Security, Risk, Gender, and Achievement

Adult feelings of safety and comfort are based, in large part, on memories of experiences in infancy at the hands of a reliable mother. Without such memories a person will have a life of chaos, anxiety, and insecurity that might only be changed by extensive psychotherapy. Without a stable sense of security built on early life interactions with a comforting other, the adults ability to work and love is severely compromised.

If secure in childhood, the person is able to take risks in adulthood. Everyday life involves risk. Small risks are taken after waking up in the morning. Taking a shower, making hot coffee, and driving to work expose you to falls, burns, and fatal accidents. Higher risks are taken when leaving home for college, getting a new job, getting married, and many others. Then there are extremely high risk situations such as new business ventures, daredevil driving, dangerous sports, sex with strangers, military combat and drug taking.

One is always balancing security needs with needs to achieve things in life. Some incline to value security more highly. They prefer staying at home in a comfortable family and persisting in uninteresting jobs that, at least, pay a living wage. They are slow to adopt new fashions in clothes, food, music, and beliefs. The risk averse are “conservative”. Those tilting more to achievement than security must be able to tolerate more risk than others. They likely had in childhood, very secure relations with mother and father. In the recent past, only the father was assumed to foster achievement motives in male children. Security motives were the mother’s domain. Now security and achievement needs are thought to be unrelated to parental or child gender. But security and risk taking tendencies must still be balanced.

Divorcing gender roles from security and achievement behaviors is very interesting. ‘Androgyny’ is the tendency to value both social security and achievement motives. For the androgenous, decisions between security and achievement is not a zero-sum, either-or choice. Rather , one need not disavow security motives in order to seek achievement, or forsake achievement entirely to feel secure.

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