What is Ontological Security

What is Ontological Security and How Does It Affect Society?

Strongly inspired by a very wise woman, Emilia Van Hauen, I want to focus here on something of the most important for man, namely Ontological security.

Ontology is the doctrine of being. Some psychologists and sociologists, among others. Giddens, speaks of ontological security in the sense of basic security, which develops in the child's first year of life as a kind of basic security, which also in adulthood helps to control diffuse anxiety. I.e. that ontological security is of paramount importance to the behavior and quality of life man exhibits and has later in life. In fact, it's the whole foundation of your later life. If you did not get this basic security as a child, then it has sown irreparable damage that one will fight with for the rest of life.

Did you know that: 40% of all sick leave comes from stress, depression and anxiety.

That's a pretty high number for a society as developed as ours. That the management of many companies fails its employees? That people are weak and that there has been a fashion diagnosis in it? Or maybe a whole fourth reason? Businesses often forget the fundamental and basic human needs in the pursuit of profit. The employee benefits are being rationalized, streamlined and reduced. This is funny enough despite the fact that all studies show that sickness absence increases when people are pressured and in the long run it can result in very costly depressions.

This is one of the greatest challenges of modern man:

The absence of ontological certainty.

Ontological security basically means that you feel safe in your own being. In other words, that you have confidence that you yourself are placed with security in the society of which you are a part and that your existence is thus fundamentally secured. It is first and foremost about a sense of security; a kind of inner certainty that one is part of a whole and that one has an important role to play in it.

This is in stark contrast to the dominant conditions that many managers and employees live under today, namely readiness for change, willing to develop and compatible with the organization. Conditions that, on several levels, create a fundamental absence of ontological security, both in the individual and in the organization. Especially if it is not carried by a very clear leader who can create assurance that the framework is durable. Long.

Ontological security is closely linked to two other concepts: Trust and Recognition.

Danish are the most trustworthy people in the world. According to Professor Gert Tinggaard Svendsen, 78% of the Danish population believe that one can trust others (against 5% in Brazil). A high degree of trust means that you spend your energy on developing new things, rather than controlling what already exists. Or the others. We must also just remember that we have been named the happiest people in the world.

Trust is also directly linked to predictability. A word that has unfortunately gained old man status. Predictable today associates with routine, repetition, dull, stagnation. Which is in contrast to what we value today, namely characteristics such as dynamic, flexible and innovative. But if you imagine that you never know when you will get paid, if you get it at all, or that you can never predict what the other road users will do, it becomes absurdly clear how important predictability is in a well-functioning society and a well-oiled everyday, if not for it to become an eternal struggle for survival - on all levels!

The lack of predictability and security is reflected in the fact that too many people suffer from a permanent feeling of inner turmoil and instability, uncertainty about the future, fear of what value they really have for the community / group / company / society - also in the future. And last but certainly not least, the fear of being redundant. In other words: an absence of ontological certainty.

On top of that, we can then put the third concept, namely recognition. Without basic recognition, we die. It does not have to be a physical death; it can kind of be an inner death, where we turn into social zombies who neither manage to contribute to the community (at least not creatively, innovatively and original!) nor help to create a good social environment. On the contrary, some of the zombies develop into "poisonous scoundrels" who pull all optimism and profits out of the community. As a species, we need to be met in recognition of both our person and our contribution, in order to have an experience that our existence has a meaning that extends beyond our own.

Security in your own being. Trust yourself and the world around you. Recognition. It is the three elements that create the breeding ground on which we all need to be cultivated. It places good demands on management to create a work climate where there is a focus on how to create an ontologically safe creative environment.

As a test, you can briefly ask yourself, how safe you feel in your being? On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is basically a deep feeling of peace, security and completeness, and 1 is a total unpredictability and uncertainty in all areas, where do you stand when it comes to, for example, your job? Your marriage/relationship? Your relationships? Your finances? Your body? Your future? Do you feel like the happiest person in the world?

Abraham Maslow's pyramid of needs, tells the importance and priority of human basic needs. At the bottom are the physical needs, which of course are the most important for the body to survive at all. Next, it is the security needs and love / belonging that are absolutely basic to have the mental surplus to get further up the pyramid.

The societies that can create the ontological security and thus meet most of Maslow's needs are the societies where people have the very best (happiest) or are. How can it be that there are so many who are on antidepressant? Is there anything wrong with the ontological security anyway?

This article was updated on November 12, 2022