Anxiety stinks. We hate it. Feelings of anxiety can be incredibly uncomfortable. We often respond to them by wavering, seeking safety, and even abandoning our valued goals.
We have a whole range of ways we try to feel safe when our minds say “I am not safe.” One of them is worrying. “Maybe if I think about this enough, I’ll feel safer.”
Avoiding feared situations, or entering the situations and “white-knuckling” through them are other ways we try to feel safer. All the various ways we avoid the basic feelings of insecurity and “Not-safe-ness” can result in a lot of long-term losses. Often, they do not even make us feel better in the short term. When they do, they are often very costly in the long term, and ultimately, unsuccessful in making our world seem safe and secure to us.
If you’ve been reading this blog or other articles on mindfulness for awhile, it probably comes as no surprise that our suggested response to anxiety is acceptance: learning to allow insecurity to exist, learning to be open to discomfort. We practice mindfulness in order to learn how to keep going with our lives, even when we do not feel safe.
Fundamentally, we are not safe: we cannot avoid illness, pain and death, and never will succeed in doing so. Worse yet, we cannot avoid failure, embarrassment, shame, humiliation, and other emotionally painful experiences. Neither our social world nor our physical world is safe.
We practice mindfulness meditation regularly, following the breath, opening our minds and hearts to our experience, letting thoughts be thoughts, letting discomfort be discomfort, not trying to fix anything, cultivating open observation. As we do this over a long period of time, and as we deliberately apply in our everyday lives what we have learned on the meditation cushion — perhaps with the help of a teacher or therapist — we gradually become more “OK” with not being safe.
Then, in time, much more time than our hurried, anxious minds would like, in time, we begin to feel that, not-feeling-safe, is not unsafe. We lose, gradually, our fear of fear. We become more open to “I Don’t Feel Safe,” begin to let go of the struggle to feel “safe,” and focus more and more on living this incredible life in which we find ourselves existing.