Yes, that is a mouthful! I learned about it at a seminar and thought I’d share…
ONTOLOGICAL SECURITY in short, is a stable mental state of mind, that comes from a sense of continuity or consistency in your life. Dr. Anthony Giddens a British sociologist, is famous for ‘coining the phrase’ so to speak. Dr. Giddens believed strongly in the structures of society and that life events, their order and continuity in a person’s life, is what gives meaning to life. Whether you agree with his theory or not, you can’t argue that he’s got a point. We as individuals depend on certain things happening in certain order and we imply significant meaning to these events and the consistency of these events. So, ONTOLOGICAL SECURITY is the importance and sense of order or expectation of order that we have about the events that occur in our life.
On the contrary, we can imagine what happens to our individual psyche when something (an event) either does or does not occur as expected or not expected. Think about it, if something happens that we didn’t expect – we don’t like it! Think about how we have personally responded (or observed others around you) in the midst of unexpected circumstances – loss of job, damage or loss to a home or vehicle, unexpected medical diagnosis or medical catastrophe. It (whatever the event is) can be devastating to say the least. In some cases it can be life changing to put it mildly. My fellow brothers and sisters who’ve been diagnosed with one of these diabolical auto-immune diseases can attest to this. One day life is humming along (as expected) and the next minute nothing is right and a doctor is either telling you you’re crazy (because he can’t locate a medical explanation for your symptoms) or they are diagnosing a life altering condition (not expected).
Dr. Giddens’ social construct of ONTOLOGICAL SECURITY offers another way to better understand how and why we react and feel the way we do, e.g. when bad things happen to good people! I can recall (like it was yesterday) the overwhelming sense of loss when I received my diagnosis. There was no logic and no explanation. Just here are the facts, this is where you are, this is where you’ll be and this is what to expect – period. No where in my very structured and healthy life did this event (diagnosis) fit.
So when the ONTOLOGICAL SECURITY of your life is interrupted and/or destroyed, life appears chaotic at best and apocalyptic at worst. How can this sociology construct help us? It provides you with the foundation from which you can plan your rebound, your recovery or your rebirth! The rebound, recovery or rebirth begins with a true acknowledgement of what has happened. You didn’t expect this to happen! And denial of this bedrock is short of madness. Remember the person who told you “This could have been worse”? Remember what you were thinking in your head (or said aloud) in response? That isn’t the answer or the spring board to success in the wake of such life altering events. You can’t rebound back from anything, until you recognize and acknowledge what has happened and the impact of the unplanned event – partially in its ‘unplannedness’ (new word), and partially in the physical circumstances left in its wake.
I believe Dr. Giddens had it right. We have expectations that certain events will happen in our lives with certain measures of consistency. The expectations will differ based on upbringing, parentage, socioeconomic background etc, but we all have them. Its crucial to our life. Its crucial to our psyche. And more important, its crucial to acknowledge in order for us to thrive in denial of whatever has occurred. Denial doesn’t mean acting as if it didn’t happen. Denial means deciding that you won’t let the event define or bind you.
Thanks Dr. Giddens! Thanks for helping us to understand why we feel the way we do…