Psychiatrists tell us that, of all the human needs, the need for safety is the greatest. It is the need that concerns us before worry about anything else. Without safety, they say, we can not be happy, fulfilled or content.
But safety is an unusual need in that it is based almost entirely upon an illusion. As humans, we are blessed (and cursed) with the knowledge that death is inevitable and that it could happen at any time. At best, safety is relative, at worst it is nonexistent and just a figment of our overactive imaginations.
The simple truth is that we are never safe. Freak accidents, diseases and any number of other deadly incidents can take place at any given time. Even if we lock ourselves away in a metal room and remove all foreseeable hazards, death and injury can find us. Deep down we know that.
If true safety were a requirement of our happiness, humans would be driven mad in frenzied attempts to mitigate every possible hazard, knowing that it is all a futile effort. As long as our mortality can not be escaped, safety can not be achieved.
Yet, most people, feel safe when they sleep at night. Though literally anything can happen while they slumber, they rest assured that they will wake up the next morning in much the same condition that they went to bed.
Our minds, over the years, have trained themselves to ignore the millions of risks we face, responding only to the most immediate and probable dangers we face. Much of this is self preservation, enabling us to spend our energy on the things that are most likely to hurt us, but much of it is also self deception, allowing us to turn a blind eye to less visible risks.
This has resulted in a warped sense of safety. The dangers we face every day have become skewed and warped by a combination of convenience, media hype and misinformation. Whether the dangers are bad drivers, terrorists, heart disease or bird flu, we know we can't possibly protect against all of the hazards we face, so we focus on the ones that make us feel the most safe, not necessarily the ones that pose the greatest risk.
That is the crux of the safety problem. Since safety is an illusion, so are many of the dangers. What makes us feel safe is often very different from what actually improves our chances of survival. What helps us sleep at night is rarely what helps us wake up in the morning.
This need for safety has become our Achilles heel. Our mortality has become our mortal weakness. We know neither safety nor happiness so long as we give in to illusions of safety and of danger. We are never as safe as we feel we need to be, nor are we in as grave of danger as we often think we are.
These notions, however, are lost on us as safety is a feeling and it knows no intellect. There is no rationalizing with the idea of safety or the people that feel they do not have it. Once lost, the quest for the feeling of safety is all-consuming, usually overpowering better forms of judgment and pushing us down paths we would never otherwise take.
The time has come to breathe. To realize that, while this need for safety that drives us is a positive thing, it is no being used to drive us down paths we need not tread. Safety has never been anything but an illusion and that lack of grounding is used against us every day of our lives by our governments, our media, our businesses and even others on the street.
The truth is that safety comes from within. You can not buy it, you can not vote for it and there is no knowledge that mysteriously grants it. Safety comes from within ourselves and our loved ones. It's about a place in your room that makes you feel safe, about being warm in the arms of a loved one, about finding the one thing that reminds you of safer times.
Safety is an illusion and it is a necessary one. However, we have to stop looking outside of ourselves to find it. Any illusion the world can give us can also be found within. If we make our own illusions, we can use them to our advantage. If we let others make our illusions, they can use them to their advantage.
It takes inner strength to do this, to look within for answers that do not exist, But that strength is what it truly takes to feel safe in such a crazy world.