Loss or Security – Which Is More Real to You?

Loss or Security – Which Is More Real to You?

Feelings are important guides for personal growth. When you hold an adaptive belief (a belief that was important for your survival as a child but no longer serves you), feelings arise that you cannot miss because they are always the ones you don't like. Recently I have been examining my need for safety and uncovering just how insecure I feel in life, so it's no surprise that feelings of depression keep popping up.

Earlier, I examined my beliefs about change and recognized I had equated change with loss instead of gain. Since change is the true nature of the Universe and I had collapsed change with loss, that statement might as well have read loss is the true nature of the Universe, because to me that's what change was. Try feeling safe and secure in that!

Having resolved my fear of change, I've moved on to examine my fear of loss and am starting to uncover just how deep this fear runs. As personal growth goes, now that I'm able to embrace change, the world isn't quite as scary a place, so I can take a deeper look into my insecurity. What I saw made sense of my fears. Phrased as a SAY WHAT YOU SEE statement it sounds like this: "It feels like your entire life is taking place over a pit of potential loss."

Years ago I had uncovered a similar thought when inquiring into my beliefs about time which I discovered I pictured as a moving conveyor belt that dumped everything into a bottomless pit at the end, never to be retrieved. A chilling image, right? But it helped to see where my issues with time came from (time = change = loss).

Until now, I thought separating time from loss had handled that thought, so I was surprised to discover that the loss pit was still there, but it made sense. With the conveyor belt as my underlying mental image of life, feeling safe and secure was impossible. With even a hint of that scenario, it would be very scary to allow anything good to happen knowing it could fall away into the pit at any moment.

Becoming aware of what you really think and SAYing WHAT YOU SEE to yourself often opens doors to related memories.

Right on cue, I woke up the next day with a clear memory of punishment at about age 9 or 10 that definitely related. Here's the story:

My brother had gotten a new Slinky® for his birthday (the original metal spring kind) and left it with his other gifts in the basement where his party had been. I was in the basement alone and knew I shouldn't open it, but kid logic prevailed. After all, it couldn't hurt anything, and no one would know I had played with it first (his right by virtue of it being his gift.)

 

I opened the box, took it out, ran my fingers over the smooth metal surface. Smooth was what made it so precious. We'd had these before so I knew they got bent easily, but I also knew I could be careful with things, so I proceeded to use it as a jump rope (more kid logic).

 

Of course on the first jump I landed right in the middle of the Slinky® and bent it flat. I panicked, put it back in the box, closed the lid and hoped no one would find it, or if they did, wouldn't know it was me who damaged it. When my brother got it out he cried to Mom and by my guilty face, she knew it was me.

 

As usual, she turned the punishment over to my dad. He sent me to my room to wait for a spanking. Even though I knew he would not injure me, I was still in a panic. My worst fear in life was not physical pain, it was disappointing him. The spanking just made it more real.

 

This is the part I remember like a snapshot. I remember being terrified and crying for a very long time (probably actually less than 5 min) over what felt like the end of the world. Then he came in and sat down on the bed. I was still crying and afraid, and he probably tried to teach me some lesson about being honest that I already knew, but the part that stands out was that instead of a spanking, he looked at me and said, "I think you have punished yourself enough."

 

That was a weird moment. I felt like I had been tricked. I had very mixed emotions - at the same time I felt a rush of relief; gratefulness that somehow unknowingly I had done the right thing to escape punishment; injustice that there had been a way to avoid punishment all along that I hadn't known; and the realization that I had punished myself. My whole experience had been one of fear and dread, but the idea that it was self-punishment hadn't entered my mind until that moment.

Each moment of "real-ization" is the moment you make something real that wasn't before.

When I looked for what I made real, I discovered this: I created fear and dread as a strategy for avoiding punishment!!!

Once I got that, it made so much sense that I would spend the rest of my life with some background level of fear and dread as a kind of "insurance" to keep scary things in my life away - scary things like death and loss that had just entered my consciousness the year before. [8 was a rough year for me psychologically. The reference article mentions a litter of kittens that died, but not that my brother and I buried them ceremoniously in a cereal box in a little grave (pit?) we dug in the back yard.]

Since loss was a big empty pit, a gaping chasm, ready to swallow up everything I love about my life at any moment, of course I would latch onto any strategy for avoiding loss. Who wouldn't? So there it was, the root of Sandy's insecurity in life - a childhood strategy that actually worked. Here's how:

Maintaining a constant low-grade level of fear and dread actually kept me in the space of loss all the time - the space where there's nothing to lose because I lived like it was already gone.

I watched my grandmother do the same thing when we would come to visit. Even though we visited almost monthly during my childhood, from the moment we arrived she would start talking about how we would soon be gone and how much she would miss us when we left. That was her, living in loss even when we were there! It's the epitome of the "don't get your hopes up" strategy I took on as a way to avoid disappointment until I finally realized disappointment was just a feeling, not a threat.

So the fear and dread strategy actually worked on two levels. 1. It kept me in loss so there was not too much to lose; and 2. it promoted my personal growth. Experiencing loss over and over again on an imagined level allowed me to safely experience my STRENGTHs of fortitude, determination, persistence and the ability to handle whatever life handed me...which happen to be the exact STRENGTHs I needed to face and overcome my fear of loss.

Now that doesn't mean I will never be afraid again, but my relationship to fear is different now. This breakthrough in security has allowed me to tell the difference between real and imagined fears, and to experience fear as a useful tool. For example, I have always avoided scary shows because the images felt so real and stayed with me so long. Recently I've been watching Sleepy Hollow and have been amazed at how the demons and death scenes don't disturb me at all. The power scary images had over me is gone.

And fear as a useful tool showed up recently while I was driving. When I got close to the white line on the shoulder of the highway I felt my stomach suddenly tighten in fear, but instead of reacting emotionally by feeling afraid, I noticed that I felt even safer... like I could count on my body to inform me of danger even before my brain did! Having lived most of my life in fear and dread and in denial of even having a body, this world where safety and security are more real than loss is one I intend to embrace.

I'd love to hear where you are on your personal growth journey. Loss or security - which is more real to you? 

 

5 Comments

  1. Angela Johnson |

    Wow! Much of that sounds so much like me. Thank you so much for sharing your insights! I am trying to move into experiencing the world as safe and secure…

    • Angela,

      Thank you for sharing your reaction. You have been moving closer and closer to your goal ever since I’ve known you, despite some significant challenges. It’s been a pleasure to share this journey with you.

  2. Very insightful. A big Aha moment for me. But we will lose everything one day. How do you overcome that?

  3. Susan,

    As I mentioned in my reply to your comment on our Tantrum Relief post( http://www.languageoflistening.com/blog/tantrum-relief/ ) your statement, “we will lose everything one day,” is what I would call a “life lesson” – something you learned that you don’t like, but now it just seems true. (I’m assuming that you don’t like it because you asked about overcoming it.)

    In our work, the first step is always to figure out where you are and start there with self validation as in:

    SWYS: “You think you will lose everything one day.”

    Stay with that thought a minute and get the kind of effect it has to be having on your life…

    It’s devastating! And then realize that’s what you live with day in and day out like it’s just the way life is.

    No respectable child would accept that belief without a fight! And I don’t think you have either. Your resistance to it shows you are brave! Also incredibly strong, tenacious, and deep down somehow still optimistic and hopeful to even ask how to overcome it!

    Now the good news is that your optimistic self is correct; there is a way to overcome it – a breakthrough!

    I suspect many of our readers would like to know more about the steps we use for self-guided breakthroughs as well, so I put the rest of my response to you in a separate Q&A post: http://www.languageoflistening.com/blog/self-guided-breakthroughs/

    Thank you for asking this important question!

  4. Julia Kurskaya |

    You were really brave to put this confession here for the whole world to read! And you managed to make it fun even. Amazing! 🙂

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