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 of my Tuesday Two o’clock Topics on this very sunny Tuesday, the 1st of June, 2021. How are you today? Do you feel safe? The topic for today is our innate need for a sense of security. So I’ll be discussing various aspects of what this means, but I’d love to know what it means to you. So if you’re watching this either live or on replay, please leave a comment below and any questions you have about security, or even how we use the cards with clients, anything at all, you’re very welcome and I’ll do my best to address anything as it comes up.
So security. This is the card. People interpret this card in so many different ways. To me, this looks like a padlock, but when I showed it to one client, they assumed that it was a shopping bag. They didn’t really relate to the key, look on the side and they sort of agreed that shopping made them feel safe. Well, each to his own.
What makes you feel safe? There are various things in this card that you could unpick and make sense of. You know, there’s a cyclist here and he’s wearing a helmet. There’s a picket fence around the, the house or the home, and these are all different aspects of what helps to make people feel secure.
And I should set the bigger picture here. And as I usually do. Each week I talk about one of the cards in the Anxiety Freedom Cards pack, and reflect on different aspects, different interpretations of the images in the card and share a little bit of my own experience. And this is because it is the way I was taught as a psychotherapist. And it’s also my experience that people thrive when they get their innate needs met in balance. And security is one of our most fundamental needs. If we don’t feel safe, there are many other things that we can’t do. We can’t learn well, we can’t stretch ourselves. When we, when we’re unsafe, when we feel unsafe, it’s a very urgent priority and it needs addressing before we can address anything else. So yes, this idea that if we are using our innate resources, our, are the things we’re born with, our imagination, our rational mind, our ability to connect with other people. If we’re using these resources in balance and using them to get our needs met in balance, and security being one of our needs, then we can live a life relatively free from stress and anxiety.
So what helps you to feel safe? I have a comment here from CG. Good afternoon. Hi CG. So glad you could join me today. Enjoying the weather, for me… I’ll just share this “safety for me is not being around controlling people, having a roof over my head, not having to watch my back.” Yeah, I can. I can resonate with that. Absolutely. A roof over your head was you’ve used the word that was on my notes. First thing was to say, is it a roof over your head that makes you feel safe? For some people it’s money in the bank or money in their pocket, or maybe it might be more related to your friends and your family having a solid social support network, having a close family or a good circle of friends. Or is it being at home? Is it, do you feel safe when you’re within your four walls and you can retreat and feel, feel happy and isolated, to some extent from whatever threats are out there in the wider world? Or is it good health? I think when our health is, is good, we tend to forget what it’s like to have poor health but so many people struggle with poor health. And I think that if your health is uncertain, it’s hard to feel safe because it might depend on other people, other services. A strange one for me when I was a teenager, because I was bullied a little bit at school, not, not endlessly and not, not in a, I don’t feel damaged by the experience, although it did hurt at the time. But for me, for several years, having a good pair of shoes on my feet gave me a sense of security. So I could run if I had to. Seems weird to think of that, looking back now, but that was the truth. And it’s partly because when I was at school, we have these non laced slip on shoes that had elastic. And I really didn’t like them because if you were running fast, they could fly off your feet. So I, because I was bullied, I wanted to feel that I had shoes I could depend on if I needed to. If I needed to run from someone who was attacking me. The thing that has helped me to feel safe personally throughout life.
And I guess I’m lucky to be able to say this, cause I know that not everyone can, but it’s my own sense of self-reliance. I’ve always felt that if I depend upon my own inner resources, my own innate wisdom, my own approach to life, that I can deal with anything. And the times that I have felt unsafe, a bit like CGS comment, was when other people are controlling or other people have an agenda that they’re trying to inflict on me. But what makes you safe? I can see we have someone else watching. So if you’d like to share what makes you feel safe? That will be interesting to see.
I said to begin with, that we can’t really learn unless we feel safe. Now, Bindi and I were taught this approach by two men, Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell as part of the human givens approach to psychotherapy. And I noted there was a newsletter this week with an article or a paper rather, that Ivan had written for now, I’m going to share it, the new England Journal of Public Policy.
And it was about the Psychological Dimensions of Peacemaking. And I just wanted to read what he said very briefly in that document about our sense of security. So I won’t read much, I won’t read the article, but I think it’s really interesting that we’ve getting these ideas, or Ivan is helping to get these ideas into public policy making specifically in terms of conciliation and trying to resolve conflict. And under the paragraph innate emotional needs, he has this bit on security here.
And it says:
To feel safe enough to keep anxiety levels down so that we can think, think, sorry, I’ll start that again. Feel safe enough to keep anxiety levels down so we can think clearly and respond intelligently to events while not becoming so risk averse as to prevent progress.
And I think that’s a very interesting way of putting it, that we mustn’t become so risk averse that we impede our own process, progress. And I was going to share something else. Oh yes. And the point about the not feeling anxious is because as card number 26 really clearly shows, when we are emotionally aroused, when we have high emotion, when we’re anxious or fearful, our thinking is polarised. It’s black and white thinking. Whereas when we’re calm, we can see shades of gray and this is a natural human mechanism. It’s the way that our brains have evolved to work in order to keep us safe. So it’s okay saying we have an innate need for a sense of security, but it’s worth also looking at the implications of what happens when we don’t feel safe. Because when we don’t feel safe, our emotional temperature is higher. And when our emotional temperature is higher, our access to our rational thinking, our imagination, our rapport skills, all of those things that we normally take for granted, can be severely impeded to the point where if we really feel under direct threat of imminent physical attack, our thinking brain can effectively go offline and we start to act on impulse. So it’s really important that we, we feel safe.
And we have another comment here.
Thank you. Safety is having what I need with me. That’s nice. Yes. Yes. I think one of the things about feeling safe and it is so important is that things happen in life. We can’t control everything, we can’t control other people. And for me, part of my sense of security comes from being able to accept that whatever I think might keep me safe, may be not the thing to rely on. That actually we have to be adaptable. We have to be flexible. We have to be able to duck and dive and deal with whatever life throws at us. And if we start becoming fixated on the idea that, oh, well, if I’ve got money in the bank, I’ll feel safe. Then what happens when that money goes or when there’s some kind of financial crisis? If we are so focused that our sense of security depends upon our partner, that we feel safe because we’re in a loving relationship with someone who makes us feel safe. What happens when that partner becomes ill or becomes, or dies? It’s hard to make something external, to be dependent upon something external for our sense of safety, but we all do it. It’s natural human stuff.
The other thing I wanted to say is that if you, you may have seen that diagram with a circle in the middle and labeled your comfort zone and you’re inside your comfort zone. And then there’s an arrow outside the circle that says “Where growth occurs”. And although I think it is true that we can’t learn intellectually if we don’t feel safe, we need to push the boundaries.
We need to step outside our comfort zone in order to expand our perceptions, our awareness and our abilities. And sometimes it’s, it’s a delicate balance between pushing ourselves a bit, stepping slightly outside our comfort zone, enough to stretch ourselves, but not so much that we become acutely risk averse and, and frightened because when we’re frightened, then, then it all goes to pot.
You may remember that kid’s game that you see in a playground of a primary school where kids play tag. You know, you run around and you try and touch your friend. And once they are touched, they are “it”, and then they have to run around and get and catch someone else or not catch them, but touch them. And there’s always the sense of safety when you’re in the safe place, whether it’s called home, or I don’t know what the words, what are the words you use for it. But I can remember there was like, while you’re standing on this grid, you’re safe. You can’t be got, as soon as you leave that and run around, then you’re, you’re prey, and you’re vulnerable to being tagged. And I think it’s interesting because this sense of place being representing security is inculcated into our behavior from a very early age. So it’s quite normal to feel safe when we’re at home. If home is a safe space, which I hope it is for you.
The other thing is that kids, I mean everybody, but kids in particular, because they’re learning more about themselves and more about what makes the world dangerous and what makes it safe than maybe we are as adults. But I believe that we push the boundaries, always, until we find the safe limit. So if you look at the picket fence on this, this image, it’s almost like if you born in this house, you, you have to kind of approach the picket fence and look over the side before you know that you feel safe within it. And if there is no picket fence, you will wander further afield and you’ll keep exploring and pushing the boundaries until somebody says no. Or until you reach a limit where it’s clearly obvious that it’s not safe to go any further. And I think what’s interesting about child development is that, I subscribe to this idea that somebody has to teach what no means. And it’s interesting to look at family life and figure out, well, who’s got that responsibility? Because kids will push and push and push until it gets to a point where saying no, that that behavior is not acceptable under this roof. You cannot do that. This is the limit of your bad behaviour. And now we’re going to say no. And you know, kids will always say but why? but why? And the answer is often because I said so, or because that’s how it is, which isn’t a good answer when you’re a kid on the receiving end. But I think it’s really important to realise that we have to have this sense of a safe boundary and that beyond that is, you know, the unknown and maybe places to explore, but within it, we feel safe.
And again, I think that’s built into the way that we grow up and the way that we perceive the world. So my role as a father in my family was clearly, at times, not all the time, but there were occasions when I had to teach what no means. Because until kids know what no means, they can’t really ever feel safe. So yes, approaching the fence and looking, looking over the edge in order to see where we fit in with things I think is really important.
I’m just going to check the comments here. Bear with me just for a moment. And it was Bindi who commented. Thank you, Bindi. I don’t get to know on the streamyard always.
I’ve picked a story today that isn’t directly relevant to the idea of security. Although maybe if you feel that money helps you feel safe or at least secure income, that’s , you know, I’m not talking about a pot of gold, but that’s what this, in this story, and in this story, it doesn’t pan out that way at all. And this is another story from Rob Parkinson’s “Transforming Tails: how stories can change people” book, which I really like. And this is from page one, five, two, and it’s “The Pardoners Story”.
So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
In Flanders long ago, there were once three revelers who had given themselves up, day after day, entirely to drunken indulgence and all available vices. These three fellows, hearing at the tavern that death had been carrying, carrying off their toping companions all around, decided to find the grim reaper himself and sort him out once and for all. As they hastened across the fields, they met an old man and treating him with little respect and much rudeness demanded to know where they could find death. He indicated a twisted tree not far away, where they might, if they were lucky, find what they were looking for.
And they at once rush towards it. But as they, soon as they reached it, all thoughts of revenge left them instantly because what confronted them was an enormous pot of gold. It was theirs of course, they understood that at once. The main problem, however, would be carrying it to safety without spies and far too noisy tongue waggers noticing and spoiling it all. They soon decided to guard it until nightfall when they would be able to take it home under cover of darkness. The youngest of the three agreed to go at once to town, to fetch bread and wine, to sustain them through their vigil.
But as soon as he was gone, the two remaining rascals quickly agreed on their plan. It will be far better to share the gold between two people, rather than three. In town the youngest villain brought the bread and wine and then, bought the bread and wine and then visited the apothecary. I’m stumbling over words today, forgive me. Where he claimed with a certain amount of honesty perhaps, that he needed poison to kill some rats. This time he used the spice, this he used to spice the wine and flavour the bread, having done some mathematical calculations of his own and come to the conclusion that not dividing the gold at all would be the best solution.
Smiling broadly, he arrived back at the camp to proffer the excellent fair he’d prepared, only to find that, on the excuse of a little high spirited wrestling, the other two had set upon him and used their daggers in very deadly earnest. As he gasped his last breath, his former companions celebrated by eating the wonderful, fresh bread and drinking the excellent if slightly bitter tasting wine.
So that’s the story for today. The pot of wine that, the pot of gold didn’t keep them safe as they maybe thought it might. It seems like a short one today, but I think I’ve said everything that I’m going to say. Next week, we will review the worksheet that goes with the security card and explore some other aspects of it. So in the meantime, if you have any questions or any thoughts or any observations, please do share them with us.
I have some comments here, CG’s very quick with her icons. So she’s got the grim reaper, death. She’s got trees, the gold, the wine, the bread, and, and some applause. Thank you very much CG. I hope you enjoyed that. So yes, I’ll be back next Tuesday at two o’clock and then there’ll be a gap of a couple of weeks before I start again on, on the next topic. So thank you for being with me. I hope you’re enjoying this lovely sunny summer weather and whatever else you’re doing, don’t forget to keep breathing.
Please let me know what you think by commenting below! Thanks, Alec