By Mansi Poddar
Insecure people end up destroying the very relationships they cling to so desperately. Here is how to work your way to freedom.
Most people at one time or another experience some insecurity in relationships. A little insecurity is normal, but this feeling can grow to crippling proportions and end a potentially happy relationship. Insecure people find it difficult to feel gratitude, satisfaction or happiness or recognise abundance and grace. Their lives gets covered by a dark shadow of struggle and doubt.
Shyla, a former client, for instance, came to me to work on insecurity issues. “I am obsessed with my husband. I always fear that a coffee is never a coffee. It’s always indicative of something else, be it with a man or woman.”
Shyla has been married 15 years and calls her suffering ‘chronic doubt syndrome’. She is even insecure about her children, friends, and co-workers. When her co-workers talk, she feels they are discussing her. This makes her anxious for the rest of the day. Shyla is afraid that when her kids grow up they will forget her or not take care of her. “Who will have time for me?”
Insecurity is an emotional alarm clock that goes off every time our spouse talks to other women, a friend spend less time with us or we spy the neighbour with the perfect body. Insecurity is normal in all relationships, but too much of it drains relationships of love. People in relationships with insecure people find the constant comforting and reassurances draining and irritating.
Rahul, Shyla’s husband, said he was tired of being accused of crimes he hadn’t committed. He said he was tempted to indulge in all of them to spite his wife. “I can’t handle her anymore. She is just too insecure.”
Insecurity robs our life and relationships of zest. We approach everything in a self-conscious, defensive and anxious way. It even causes anxiety disorders.
Where does insecurity come from and how does it affect us?
Minood, founder, Temple of Inner Wisdom, a spiritual teacher, says insecurity is caused by lack of self-love and faith. Even though the insecurity can appear to be about money, looks, or relationships, its root cause is lack of self-love. An insecure person gets worried about her stake in the relationship and believes that she isn’t as important to her partner as she wants to be.
Vimla Jain, a follower of Yogoda Satsanga, says, “Insecurity is driven by self-pity. We do not feel we are worthy. We seek to constantly pacify our egos through reassurances and special attention.”
In my practice, I find extreme insecurity is rooted in fear – of loss, of not being good enough, of having to depend on oneself. Insecure people are unable to develop emotional strength to cope with life. They, therefore, depend on others to provide that support. This leads to an unhealthy dependency as the partner or friend becomes the source of strength and meaning. Such support systems are impermanent and cause pain, since they are controlled by another person. This power dynamic causes an individual to feel out of control and weak. It makes them insecure.
Insecurities could also be rooted in many other factors such as an unstable childhood, rigid and critical upbringing, over-achieving siblings, painful life events or lack of support or guidance.
Relationship insecurities are something people all over the world contend with. Marsha Williams, a psychotherapist and adjunct assistant professor at Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York, lists the manifestations of insecurity in our lives.
• Jealousy and distrust
• Thwarting of communication processes
• Retardation of growth within a relationship
• Unnecessary conflicts that often end in premature breakups
Mindful Loving by Henry Grayson is an excellent book that deals in detail about insecurities within relationships. Grayson points out that insecure people reach out in fear. The way out, the author says, is to treat the insecure person with compassionate understanding. It also helps if one discovers the ‘insecurity triggers’ – factors like people and events that make the partner insecure.
Coping with insecurity
Need for security: The interactive Self-Discovery series by Sri Aurobindo has a book titled Fear: Its cause and cure. According to Sri Aurobindo, fear comes from excessive concern about one’s security. In relationships, we are afraid of being vulnerable. We try to protect ourselves by seeking external reassurances and platitudes. By opening up, sharing our inner fears and just letting them be, we are able to face them. By trying to mitigate our fearful insecurities, we keep feeling them.
Finding inner stillness: Minood says we can control our insecurities by finding our core, which is calm and divine. Through meditation we begin slowly release the tensions and anxiety.
Chanting: I ask clients to choose the Gayatri mantra or a word that brings a sense of stillness and chant it every time they begin to dwell on insecurities and fearful thoughts.
Risk love: In his book, When all you’ve ever wanted isn’t enough, Harold S Kushner talks about love with risk. There is no relationship without risk of loss, failure or grief. It is an inevitable part of loving. Rabbi Kushner says, we fear to give ourselves hundred per cent in a relationship. Love is a free fall of emotions. Once we can accept the emotional investment required, we begin to let go of fear.
Surrender: Whether it is to destiny or the Divine, eventually we need to surrender and let go of outcomes. Shyla has learnt to let go of her fears and insecurities. She now lives with the faith that what is to be will be. She cannot control it. “I tell myself each day that if Rahul has to cheat on me, he will. By my constant vigilance or assurance seeking, the outcome will not change. In fact, it will weaken my relationship further.”
Law of attraction: The book, The Secret, reveals how we manifest fears by dwelling on them. Sri Aurobindo also explores this concept. We are reminded that by focusing on fear, we create that very fear. It is important that we keep reminding ourselves this.
Learn to separate: Learn to separate reality from fear. When we operate from insecurities, we operate from a place that is built on fantasy, not reality. Is your fear based on evidence? Where is the fear coming from? Seek therapy to help you differentiate and cognitively restructure.
Being in the now: Insecurities are the results of living in the past or future. I often hear people say, ‘He/she did that to me in the past. I do not trust them and this makes me insecure’ or you may say, ‘My father suffered financially. I am scared I will too’. Therapist Marsha Williams says, “WIN is a useful acronym that I apply to my relationships. WIN stands for ‘What’s Important Now’. This helps her stay in the present and assess current needs, instead of thinking of the past or future.
Insecurity is best tackled by discovering our own power. We need to discover our strengths and build our lives with the knowledge that people cannot fulfil our needs or make us happy. The Buddha spoke about creating a space within ourselves that is solely ours. This inner life is independent of others. When we are able to be with ourselves without fearing our minds, we find security. The desperate need for others disappears. They become a part of our life, not life itself. This is an important insight to remember because when people build their lives around a particular person or objective, life becomes very insecure.
Finally, if a relationship is not working, we need to let go of it. We have to assess and see if insecurity stems from our minds or whether our partner or friend is generally unreliable. We can work on your own insecurities, but we cannot change our partner into being something they aren’t. Remember, there is a difference between being insecure in an abusive relationship and feeling insecurity in a non-abusive relationship.
Eventually, a healthy relationship is one in which we can share insecurities, be open and vulnerable with our loved ones and instead of seeking constant reassurances, surrender our fears to the Divine.
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