Security comes in many forms over the span of a human life. As children, we often cling to a security blanket. As we grow, we must learn to manage insecurities that arise from fearing we aren’t enough: not pretty enough, not smart enough, not friendly enough, not good enough. In adulthood, we struggle for job security and financial security. During these life stages, security is tangible, then internal, and finally external. Despite the transformation, we never stop reaching out for that security blanket.
Tangible: Security in hand.
I had a security blanket I took everywhere. More accurately, I had three: Pinky, Piggy, and Rosey. They were all soft and pink, but I lost one after the other. The first was thrown out after it became too ragged and dirty. The second was thoughtlessly left behind at my sister’s soccer game; while I sobbed, my mother assured me that another child would find it and love it. The third one lasted well past my security-blanket days until it finally ripped in half while I dragged my younger sister over the hardwood floor on it while we pretending it was a magic carpet. At a young age, security is something you can hold in your hand.
Internal: Security in heart and head.
Coinciding with my own security blanket years is a time of rapid psychological growth. Erik Erikson, child psychoanalyst, describes two stages of development dealing with childhood security or insecurity. His eight proposed life stages are all explained as a conflict between two or more traits. Successfully maturing beyond the stage means resolving each conflict.
The first, happening between eighteen months and three years of age, deals with autonomy conflicting with shame and doubt. A child must learn to feels secure enough in herself to graduate from this stage. Failing to achieve autonomy, through whatever reason, results in a far-reaching sense of insecurity or inadequacy.
Secondly, Erikson describes a conflict of initiative versus guilt. Around ages three to five, children start to take on tasks independently. Performing well and getting praise from trusted adults and peers will help instill a sense of initiative. Conversely, being consistently reprimanded will foster feelings of guilt in the child’s mind. Speaking in terms of mental health, it is better to be secure in one’s own independence–this does not mean that mentally healthy people do it feel guilt, but it doesn’t beat out initiative.
As we age, we learn to relinquish more and more security to our heads and hearts rather than the security blankets we can hold. The blankies can stay at home as we learn to play and explore our world.
External: Security in the home
As a young adult with a brand new college degree, I am now seeking security in what I can call home. I’m searching for a job that develops my talents and inspires my passions: words, health, and people. I want that job to blossom into a career, so the office with act as the epicenter for my search for new place to live. In addition to the basic comforts of home, I am searching for a community with a local library, a weekend farmer’s market, a neighborhood pool and a park that is nice to walk around. Because I am secure in my autonomy and initiative, I believe I can reach the next level of security: the external security that comes from a stable and fulfilling job, a comfortable house, an open community, and a happy home.
I dream of a home that is safe and secure. Not in a bars-on-the-windows way, but in that coming home after work to my home recreates the warm feeling I got long ago from my security blanket. In that way, we never stop reaching out for a security blanket; we simply internalize the blanket and then seek to expand it.