Most people would state that, unquestionably, security is a good thing. However, it’s an oddity that many, perhaps most, would not be able to describe what it is. They might know some of the circumstances that provide a sense of it, but not exactly what it entails.
The human need for security is an inherited trait dating back to our ancient ancestors, long before humans walked the planet. These creatures established a hidey hole, a resource they could retreat to if danger threatened. As long as they knew where it was and that it was within easy reach, they felt secure.
This is not so different from saving for a rainy day or having a contingency plan for potential threats – resources you have “in stock” that you can access when needed.
Imagine that the bank holding your savings was absorbed into an unfamiliar system. Not knowing the name of it or how it operates can teach you something more about security: the need for familiarity. Knowing where your safety net is and how to use it is paramount.
So, a significant aspect of security is not what is supportive but what is familiar. This can lead many to remain in uncomfortable situations because they are familiar, and the fear of the unknown keeps us trapped.
Our ancient ancestors were wary of unexplored forests with potential threats, having no hidey hole for retreat. Evolution has translated this wariness into what we now label as “anxiety“. We crave familiar ground.
An individual might stay in a loveless relationship, thinking “Better the devil you know than the one you don’t”. They may endure poor job conditions for the same reasons. Sometimes, due to the “urge to repeat”, this can be even more destructive.
Consider someone in a relationship with an abusive partner who belittles them, convincing them of their unworthiness. Despite this, they stay because their subconscious deems the situation “safe”, whereas leaving for the unknown is seen as risky.
After such a relationship ends, they will often seek a similar partner, repeating the cycle. They believe they “always attract the wrong type”, but it’s their search for familiarity that leads them to similar situations.
This pattern often starts in the formative years. Observing one parent mistreat the other and the other’s passive response can lead a child to adopt similar behaviours in adulthood, seeking the same dynamic to feel secure.
Neither the bully nor the bullied are content; they’re following a learned pattern that falsely promises security. The bullied remains silent to avoid the insecurity of abandonment, while the bully acts out to assert their dominance.
There’s no simple fix, and most people may not realise there’s a problem, continuing the patterns learned from their parents. However, if there’s a realisation that better is possible, modern therapy techniques like BrainWorking Recursive Therapy can produce rapid change.
These therapies don’t dwell on the past but focus on changing the subconscious’s reactions to the world. If you see yourself in this, take heart. No matter your current situation, a better life is possible.
Terence Watts is the creator of Brain Working Recursive Therapy (BWRT).