Do We all Suffer From Ontological Insecurity?
Q & A Bonus post for Members
I’ve assembled a Q&A for you on the theme of ontological insecurity.
Ontology is a branch of metaphysics focusing on the nature of being.
The concept of Ontological Insecurity, which emerged from existential philosophy (and through the work of R.D. Laing), refers to a profound sense of self-doubt and a lack of confidence in one's identity and abilities. At its core, it points to the destabilization of the basic security we feel in who we are and our purpose.
Typically, this originates in disruptions to attachments in infancy and childhood.
When parents or other primary attachment figures can’t provide the emotional mirroring that infants and young children need to form a coherent, integrated self, this lack can lead to an incoherent sense of self that’s often carried through life.
Uncertainty about the stability of one’s existence and the contents of personhood becomes more common when this early attunement is lacking.
Those wrestling with high ontological insecurity frequently feel unsure if their outward presentation aligns with the inner truth or if something fraudulent exists at the core.
People with ontological insecurity long for the substantiveness their early environments could not nurture.
However, healing this distress is absolutely possible by creating the missed attunement, which I touch on in my answers below.
Make sense? I hope so, okay, let’s dive in…
I have wasted so much time. I worry I’ve wasted my life because I used my time so poorly, or worse, let other people use my time poorly. My worry about lost time has paralyzed me with fear. All I can think about is time passing. It’s passing right now as I’m typing this. I need to get unstuck and move forward, but I don’t know how.
I over-identify with this struggle. In fact, I think many people do. To wit: You’re not alone.
When we consistently find ourselves despairing, it’s often because of the inescapable irritating truth that we haven’t yet connected and truly felt the root of our pain. And it’s there, inside that pain, that we can get in touch with the actual hurt or despair we feel in the present moment.
As Alain de Botton writes about getting well, “To be liberated from the past, we need to mourn it, and for this to occur, we need to get in touch with what it actually felt like.”
Forgiving lost time and roads not taken requires grieving what could have been and having self-compassion for the imperfect path that brought you here.
We can’t mourn what we haven’t processed, and fear often encourages us to avoid our inner pain rather than go towards it. When we allow ourselves to linger in discomfort, the core source of our pain reveals itself.
Only in reflection can we hear what our pain is trying to tell us. Only when we mourn these “losses” can we begin to emerge in the present, realign our values as they stand now, and make new choices for forward momentum.
From inside that discomfort, we might discover something revelatory: perhaps it wasn’t our decisions that led to our current regrets, but what steered those decisions—our coping strategies.
Suffering comes when we…
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