Man jumping into safety net - flickr

He helped Arthur to some peanuts. “How do you feel?” he asked.
“Like a military academy,” said Arthur, “bits of me keep on passing out.”
Ford stared at him blankly in the darkness.
“If I asked you where the hell we were,” said Arthur weakly, “would I regret it?”
Ford stood up. “We’re safe,” he said.
“Oh good,” said Arthur.
“We’re in a small galley cabin,” said Ford, “in one of the spaceships of the Vogon Constructor Fleet.”
“Ah,” said Arthur, “this is obviously some strange usage of the word safe that I wasn’t previously aware of.” – The Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy

One of out more basic and primal motivations as humans is to ensure our safety both physically and emotionally. It keeps us from taking undo risks and I would say without fear of contradiction that it is the strongest motivators we have. Even a young child who is heavily abused will still cling to the abusive parent for safety in a threatening situation. And the unknown is one of the most frightening situations. We learn very early on to fear the unknown.

So what we deem as being safe depends on our point of view. Our personal experience as it were. I feel safe working on electronics as I have had extensive experience doing so. It is a know situation. In a culture where living on the edge of some cliff in the air, they would feel safe doing so. Where as someone who spent their lives in a valley would definitely not.

It’s one of the main reasons that people – male and female – remain in abusive relationships. Oh we have various ways of rationalizing this but it nearly always comes down to fear. As they say, better the devil we know that the one we don’t know.

This issue of personal safety is a complex one. It also involves the ego. Our sense of self. Our self identity. This mean little ego we will oft time protect even at the risk of our physical bodies. Young people are know for such behaviors. At taking unreasonable risks to protect or even inflate their egos. That is we will put our emotional safety ahead of our physical safety.

The biggest fear of all is our fear of death. It’s is the biggest of the unknowns. So big in fact the we have built up mythologies around it. Nearly all of which contain immortality. That we continue on living in some other worldly place after we die. We cannot imagine our own deaths and every time we try, we still exist in the third person. Non existence is psychologically very difficult to handle.

We also learn that there is safety in numbers. That being with others of our own kind is safer that being alone. That we must trust one another and work together to insure each individuals safety. So we form communities and tribes and gangs etc. Anyone who puts this in jeopardy is usually dealt with very harshly. So we make up rules and even myths regarding this and pass them down so as tu insure the safety of all. Even after the threat no longer exists.

And we are back again to the fear of the unknown. That which we do not understand. Because if we do not understand it – if we have no experience with it – it’s dangerous. It’s our Lizard brain that is responsible for this. That part that keeps us from doing things that could kill us. Useful in appropriate situations but far to often is in charge in inappropriate situations.

It wants to keep us safe all the time. But as this week has proven, we live in an increasingly unsafe world. This Lizard brain has not logic. It has no reason. It wants us to either flee or fight. That is all it says to us. It’s this Lizard brain that causes us to make bad decisions and judgements. And constant negative reinforcement of it, ingrains these thoughts very deeply.

It wants to keep the tribe safe and strong because keeping the tribe safe and strong keeps each one safe and strong as well. And it’s influence on our decisions is nearly all subconscious. We don’t think about it, it just happens.

When my mother moved us down to southwest Florida her first reaction to the first hurricane was one of fear. After we had been there for a few years, it was more one of mild aggravation. They were no longer a threat as we had the experience and knew what we had to do and when to do it. The first hurricane was scary…the fifth was redundant.

I think this had a lot to do with her and my father’s and their generations view and how they handled situations. They were both WWII veterans and to them safe had a different meaning than to those who never had the experience.

To assume that the reaction that some people have to a give situation is based on malice or stupidity or other motive may not be entirely correct. It maybe a gut level reaction formed by lack of appropriate experience. That those who appear to be acting in way that is opposed to their interests, likely do not see it that way because their sense of what is safe or not is not fully developed.

And conversely it is terribly difficult to have any compassion for others when one sees one’s own life constantly in jeopardy or to understand and relate to those who live in fear when your own life has had little if any fearful experiences. And like the child in a frightening situation, it is not unusual for a person to grasp onto that which they feel safe even though it may also be abusive.

It’s the experience that changed the point of view. It’s the experience that too many people in this country lack that generates the fear and willingness to grab on to what every makes them feel safe, even if that is a poor choice.