1. Security

Fear is the foundation of safety.

- Tertullian

The cortex of an unborn baby’s brain develops around six months, making it highly likely that we were conscious before birth. While we may not have explicit memories of our time in the womb, what we experienced nonetheless remains deeply entrenched.

During these formative months, we adopt our mother’s state, sensing much of what she experiences in the outside world. If our mother is overwhelmed, the stress hormones in her system will invade and put us on high alert. As a result, her anxiety becomes imprinted in us at a cellular level. We curl our hands and feet while tensing our tiny body to resist the fear seeping in. This ‘armouring’ of our bodies is a way of withstanding the stress of our environment, and it can remain with us indefinitely. The plus side is that we survive, the minus side being that we can never truly relax. This explains why some people can find it difficult simply to feel ‘ok’ in the world. They are still physiologically ‘holding on,’ haunted by the inescapable, prenatal imprints of fear.

After we are born, our mother uses non-verbal methods of communication to help us regulate our emotional state and feel calm and safe. The more secure she feels in herself, the more skilful she will be at helping us achieve the same. By emotionally and physically grounding ourselves in her, we can feel at home in our body. In dysfunctional or overstressed families, this becomes nearly impossible. The child tries to read the state of the distracted mother through her body language and facial expressions, looking for reassurance. Instead of being met with a calm and happy face, they see only anxiety, gloom and emotional distance. The result is a deep-seated feeling of terror and the surfacing of the death instinct.

Fear: The governing emotion of security

Meditation is the act of observing without judgement. This means letting go of the mind, and having the discipline to ‘see’ beyond your thoughts. It requires a willingness to embrace ‘being,’ to become a single point of focus — i.e. the observer.

Through the observer you become consciousness, and witness your thoughts without engaging them. You see them not as gospel, but as psychological form which comes and goes. As the observer, you can go even further, where you discover that your emotions are also just form; a set of sensations which come and go. Once this practice becomes clear to you, you can sink further into the Self, where you experience a temporary ‘death.’ Here the realm of energy reveals itself, making it easier to spot the patterns which form your being. Moreover, you can witness how emotions constellate predictably in response to how you perceive the world. Without these thoughts, sensations, emotions and patterns to create a ‘Self’ from, the psychological construct you believed to be ‘you’ collapses. All that is left is the witness, who comes to know that beyond all form is nothing. Emptiness. A void.

And yet, just as life grows from nothing and continuously evolves, you discover that within the void there is restless movement. Past the stillness, inside the black, you experience a torrent of energy rushing toward you. The more neutral and focussed you are, the more this energy flows out in its purest form. If you remain centred and cease to analyse the mental, emotional and sensual facets of yourself, you learn that behind all life energy there is one ingredient: fear.

One could argue that without fear, our lives would collapse. There would be nothing but emptiness. If we did not fear death, we would fall into the void and have no reason to come back out. Because of fear, a state of emptiness always results in its opposite: fullness. When we go beyond the mind, the void emerges. From within the void, fear flows. When fear peaks, we awaken fully.

Fear is the basic building block of our life, the core ingredient which forms the other emotional forces. Fear directs our attention away from the void and wills us toward fullness. However, it also needs to come in manageable doses — especially early in life. Children cannot withstand and act proactively in the face of fear. Their little bodies cannot handle it. They need to feel secure to combat the terror of being alive.

When life is structured and we feel supported, we stop experiencing fear as a raw, destabilising emotion. Instead, it converts to other forms which we can utilise for our evolution — i.e. love, hate, shame and pride. If life becomes unpredictable and threatening, however, then we revert to a fearful state to ensure our survival.

When security is disrupted

A child’s capacity to contain fear is at first wholly determined by the mother’s state. If the mother is calm, content and secure, then the baby will internalise that same state. When security is lacking, the child cannot remain present. The death instinct is a dark, intolerable apparition. The child therefore ‘checks out’ from reality, creating fantasies of security which remind them of the warmth of the womb. If this goes on long enough, the child cannot fully come into the world, psychologically speaking. They live life with one foot in the real world and the other in an alternate reality. They want to take part in and explore their environment, but are unable to shake free from their bone-deep anxiety. They continue to fear exposure while craving an elusive Utopia in their mind.

Every child is born with an intoxicating awareness of their divine nature, which pours out of the True Self. As the child grows, the outside world slowly consumes them, and they leave the energetic realm behind. The insecure child, on the other hand, with their ‘one foot in the door’ state of mind, maintains their bond with the ‘other side.’ They do this because, to them, reality cannot be trusted. We have all met such people. They are often dreamers and creative types, or otherwise seem ‘not all there.’ That is because they are not. They find it so easy to check out, they are usually in a state of fantasy and imagination. This occurs especially when they are anxious, fearful or overwhelmed, where they use dissociation and imagination to soothe themselves. They also tend to be intuitive, and where others get stuck on the details, they can see the world in an abstract manner.

Becoming stuck in security

Security is the foundation for actualisation. If a child can sufficiently ground themselves through the mother, feeling ‘ok’ stops being a concern for them. They take it for granted that everything will be fine, and turn their attention outwards. On the other hand, the insecure child remains stuck in between, held back from fully engaging the world by persistent, overwhelming fear. Instead, they cope by dreaming of a perfect, frictionless Utopia, an abstract concept which never arrives and which they can never let go of.

Unable to escape mortality, the mind compensates by creating the promise of security. Deep down, we all know that absolute security does not exist. Every living being is doing its best while constantly vulnerable to harm and death. For the ego, which is only interested in survival, this is an unacceptable reality. Instead, it manifests the illusion of being omnipotent, hence rendering it ‘invulnerable’ to outside harm. This is a useful coping mechanism, but nothing more. To be invincible and indestructible is a utopian dream which keeps a person stuck, and empowers them as much as an ostrich with its head in the sand. Real security only comes in one form, and that is the offensive strategy of finding the courage to enter into and engage the flow of life.

When security is established

While absolute security is a fantasy created by the mind, a sense of security can be obtained by moving with the flow of life. To achieve this, a person needs to experience just the right amount of fear. This spontaneous, open way of living generates security by encouraging the person to be at one with life. Someone engaged with the world is prepared to act when something goes wrong. For that they require a healthy amount of fear which comes from allowing life energy to flow. Anything less, and they descend into the formless void and lose motivation. Any more than they can handle, and they soon become overwhelmed and dissociated, growing tense to hold back the intensity and living in their head. Without a secure baseline, a person loses touch with their body, and their focus scatters. However, take a peak amount, and combine it with trust, and a state of ease and flow will emerge, giving a person the confidence to engage the world. Bonding with others becomes possible, and vitality awakens.