In Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs theory (usually portrayed as a triangle), the base is taken up by physical concerns—air, water, food, sleep, and such. Right above that, occupying the next level of personal importance is our need for safety. We need to feel secure. If we do not, the next-higher levels of growth—those of love and belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization—are virtually inaccessible.
The foundations of fear
A further lesson from Maslow, then, might be that a lack of security leads to fear, and when we feel fear, we experience stress. Stress, in turn, is known to cause of all sorts of ills—whether social, psychological or physical.
Let’s face it; there is plenty to fear in this world. None of us are exempt—whether we live in a shack or a mansion, whether we are strong or weak, and whether we are employed or unemployed: fear is just a thought away from each of us.
The foundations of peace
Fortunately, there are tools at our disposal to combat fear—tools that will help us keep from getting stuck near the bottom of the hierarchy. After all, Maslow’s theory is really about motivation—about what it takes to prompt us into doing something about our circumstances.
Are your needs for safety being met, or do you often lie awake at night, immobilized by worry? Here are three suggestions you can use to overcome fear and move towards peace of mind:
- Build faith. It is said “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Those who are under the heaviest fire are closest to grasping a calm acceptance of reality. The bullets may not stop flying, but you can stop shivering when you accept the fact that you probably won’t leave this world alive anyway—and that there is a greater purpose at work.
- Name your fear and face it. By admitting your situation, you free yourself to begin dealing with it. Denial only leads to more fear in the long run, and it prevents you from taking action. Once you have admitted your fear to yourself, tell someone else—a trusted friend or wise counselor. Fear exposed, often dwindles into a much more manageable form.
- Take practical steps to protect yourself: study a martial art, join a mentoring group, keep an amount of money in savings instead of living constantly on the edge, install a home security system that will alert you to any intruder—all of these help build a sense of safety, a feeling that you are in control of your life, that you have some say-so about what happens.
Don’t let fear overcome you
Rather, use fear as a catalyst to build strength and determination. And once you have tasted freedom from fear, tell others so they can escape the tyrant too.
Author Lane Goodberry focuses on health and the home security.