Danielle talks about our core desired feelings, and asserts that all of our behavior, conscious or not, is in search of feeling these feelings. It’s embarassing, maybe, that it’s taken me 35.5 years to figure this out, but I am certain that one of my core desired feelings, probably the primary one, is safety.
This is one of those places where the rational and logical people in my life roll their eyes. I know. I’m one of the safest people in the world. How can I possibly not know – not feel – it!? I don’t know. But I do know this realm, this space of most devoutly desired feelings and deepest, most primal anxieties, is not a place where reason and logic rule. I have struggled my whole life with feeling unsafe. There. I said it.
There are many layers of this unsafety (and it’s actually not the same as my deep and toxic insecurity, either, a topic for another post). I have terrifying fears about financial safety that, while not tethered to reality, have their claws deep into my psyche. I worry that there will not be enough. I worry constantly about not being able to pay basic bills, not having a roof over my head, losing everything. This turns into enormous pressure on myself to earn money. It has also created a completely irrational panic about all things money-related, which, combined with my deep resistance to ever talking about the topic at all, makes money into a powderkeg of a subject, one that I both fear and avoid.
I also worry about the safety of my physical self. I’ve always worried about it: perhaps this is hypochondria, perhaps it is a psychosomatic way of handling my anxieties about my spirit in the world. I wait, day in and day out, for the other medical shoe to drop. My daughter’s mononeucleosis diagnosis this week felt like a manifestation of this deep sense of being at risk: I spent two terrifying hours imagining very bleak news (with reason, given what the doctors said and did) and wondering if I had, with my incessant worrying and fearing, somehow brought this onto her. The actual news that she had mono felt like a radiant relief after what I had imagined and blamed myself for creating.
Perhaps most vitally, though, I want to be safe from myself. I want to be clearly seen for who and what I am – something that I have truly felt so rarely in my life – but also loved in spite of it. I know I misbehave, I know I am far too emotional, reactive, insecure. I want to be kept safe from those monsters running in my head: I want someone to wrap their arms around me and tell me that I am safe from my own rampaging emotions.
Someone told me recently that there is no meaning without safety. I’ve been mulling over the comment, turning it over, and finding myself nodding. Yes. Given my preoccupation with the search for meaning in my small little life, this is a vital truth, not a mere nuance or turn of phrase. And it must explain why for me there is such frantic fear around not being safe. In those rare moments where I have felt safe enough to relax my white-knuckle grasp one very single little thing, I’ve been able to see and experience meaning. To relax into my life, to live it rather than hold it in my panicky, breathless, fearful grasp.
I want to feel safe. What will it take? How do I build a life around those people, places, and experiences that provide that? How do I not transmit this irrational but deeply destabilizing fear to my children? How do I learn to control my own reactivity so that more people might be willing to be here, so that I can trust that they will keep me safe? I don’t know the answers. I’m only barely seeing the questions shimmering up through the morass of roiling thoughts in my head. I turn back to Rilke, and commit yet again, as another day turns towards morning, to living the questions.