my own need for security in today’s session.
And I think it’s important to know that this is just one of our innate needs. There are many things that we need, forms of nourishment if you like, from our environment in order to thrive and to live well. But security is one of the most basic of them. You will have heard of the fight and flight response. Polyvagal theory has a lot to say about the way that we respond unconsciously to subtle cues of safety and danger. And I used to think of fight and flight as being what happened when we were kind of in the process of being traumatised, you know, very severe threat, very severe fear or lack of security.
But now I realise with more experience that actually even the act of being busy every day is a short trip towards fight and flight. When we are calm and relaxed and have that “at home” feeling, when we have the ventral vagal brake on, so to speak, and we’re in a more sociable state of mind where we can communicate, share food, be human, be relaxed and relatively chilled. We don’t have this burning desire to be busy. Being busy is the tip of the iceberg of the fight and flight state, if you like. And I can certainly remember a time in my life when I found it very hard to relax because of what had happened to me, which I’ll share shortly.
But tell me what, what helps you to feel safe? What are the things in life that help you to have that sense of ease? And I know there are a lot of people who’ve never really felt safe and my heart goes out to them. I was very lucky in my upbringing to feel safe as a child. And as I shared last week, my sense of security depends more on my own wits and my own flexibility than anything material. Obviously, I like to have a roof over my head, having a home, having a house is essential to my feeling of wellbeing, but I know that if this house burnt down, heaven forbid I could, you know, I could form a home somewhere else. I have the adaptability and the flexibility to do that. So personally, my sense of security comes from within, from my own innate abilities.
It’s been challenged at times, as, as I’ll share with you about 25 years ago, just under 25 years ago, I got divorced. I was living on a small narrow boat, which was landlocked. It was on the river, but it couldn’t move anywhere. It didn’t have an engine and it didn’t have running water. And all I had with me, my, my sort of possessions apart from a few clothes was my musical equipment. So a couple of guitars and a small recording studio in effect, but that didn’t last very long as you will shortly hear, because sleeping rough under a bridge near where my boat was moored, was a young man who was obviously having a very difficult period in his life. He was sleeping under a bridge in the cold and he was, he was only a few yards really from where my boat was moored. And I used to sort of say hello to him and be a friendly human being, because I kind of figured that he was homeless and probably struggling.
And I was wary of him, but we exchanged a few words. And then one day he turned up at my door and he had a tin of beans, which he had nicked from the local supermarket. And he wondered if I might have a tin opener because he couldn’t open it. I didn’t just have a tin opener, I had a microwave. So I offered to heat the beans up for him. And while he stayed on the river bank, I went inside, heated up his beans and brought them out on a plate. And we got talking and then over the next few days we, we exchanged a few more pleasantries. I was wary of him to the level where I didn’t let him into my boat. I suspect that he was using heroin because there were needles that I found under the bridge. And I know that people who are on that particular journey can be very desperate and very untrustworthy. But eventually we kind of became, I wouldn’t say we became friends, but we developed a rapport and I wanted to help him as much I could without putting my own, you know, stuff in jeopardy.
Eventually I think I invited him onto the boat and maybe shared a cup of coffee or a cup of tea with him. And it was a few nights later when I was away visiting a friend that my boat was burgled and all of my musical equipment was stolen. And that included my very fancy tape recorder, my mixing desk, my synthesisers, my drum machine and my speakers and I was absolutely gutted. And it didn’t take long to figure out how this had happened. And it did turn out to be the guy I’d been befriending, who had seen that I had some valuable equipment and decided to take advantage of it.
And what really got me was that when I got back to my boat and found this I’d been burgled and it was a right mess, there was stuff on the floor. The place had been ransacked. They’d even taken my kettle. Now that wouldn’t have been such a problem, but when I rang the police to report the crime, they said, don’t touch anything, stay where you are, we’ll send someone around. This, I dutifully did. I didn’t realise it would take them 36 hours to arrive. So for 24 hours, I wasn’t able to leave the boat because it was unsecured, the doors were broken. I wasn’t able to really move because there was mess everywhere and they’d asked me not to move anything. And I couldn’t even make myself a cup of tea. That’s what really hurt, is that that stolen my kettle as well as the electrical gear. So that was the really difficult time for me.
And it got worse in some ways, because I was insured. I had an insurance policy and it, because I had some musical gear, I’d had to notify them of all of the valuable items, you know, had a list of what was insured. And when the insurance company came to review my case, they discovered that I had one synthesiser that I had bought a few weeks before the burglary that I hadn’t declared on the list. I hadn’t got round to it yet. But because of that one item, they said I was under-insured and basically refused to pay out. I think they paid out a small amount in the end, but it was a fraction of what was stolen. And they put my premiums up to 1700 pounds a year, which was just ridiculous. So I didn’t, I didn’t continue with the policy, but even the thing that I thought would give me security, the insurance policy, wasn’t worth the paper it was written on in the end because they found a loophole and they got out of it. And I think they looked at somebody living cheaply on a boat in a, was pretty insecure in the first place and thought, you know, there’s no way that we need to pay out on this policy. We can, we can save money here. So I was a bit bitter about that.
And I was, I was, I felt very unsafe. And in fact, I can remember for the next few months really, I was pretty hypervigilant. I was looking out for potential danger and living on boats was always a little bit risky in the sense that there were young kids who would come along and they’d throw beer bottles at the boats. Now, if you’ve ever been in a steel hulled boat, you’ll know a beer bottle hitting the outside, makes a heck of a noise inside. And I would be immediately annoyed. And I would run to the hatch. I would open the hatch. And I would see who’d been throwing the, whatever it was that had hit the boat. And it’d be a couple of lads who’d run off laughing. It took me a while to realise that what they were doing was they were throwing beer bottles at every boat. And then the ones that didn’t respond, they would think, oh, that boat’s empty. There’s no one on that one. So they would earmark that to be burgled later on. So it was hard living that way because you felt that if you blinked, somebody would take your stuff. And over the next few months, I replaced the broken doors with wood, with metal doors, I had custom made. I made the whole place far more secure than it had been before. And I installed a security system, which had a dialer built into it, which was pretty rare back in the nineties. So if the alarms went off, it would dial a number.
And in fact, a few years later when the system was still in play Bindi and I were on holiday in Spain and we’d just got there. I think it was the first night and the phone, my phone, my mobile phone rang at four o’clock in the morning with this automated message saying that my boat was being burgled. And in fact it was a false alarm and a neighbor had gone round in the middle of the night to sort it out. But oh, that the level of stress and tension that went with that whole episode was, was appalling.
I’m just going to pause a moment here, cause I’ve got a comment here from CG. Good afternoon, CG. So glad you could join me today. How are you? I’m just sharing your message. Good afternoon. Security for me is allowing myself to be me, having my own space, privacy, my animals, music and nature. And I can relate to that one too. And I think the older I get, the more important that having my own space becomes. I mean, I’ve always been happy with my own company, but having a place where there is a certain degree of predictability, I think is really important to security. So there, we are creatures of habit, but knowing where things are, having that sort of familiarity so that you don’t have to inspect everything or double-check everything in the way that perhaps you do when you travel, which I’m not knocking. I think traveling is a wonderful way to expand your horizons and your perceptions, but you do have to be on your toes all the time. You have to be slightly on guard. And when you’re back in your familiar place, you know, I’m, I’m here in my beautiful garden in Trowbridge in Wiltshire, in the sunshine outside and the bird song. And it feels very tranquil and I feel very safe and I don’t feel at risk of being burgled in the way that I did 23 years ago when I was living on the boats.
And so I was then burgled again, a couple of years later, and this time they took the, the car keys and I think it was really an attempt to steal the car, but I was able to block it in with a neighbour’s car for a couple of nights and get some more keys cut and change the locks. And I didn’t lose stuff that time. But being burgled is a very disconcerting experience because it makes you doubt everything. It makes you feel very on edge and it makes you question everybody, you come into contact. You know, if I befriend this person, will they rip me off? Will they try and steal from me? They eventually caught the guy and he admitted what he had done. I don’t know what happened to him, but yeah, that was a time in my life when I did not feel secure. And I can tell you, it really affected my ability to concentrate. It affected my ability to trust. And it certainly affected my ability to be calm and relaxed and enjoy life. And when we go, when we take a step towards the fight and flight mode, we get busy. I had to take action. I had to get metal doors made. I had to make sure I’d done everything I could possibly think of to make sure that I’d minimised the chance of being burgled again.
But there are many people in this world who’ve really never felt safe. And I can’t even imagine what that must be like to not ever feel safe. Security is almost the first need after air that we have to have in place in order to function in life. But once we do have a certain level of security and we’re never completely secure, you know, things happen in life. A year ago the shed next to the one I’m sitting in here burned down. That was a horrendous experience. And that’s over now and lessons were learned from that, but things happen in life and you can never be fully secure. But until you have a certain level of security, it’s very hard to function as a human being. So I hope that you are either feeling secure or can take steps to get to that position where you can be able to relax at least some of the time and enjoy the birdsong rather than worrying about who might be the next person to burgle you.
So what’s the lesson from this experience? And I think the, the saying that works best for me is the one: “Trust in God, but tie up your camel”. And I’ve known this phrase for some time and it has a resonance for me. I really like it because it blends both this kind of element of faith is that things will be okay, things will pan out. You know, I didn’t lose my health. I didn’t lose anything that really mattered to me. I didn’t lose my children. I didn’t lose my sanity. I lost some equipment, but that’s all replaceable. But also the idea that you’ve got to take some action, you know, you’ve got to tie up your camel, you’ve got to do the basics to make sure that you’re, you’re basically safe. I Googled the phrase this morning in preparation for today’s talk.
And apparently this saying was reported as being relayed by the scholar Al-Tirmidhi. And it’s an ancient Arab phrase attributed to the prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Upon Him) who, when one day he saw Bedouin leaving his camel without tethering it, questioned him as to why he was doing this. And the Bedouin replied that he was placing his trust in Allah and he had no need to tie the camel. And the prophet Mohammed then replied, tie your camel and place your trust in Allah. So in our language, maybe, trust in Allah, trust in God, but tie up your camel. So I promised today that we’d worked through the worksheet and here it is.
This is the worksheet on security, which I shall zoom in so that we can see it a bit better. As usual, you’ve got the description with a small version of the image at the top. And then you have a number of questions and I’ll just read through what these questions are. The first is “Describe whatever makes you feel safe”. So different things help different people to feel safe. I think I mentioned last time that having a good pair of running shoes on my feet helped me feel safe when I was bullied as a teenager. Nowadays, having a home is the main thing for me. For some people it’s family, family is important to me, but actually it’s, they don’t provide the sense of security strangely. I don’t know why that is. It’s just, my security comes more from my, my home and my partner. Sometimes money in the bank can give you that feeling. Although, you know, with all things transitory, that can come and go too.
So the first question is: “Describe whatever makes you feel safe”. The next question is to rate your innate need for security. How well is your need for security met at the moment? Is it not very well at all? In which case you’d give a score of zero, or is it really well met? You feel really safe. In which case you give a score of 10. Now, if you’ve been doing these exercises for some while you’ll know that there is a thing which we share called the “Wheel of needs.”
And essentially this is a wheel where you mark how well each of your innate needs is met from a scale, on a scale of nought to 10. And what you want to achieve ideally is a well-rounded wheel, which will roll through life. So if you’ve got a flat spot on your wheel, because your security need is not well met, then that’s not the ideal situation. You want to try and take steps to increase the level to which all of your needs are met until you have this nice rounded wheel that will roll along. You’re not going to get 10 on everything. I don’t think it’s realistic or even necessary to have all of your needs fully met all the time. It’s probably impossible. But the better you can make them, the better you can get your innate needs met, the smoother that wheel will roll through life.
And I will share a link to the “Wheel of needs”, now that I’ve mentioned it, below this.
So the next question is: “In which situations,” and it’s plural there, “in which situations would you like to feel safer?” I don’t know why I made it plural. It might be better to say in which situation. So is there a particular situation where you currently feel anxious and where you would like to feel safer? You may feel unsafe in social situations, especially with COVID and all that’s been going on.
And then the final question is: “What could you do over the next few days to improve this?” And so I think this is a very practical way of addressing our needs in turn, find out what makes you feel safe. Give yourself a score. Figure out if there’s anything where you want to improve things, any area of your life. Do you feel safe, sleeping with your windows open at night? Do you feel safe going into shops in town? Do you feel safe meeting a friend? What, what are the things that would help you to be more relaxed and more able to access that ventral vagal state of the feeling at home and feeling relaxed and sociable and what essentially can you do over the next few days that might help you achieve that? And if you actually go to the trouble of answering these questions and writing them down and you do it for each one of your needs, then that’s one method for getting to a position in life where your needs are met in balance. And remember that improving your score for any of our innate needs by even just one point will always make you feel better. It can’t make you feel worse. These are innate needs and they’re forms of nourishment.
And when we get this form of nourishment in the right amount for us, not too much, not too little, because as I mentioned last week, we can be too safe. If we are only ever within our comfort zone, then we never stray outside and we never stretch ourselves. We never take risks. We never really grow or learn. So there is a balance to be found with all of our needs. We can have too little or we can have too much. So I really encourage you to fill out the worksheet, print it out, download it, print it out and fill it out. And accept that it’s just a snapshot of life at this moment. You know, here we are on mid June on in 2021. Things may be different next week or next month, because life happens, stuff Happens. Okay, so that’s about all I have to say on security.
Thank you, CG for sharing your experience. I always promise to share a story and I’ve put my book over there. Sorry about that. So today’s story comes from a book by Geraldine McCaughrean. I can’t pronounce it. A hundred world myths and legends. And this is a book full of really nice stories. And I found that the trouble is many of them are too long to, to, to tell on this short video, but I’ve got one today, which is a Spanish legend, and it’s called the death of El Cid. And it goes like this.
So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Don Rodrigo Diaz De Vivar was cursed with pride. It was pride, which caused his banishment from the court of king Alfonso of Spain. It was pride, which made him swear never to cut his beard until his banishment was repealed. It was pride, which made him branch out from Alfonso’s tiny corner kingdom into the part of Spain that had been occupied by Moors from North Africa, where it was certain death for any Christian to go.
Into Moorish Spain, he charged first with a dozen men, then with a hundred, then with a thousand at his back. Before him fell village after fortress, city after port. And from every victory he sent the spoils back to king Alfonso, his king, his Lord and master to whom his obedience never faltered. Still the king did not pardon him, but many more young men left Alfonso’s kingdom to join Rodrigo De Vivar and find their fortunes in conquest. The Moorish occupiers were swept away like rabbits before a heath fire. Families who had lived for generations in Spain and thought of themselves its owners, fled to Africa or had to buy back their lives and freedom from Rodrigo De Vivar. They called him in their own tongue El Cidi, the warlord. And his own men took it up. El Cid, Viva El Sid!
He captured Moorish towns like so many pieces in a game of chess. At last only one black piece was left standing on the board of Spain, Valencia, the treasure house of the Moor’s. Not till then did the African might of Islam stir itself. Valencia must not be allowed to fall or all Spain would be in the hands of Christians. Before the fleets of Africa could touch the Spanish shores, Valencia had fallen. And El Cid, the victor, had made the exquisite city his own. Sending for his wife and family, he celebrated the marriage of his two daughters and gloried in the King’s forgiveness. His joy was complete. He decided to live out his days in Valencia for there is nowhere lovelier under God’s gaze.
On the night of the double wedding, a little, cowardly, creeping man crawled through the flowery grass on his belly with a heart full of envy. He pushed a knife through the cloth of a tent and stabbed El Cid in the back, sinking his blade up to the haft. Within days, the moorish legions landed in thousands and tens of thousands and laid siege to the city. Pitched their tents among the orange groves and awaited with impatience for the day Valencia’s citizens would thirst and starve to death. “But we have El Cid!” cried the people in the streets. “With El Cid to lead us, we have nothing to fear!” and they jeered over the walls at the besieging army. “El Cid will crop you like oranges!” but El Cid lay bleeding on his bed. His life ebbing away. Nothing but a miracle would put him back astride his horse at the head of an army.
When word spread of Don Rodrigo’s injury, terror and despair poisoned the streets like acrid smoke. “El Cid is dying!” “El Cid is at death’s door!” “El Cid is dead!” But no word came from the window of his house. No news either good or bad came from the lips of El Cid’s wife, the lovely Jimena. She sat beside her husband’s bed. Her long hair spread on the coverlet, and her eyes resting on the distant sea. When at last she opened the door, it was to say: “Fetch El Cid’s horse to the door and you, Alvar Fanez, come and help Don Rodrigo to put on his armour”. Alvar was El Cid’s closest friend, his most trusted servant. He ran into the room in a fervour of delight. The saints had restored his master’s health! El Cid was fit to lead his army into battle. Alvar Fanez fell back, his mouth open to speak, his heart half broken by what he saw, the craggy features of Don Rodrigo De Vivar lay whiter than the pillow. His eyes were shut. His hands lay crossed on his breast. “He’s dead”, was all he think, all he could think of to say.
“Yes”, said Jimena, simply and calmly. “But his name will live forever. And it’s his name, which must save the city today!” “Help me arm my husband one last time and tie him onto his horse. I believe that El Cid can still carry the day if only he shows himself on the battlefield.” Alvar Fanez did as he was asked. Together, though it was a terrible ordeal for the two alone, they tied Don Rodrigo to his horse for one last ride. Jimena kissed her husband farewell. Alvar Fanez mounted and led the general’s horse to the city gate. Ahead went the incredulous whispers, the gasps of happy amazement in the half-light of morning. “El Cid is alive!” “He’s going to head the attack!” Silently, so as to surprise the sleeping Moors, the army mustered in the streets behind the gate. Division upon division formed rank. As dawn broke the knights of El Cid struggled to hold their horses in check between the shadowy houses of Valencia. At the crash of the crossbar unfastening the gate, El Cid’s horse, Babieca, pawed the ground. It leaped past Alvar Fanez into the open gateway and lunged into the lead, as it had in a hundred battles.
The Moors, waking to the sound of galloping horses looked out of their tent flaps to see the hosts of El Cid riding down on them. The knights of Islam called for their armour. Their squires ran to and fro with weapons and bridles. “To arms! To arms!” “Huh”, sneered king Mataman of Morocco, walking with showy disdain to the stirrup of his mount. “My assassin has cut the heart out of El Cid. My spies have confirmed it. And what is an army without its heart?” Then he saw a sight which struck such horror into him that his foot missed the stirrup and his shaking legs would not hold him. He fell to his knees calling on the one, true God of Islam for help. “Can the man not die?” “Is this why he brought our empires to nothing?” “Is he immortal?” “Is it a ghost we have to fight now?”
For riding towards him, directly towards him, was the tall erect unmistakable figure of El Cid, conqueror of Spain in full panoply of armour, but bare headed, his long gray hair and beard streaming. The King’s trembling fingers searched for his lance and he threw it at the chest of El Cid. But though it struck home, the conqueror did not flinch. It was his horses hooves which trampled the king of Morocco and which tumbled his tasselled tent to the ground. El Cid rode on, so appalling the superstitious enemy. But they flung themselves into the sea sooner than face a ghostly enemy who could not, or would not die. Out of the orange groves and along the beaches of Valencia rode Don Rodrigo de Vivar on his last foray.
From the city walls, Donna Jimena watched till he was no longer in sight, but she shed no tears. She knew it was not the ghost of El Cid out there. It was his flesh, his blood, but neither was it El Cid himself. She knew that the soul of El Cid was at rest and that his spirit was ranging free, untethered and invisible high above the heads of his victorious army.
That’s the story of the Death of El Cid, a Spanish legend, from this book. I hope you enjoyed that. I think the reason I shared that story is that when we start to identify our core being more with our observing self than with our ego, once we start to question what it really means to be alive in this world, we can start to find a sense of security in our ongoing continuity, in our soul’s journey. I just want to throw that out there as a, as a token.
So I won’t be around for the next or the won’t be this Tuesday Two o’clock Topic for the next two Tuesdays, but we will be reconvening on the… I should have worked this out beforehand. It will be the Tuesday the 29th of June. And that’s the next one. So until then, whatever else you’re doing, don’t forget to keep breathing.
Oh, and thank you CG for the, for the icons. I should read them. So we have the crown, we have the skull. We have the money. We have the houses, security. Yes, we have oranges. We have a horse. We have a thank you. And we have some applause and thank you CG for turning up reliably and sharing your stuff with me as well. So yes, take care. Thank you for your, for your well wishes CG. Yes, we will have a lovely break and I hope to, I look forward to reconnecting with you in three weeks time. Thanks, goodbye.
Please let me know what you think by commenting below! Thanks, Alec