Anxiety and Insecurity

From Krishnamurti’s Book COMMENTARIES ON LIVING 1

The small stream was flowing very gently beside the path that wound round the rice fields, and it was crowded with lotuses; they were dark violet with golden hearts, and they were clear of the water. Their scent remained close to them, and they were very beautiful. The sky was overcast; it was beginning to drizzle, and there was thunder among the clouds. The lightning was still far away, but it was coming towards the tree under which we were sheltering. It began to rain heavily, and the lotus leaves were collecting drops of water; when the drops became too large, they slipped off the leaves, only to form again. The lightning was now above the tree, and the cattle were frightened and straining at their ropes. A black calf, wet and shivering, was calling piteously; it broke its rope and ran towards a nearby hut. The lotuses were closing themselves tightly, shutting their heats against the gathering darkness; one would have had to tear the violet petals to get at the golden hearts. They would remain tightly closed till the coming of the sun. Even in their sleep they were beautiful. The lightning was moving towards the town; it was now quite dark, and one could just hear the murmur of the stream.

The path led past the village to the road which took us back to the noisy town. He was a young man, in his twenties; he was well fed, had travelled a little and been to college. He was nervous and there was anxiety in his eyes. It was late, but he wanted to talk; he wanted someone to explore his mind for him. He exposed himself very simply, without any hesitation or pretension. His problem was clear, but not to him; he went groping about. We do not listen and discover what is; we foist our ideas and opinions on another, trying to force the other into the frame of our thought. Our own thoughts and judgments are so much more important to us than to find out what is. The what is is always simple; it is we who are complex. We make the simple, the what is, complex, and we get lost in it. We listen only to the increasing noise of our own confusion. To listen, we must be free. It is not that there must be no distractions, for thinking itself is a form of distraction. We must be free to be silent, and only then is it possible to hear.

He was saying that just as he was going off to sleep he would sit up with a start of naked fear. Then the room would lose its proportions; the walls would go flat, there would be no roof, and the floor would disappear. He would be frightened and sweating. This had been going on for many years. What are you frightened of?

‘I don’t know; but when I wake up with fear, I go to my sister, or to my father and mother, and talk with them for some time to calm myself, and then go off to sleep. They understand, but I am in my twenties and it is getting rather silly.’

Are you anxious about the future?

‘Yes, somewhat. Though we have money, I am still rather anxious about it.’


‘I want to marry and provide comfort for my future wife.’

Why be anxious about the future? You are quite young, and you can work and give her what is necessary. Why be so preoccupied with this? Are you afraid of losing your social position?

‘Partly. We have a car, some property and reputation. Naturally I don’t want to lose all this, which may be the cause of my fear. But it isn’t quite this. It is the fear of not being. When I wake up with fear, I feel I am lost, that I am nobody, that I am falling to pieces.’

After all, a new government may come in and you may lose your property, your holdings; but you are quite young, and you can always work. Millions are losing their worldly goods, and you too may have to face that. Besides, the things of the world are to be shared and not to be exclusively possessed. At your age, why be so conservative, so afraid of losing?

‘You see, I want to marry a particular girl, and I am anxious that nothing should stop it. Nothing is likely to stop it, but I miss her and she misses me, and this may be another cause of my fear.’

Is that the cause of your fear? You say that nothing out of the ordinary is likely to happen to prevent your marrying her, so why this fear?

‘Yes, it is true that we can marry whenever we decide to, so that cannot be the cause of my fear, at least not now. I think I am really frightened of not being, of losing my identity, my name.’

Even if you did not care about your name, but had your property and so on, would you not still be afraid? What do we mean by identity? It is to be identified with a name, with property, with a person, with ideas; it is to be associated with something, to be recognized as this or that, to be labelled as belonging to a particular group or country, and so on. You are afraid of losing your label, is that it?

‘Yes. Otherwise, what am I? Yes, that is it.’

So you are your possessions. Your name and reputation, your car and other property, the girl you are going to marry, the ambitions that you have – you are these things. These things, together with certain characteristics and values, go to make up what you call ‘I’; you are the sum total of all this, and you are afraid of losing it. As with everyone else, there is always the possibility of loss; a war may come, there may be a revolution or a change in government towards the left. Something may happen to deprive you of these things, now or tomorrow. But why be afraid of insecurity? Is not insecurity the very nature of all things? Against this insecurity you are building walls that will protect you; but these walls can be and are being broken down. You may escape from it for a time, but the danger of insecurity is always there. That which is, you cannot avoid; insecurity is there, whether you like it or not. This does not mean that you must resign yourself to it, or that you must accept or deny it; but you are young, and why be afraid of insecurity?

Now that you put it this way, I don’t think I am afraid of insecurity. I really don’t mind working; I work over eight hours a day at my job, and though I don’t particularly like it, I can carry on. No, I am not afraid of losing property, the car, and so on; and my fiancée and I can marry whenever we want to. I see now that it is none of this that is making me fearful. Then what is it?’

Let us find out together. I might be able to tell you, but it would not be your discovery; it would only be on the verbal level, and so utterly useless. The finding of it will be your own experiencing of it, and it is this that is really important. Discovering is experiencing; we will discover it together.

If it is none of these things that you are frightened of losing, if you are not afraid of being insecure outwardly, then of what are you anxious? Don’t answer right away; just listen, be watchful to find out. Are you quite sure it is not physical insecurity that you are frightened of? As far as one can be sure of such things, you say that you are not frightened of it. If you are sure that this is not a mere verbal assertion, then of what are you afraid?

‘I am quite sure I am not frightened of being physically insecure; we can marry and have what we need. It is something more than the mere loss of things that I am afraid of. But what is it?’

We will find out, but let us consider it quietly. You really want to find out, don’t you?

‘Of course I do, especially now that we have gone as far as this. What is it that I am frightened of?’

To find out we must be quiet, watchful, but not pressing. If you are not frightened of physical insecurity, are you frightened of being inwardly insecure, of being unable to achieve the end which you have set for yourself? Don’t answer, just listen. Do you feel incapable of becoming somebody? Probably you have a religious ideal; and do you feel you have not the capacity to live up to or achieve it? Do you feel a sense of hopelessness about it, a sense of guilt or frustration?

‘You are perfectly right. Ever since I heard you some years ago as a boy, it has been my ideal, if I may say so, to be like you. It’s in our blood to be religious, and I have felt I could be like that; but there has always been a deep fear of never coming near it.’

Let us go slowly. Though you are not frightened of being outwardly insecure, you are frightened of being insecure inwardly. Another man makes himself secure outwardly with a reputation, with fame, with money, and so on, while you want to be secure inwardly with an ideal; and you feel you have no capacity to become that ideal. Why do you want to become or achieve an ideal? Isn’t it only to be secure, to feel safe? This refuge you call an ideal; but actually you want to be safe, protected. Is that it?

‘Now that you point it out, that is exactly it.’

You have discovered this now, have you not? But let us proceed further. You see the obvious shallowness of outward security; but do you also see the falseness of seeking inward security through becoming the ideal? The ideal is your refuge, instead of money. Do you really see this?

‘Yes, I really do.’

Then be what you are. When you see the falseness of the ideal, it drops away from you. You are what is. From there proceed to understand what is – but not towards any particular end, for the end, the goal is always away from what is. The what is is yourself, not at any particular period or in any given mood, but yourself as you are from moment to moment. Do not condemn yourself or become resigned to what you see, but be watchful without interpreting the movement of what is. This is arduous, but there is delight in it. Only to the free is there happiness, and freedom comes with the truth of what is.