The Wisdom of Insecurity – Alan W. Watts

I picked up this book and borrowed it from my brother in a time that I was feeling particularly insecure, anxious – okay, and just downright unstable.

I’ve been getting no sleep because of all my stresses, and a new cold sore has been popping up on my lip every. single. week!

As soon as I read the blurb, I knew I needed to hear this book’s message.

We spend too much time trying to anticipate the plan for the future; too much time lamenting the past. We often miss the pleasure of the moment in our anxious efforts to ensure the next moment is as enjoyable.

And this is exactly my problem. I’m so aware that stress is irrational, that it is damaging and unnecessary. I know this. And yet it continues to disrupt my life. In my attempts to ensure that my future is going to be good, I fail to recognise the good time that I’m actually having right now. Later, when I look back on the moment, I realise it was good. The past also haunts me in this way. I think of what was, and compare that to what is now.

Alan W. Watts shares some serious insight on how humans are programmed to do this. We don’t live like animals –

For the animal to be happy it is enough that this moment be enjoyable. But man is hardly satisfied with this at all. He is much more concerned to have enjoyable memories and expectations – especially the latter. With these assured, he can put up with an extremely miserable present. Without this assurance, he can be extremely miserable in the midst of immediate physical pleasure. (pg. 33)

If I can sum up the contention of this book in a few words, it’s simply this: live in the now. It makes so much sense, when you are highly stressed, to simply focus on your surroundings and your present situation. For me, I have been learning to do this while sitting at work. Despite the fact that I am so worried about my car (which was recently crashed and will be expensive to fix), finding a new apartment to move to, getting no sleep, my health, my husband getting through his exams, not enjoying my job – I can begin to focus on how things are, in the moment, actually okay. I am warm inside the office, I am comfortable, I can get up and go for a walk if I want, I have my packed lunch in the fridge and there is a box of fruit I can get a snack from in the kitchen. I can go to any one of my colleagues to talk. I can pick up the phone and call my mum. I could even get up and go home for the day, and there would be no serious consequences.

So, essentially, as real as anxiety is, the actual reality is that everything is okay. And when you can learn to focus on this, life tends to be better! Take this excerpt –

If my happiness at this moment consists largely in reviewing happy memories and expectations I am but dimly aware of this present. I shall still be dimly aware of the present when the good things that I have been expecting come to pass. For I shall have formed a habit of looking behind and ahead, making it difficult for me to attend to the here and now. If then, my awareness of the past and future makes me less aware of the present, I must begin to wonder whether I am actually living in the real world. (pg. 35)

A bit of a philosophical read, this one, which was a bit hard to focus on at times. But it’s important to take a step back every once in a while and read something that makes you rethink how you are doing life.


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