We can feel insecure in several practical dimensions:
physical, social, interpersonal, & emotional.
But a much deeper level of insecurity—existential
be solved by any of the security-operations
that will resolve our
ordinary worries about not being safe enough.
If we discover our underlying existential insecurity,
then we might be able to open ourselves to
a new possibility of existence—Existential
means living beyond existential insecurity.
I. ORDINARY FORMS OF SECURITY AND INSECURITY
II. EXISTENTIAL INSECURITY
III. SECURITY-OPERATIONS TO COMBAT INSECURITY
HUMAN PORCUPINES POP OUR BUBBLES OF ILLUSION
V. OPENING OURSELVES TO EXISTENTIAL FREEDOM
FIVE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN
ORDINARY INSECURITY AND EXISTENTIAL
I. ORDINARY FORMS OF SECURITY
There are several forms of
financial, physical, social, interpersonal, & emotional.
security means we have enough money
assets, savings, investments, insurance—
to prevent most financial troubles in the future.
security means that our living and working conditions
are safe from fire, flood, riot, war, accident, & violence.
And health-security means that we have good ways
of protecting ourselves from disease, injury, & disability.
We are socially secure when our
social standing is assured,
when we have the approval and recognition of the people we respect.
security refers to close personal relationships.
We often seek relationship-stability thru marriage and family.
We all appreciate good personal relationships, but children,
need the security and protection of dependable, loving parents.
or psychological security
means we can depend on ourselves.
We are self-confident, internally-strong, & self-reliant.
When these desirable conditions are missing,
we become insecure:
When our incomes are uncertain and our savings small,
we might experience economic or financial insecurity.
When the conditions protecting our health and safety are absent,
we might worry about catching diseases or being physically hurt.
We might become socially insecure if we lose our friends.
If our personal relationships are unstable—or
we might feel threatened by interpersonal insecurity.
And when our inner selves become unstable,
we feel emotionally and psychologically insecure.
II. EXISTENTIAL INSECURITY
But beyond all these forms of ordinary
lies another level of
Even when we have every form of objective security and safety,
we might still feel threatened and unstable.
Existential insecurity differs from ordinary insecurity in five ways:
1. Instead of being the result of unsafe
our existential insecurity is free-floating and generalized.
It is an unexplained sense of uneasiness gnawing at our guts.
2. Existential insecurity has nothing to do
with identifiable threats
tho we might try to project
our uncaused precariousness
onto definite dangers, perils, & menaces in the real world.
It is more acceptable to fear crime, cancer, or car-theft
than to admit that we are scared
and insecure for no particular
Existential insecurity often intrudes
when we know that
safe and sound.
3. All forms of ordinary security/insecurity
rise and fall
with the objective conditions for our safety, health, & well-being.
But existential insecurity is a permanent condition of our beings.
Telling ourselves that we should
feel protected and confident
does not abolish our inward, underlying insecurity.
4. Each form of security/insecurity is
separate from the others.
Financial troubles might have far-reaching implications,
but being poor need not affect our interpersonal or emotional lives.
However, existential insecurity threatens us in every dimension.
shaky, unstable, exposed, & vulnerable.
5. And finally, we cannot cure our existential
We know how to obtain various forms of objective safety and
But even if we are rich, healthy, shielded from all external dangers,
socially well established, with good marriages and families,
we might still feel fundamentally
III. SECURITY-OPERATIONS TO
Because we often confuse ordinary and
we use security-operations
that would be
for obtaining financial, physical, or emotional security
when we are really struggling with our existential insecurity.
If our deep vulnerability disguises itself as ordinary fears,
putting more locks on the doors or buying more insurance
will not overcome our existential insecurity.
If we have all the conditions of a reasonably secure life
still we tremble—we
should look more deeply into ourselves.
is often one of our largest security-blankets.
But trying to strengthen and secure our relationships
assurances of fidelity, loyalty, exclusiveness, & love—
will not overcome our
Having a job is another major
Work gives us
constructive ways to organize our time.
But if we lose our jobs, our Existential Malaise might be disclosed.
We construct safe worlds for ourselves.
We surround ourselves with others who agree with our world-views.
But if we have structured our lives to control existential
any small hole in the security-blanket might release our whole
Thus minor disruptions sometimes 'cause' catastrophic
IV. HUMAN PORCUPINES POP OUR
BUBBLES OF ILLUSION
Some people frequently challenge our
If we picture each of us encapsulated in a thin security-bubble,
these professional disillusioners are like human porcupines:
They destroy all the security-bubbles that come near—including
Everyone within range feels existentially
Such bubble-poppers are very intense
they will not allow us to cling to our cultural evasions and escapes;
they undermine our security-operations and pull away our
In the presence of these spiny creatures, we must be serious;
they force us to ask ultimate questions about the meaning of
At first we do not appreciate their bubble-popping function,
unless the eruption of our existential insecurity turns us toward
Whatever games, techniques, operations, &
devices we invent,
these methods will never overcome our existential insecurity.
The measures effective against ordinary perils and threats
simply do not work
when applied to our existential precariousness.
V. OPENING OURSELVES TO
But we can become existentially secure
opening ourselves to Existential Freedom.
First, we stop running away and acknowledge our existential insecurity.
Second, we must stop trying to create our own security
by taking up professions, getting married, having families,
gathering friends and associates, winning respect, honor, & status.
After we realize that such security-blankets do not bring ultimate
we give up, we admit that we cannot banish our existential
Finally we open ourselves in trust, receptive
to Existential Freedom.
By surrendering, we find in our depths a marvelous peace and security
stable and serene way of being we sought to achieve all our
And as long as we do not return to trusting in ourselves again,
as long as we re-create our posture of surrender and receptivity,
we continue to be fundamentally supported in Existential Freedom.
No matter what troubles assail us,
no matter what security-operations fail,
we remain ultimately and fundamentally secure.
But this existential security can never be possessed;
rather, this inner state-of-being must possess us.
We rest in ultimate security as long as we respond to Existential
Within Existential Freedom we are still
subject to all the contingencies of life.
We can still be insecure financially, interpersonally, even
our possessions, health, & safety can always be threatened.
But because we are supported by Existential Freedom in our deepest
we no longer become neurotic about these ordinary dangers;
we take rational measures to protect our values and interests,
but these never grow into absurd efforts to create existential
In fact, if necessary, we can get along
the things we used to regard as essential to our security:
We no longer cling to
jobs, families, status, money, possessions, insurance.
When we become fundamentally secure, when we receive fulfillment,
our old security-procedures simply fall away.
We have outgrown our security-blankets.
And even our loving relationships can become more open and liberating
because we no longer have to possess
others to be secure.
Instead of our old orientation of striving to
we now have a far deeper strength and stability
than even the most successful security-operations could provide.
But this new ground of stability and trustworthiness is not within us.
We cannot comprehend why
we now feel so totally confident.
We only know how we open ourselves to receive this sustaining gift.
VI. FIVE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN
ORDINARY INSECURITY AND
1. Specific feeling of vulnerability.
2. Caused by the absence
2. Not caused by lack of definite,
specific conditions of security.
arises from within.
3. Comes and goes with conditions 3.
4. Each kind of insecurity affects
4. Pervades and threatens
only one dimension of
5. We know how to
5. Cannot be overcome
by our efforts;
1. Which form of security/insecurity is most
important to you?
2. During what periods in your life were you very
secure or very insecure?
3. Are your everyday activities intended to create
4. Have you learned to live with a certain degree of
5. Do various forms of security/insecurity sometimes
example, when you seek financial security
sometimes also seeking emotional or psychological security?
6. What are your main security-blankets?
7. Are your security-operations sometimes
really trying to overcome your existential insecurity?
8. Do you think that paranoia might be a sign of
9. Are you a human porcupine, popping everyone's
10. Do you enjoy pulling away other people's
11. How does Existential Freedom differ from building
up your self-confidence?
12. Has Existential Freedom changed your orientation
possessions, status, love, marriage, family?
cyber-sermon was adapted
by the author
from a chapter entitled "Ordinary Insecurity & Spiritual
in his small book called:
Opening to Grace: Transcending Our Spiritual
James Park is an existential
and author of five books in existential spirituality,
all of which will be found in the Existential
more information about
will be found on his website:
An Existential Philosopher's Museum:
May 30, 2008; Revised July 2, 2008; 2-11-2009; 4-29-2011; 12-21-2012
Reading on Existential Insecurity
and Existential Freedom
Park Opening to
Transcending Our Spiritual
(Minneapolis, MN: www.existentialbooks.com, 2007—2nd
6 "Ordinary Insecurity and Spiritual Insecurity" p. 32-35.
James Park Our
Loneliness, Depression, Anxiety, &
(Minneapolis, MN: www.existentialbooks.com, 2006—5th
11 "Existential Insecurity: When all Security-Operations Fail" p.
Park In Quest
Money, Achievement, Marriage,
Children, Pleasure, & Religion
(Minneapolis, MN: www.existentialbooks.com, 2007—2nd
Write to the author of "Existential
James Park welcomes your questions and comments at: