Organic Spirituality 3: Sense of Security
by: Gordon Wayne
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The second stage in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and our theory of organic spirituality is safety but this introduces a problem because life abounds with competition and conflict. Although our objective is to create safe living spaces, we must remember that absolute safety is an impossible and unrealistic objective. Unfortunately, we must clarify this because some people ignore the obvious, others chase fairytales, and some exploit safety concerns so they can manipulate others for economic, political, or religious advantages.
Competition and conflict are unavoidable because almost every organism’s survival depends on the exploitation of another species. Carnivores survive by devouring herbivores, herbivores survive by consuming plants, plants survive by exploiting microbes, and microbes survive on the decomposing flesh of other organisms. This nutritional network is the cornerstone of biology yet it means that every organism must compete against others for their share of nutrients. Because of this biological conundrum, we will never attain absolute safety although we can learn sensible strategies for surviving the inevitable problems.
The first strategy is learning to recognize danger such as hungry tigers, feral thieves, or precarious objects. Until we can identify potentially dangerous situations, which one lesson we typically learn from hard experience, we cannot avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Therefore, our first objective should be learning to recognize possible mugging situations and potential accidents, both to avoid unnecessary hazards when possible and to prepare for unavoidable situations.
Since absolute safety is impossible and unrealistic, we would be wise to learn how to handle ourselves in a variety of risky circumstances. For instance, police strongly recommend that we cooperate with thieves, giving them whatever they demand so they have every reason to make a hasty escape. We can also learn the fundamentals of handling common medical emergencies such as contacting emergency services and, if we wish, we could learn some elementary lifesaving techniques. As for surviving wild animals, we should ask park rangers because they know which species are dangerous and the most effective techniques for surviving their attacks. Whatever we decide to learn, the smartest strategy is practicing simulations because practice imbeds the knowledge deep inside our memories.
Perhaps the most important strategy is understanding the recovery process, which is a psychological journey through defensive, offensive, and conciliatory emotions. Defensive emotions such as shock and denial are a psychological response that prevents emotionally overwhelming experiences from permanently damaging our psyche. As these emotions subside, offensive emotions such as anger and resentment emerge, and when these subside, conciliatory emotions such as forgiveness and acceptance complete the recovery process. The duration and intensity of these stages vary depending on the event, our personality, and our personal history, yet every dangerous experience has psychological consequences that subsequently require psychological recovery.
The best way to avoid danger is by eliminating danger but this is impossible and not necessarily prudent because facing danger can have important benefits. To begin, facing some danger such as carnival rides can be exciting, heightening alertness and sensations, and stimulating the production of adrenalin. Also, assuming a dangerous situation does not kill us, the danger will challenge us, forcing us to discover the limits of our personal strengths and weaknesses. In this sense, although dangerous situations are risky, they can also be an important part of our personal development, maybe even part of our spiritual development.
Despite the impossibility of achieving absolute safety, we can establish enough personal security to continue our journey into organic spirituality. If we learn to identify dangerous situations before they overwhelm us, then we are 25% of the way toward organic spirituality; if we can handle ourselves in dangerous situations so we reduce rather than exacerbate the danger, then we are 30% of the way toward organic spirituality; if we learn to recover from overwhelming experiences, then we are 35% of the way toward organic spirituality; and if we become a stronger, wiser person because of our experiences, then we are 40% of the way toward organic spirituality.