The Wisdom Of Insecurity: Summary Review & Takeaways

This is a summary review of The Wisdom Of Insecurity containing key details about the book.

What is The Wisdom Of Insecurity About?

The Wisdom Of Insecurity shows us how—in an age of unprecedented anxiety—we must embrace the present and live fully in the now in order to live a fulfilling life. Spending all our time trying to anticipate and plan for the future and lamenting the past, we forget to embrace the here and now. We are so concerned with tomorrow that we forget to enjoy today.

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Who is the author of The Wisdom Of Insecurity?

Alan Wilson Watts was an English writer, speaker and self-styled "philosophical entertainer", known for interpreting and popularising Japanese, Chinese and Indian traditions of Buddhist, Taoist, and Hindu philosophy for a Western audience.

Book details

  • Print length: 152 Pages
  • Genre: Philosophy, Nonfiction, Psychology

What are some of the main summary points from the book?

Here are some key summary points from the book:

  • Living in the present moment: The book emphasizes the importance of living in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. By embracing the present, we can find true happiness and inner peace.
  • Recognition of insecurity: Watts explores the concept of insecurity and highlights how our constant pursuit of security and certainty in life can lead to anxiety and dissatisfaction. He encourages readers to accept and embrace the inherent uncertainty of life.
  • Escape from the ego: The book discusses how our ego often drives us to seek external validation, achievements, and possessions as a means to feel secure and important. Watts suggests that true freedom lies in transcending the ego and realizing our interconnectedness with the world.
  • Illusion of control: Watts challenges the illusion of control we often hold over our lives. He argues that our attempts to control and manipulate the world around us only lead to frustration and disappointment. Accepting the uncontrollable nature of life can bring about a sense of liberation.
  • The pursuit of happiness: Watts critiques the modern society's obsession with the pursuit of happiness as a goal to be achieved in the future. He suggests that happiness is not something to be obtained but rather a byproduct of living fully in the present moment.
  • Embracing change: The book encourages readers to embrace change and impermanence as natural aspects of life. By letting go of attachments and expectations, we can find a deeper sense of freedom and adaptability.
  • Overcoming the fear of death: Watts delves into the fear of death and its impact on our lives. By confronting our fear of mortality and recognizing the transient nature of existence, we can cultivate a more meaningful and fulfilling life.
  • Transcending the dualistic mindset: Watts explores the limitations of the dualistic thinking that divides the world into opposites, such as good and evil, right and wrong. He suggests that embracing a more holistic and interconnected worldview can lead to a deeper understanding of reality.
  • Authenticity and self-acceptance: The book emphasizes the importance of embracing our authentic selves and accepting who we truly are. By letting go of societal expectations and judgments, we can cultivate self-compassion and live a more fulfilling life.
  • Appreciation of the present moment: Watts highlights the significance of cultivating an attitude of appreciation and gratitude for the present moment. By fully immersing ourselves in the here and now, we can find beauty and joy in even the simplest aspects of life.
    These key takeaways from "The Wisdom of Insecurity" provide a glimpse into the profound insights and philosophical reflections shared by Alan Watts in his exploration of human existence and the pursuit of happiness.

What are key takeaways from The Wisdom Of Insecurity?

Takeaway #1: Life is Becoming More Uncertain As Religion Wanes

Today, people are feeling more anxious and less fulfilled. In earlier times, religion guided people’s lives. Their beliefs and thoughts about the afterlife grounded and reassured them. When holding on to religion, they could endure hardships by looking forward to the afterlife. Modern society does not believe as much in religion or the afterlife. Therefore, many now struggle with the purpose of suffering. With no belief system, people also feel empty and have turned to alcohol and other substances to fill the void. This addictive behavior desensitizes the individual, leaving them more empty. They chase more and more substances to make up for the emptiness in their lives.

Takeaway #2: Consumerism Promises Happiness But Falls Short and leaves you unfulfilled.

Many people work toward goals that they believe will make them happy. But once they get them, they find they don’t fulfill them. The problem with consumerism is the chase is never over because enough is never enough. Those in Western society start down this path at an early age. We encourage children to get good grades so that they can go to college and grad-school in order to get a good-paying job. Once one has achieved all of this and has a nice house, emptiness creeps up, which can lead to a desire for a nicer car and a bigger house. Poor decisions can follow the chase. Things like thinking that having a prestigious job will make you happy could lead you to make the wrong career decision. You might have turned away from being a nurse to becoming a lawyer strictly because of money.

Takeaway #3: There is No Pleasure Without Pain

Being human, we want the highs of life but no lows. Of course, this is not reality. In order to experience life, we have to experience both. You pay a price for joy in life. You fall in love, but that person might fall out of love with you. To be happy in life, look at everything as temporary. You can only appreciate the good when you’ve experienced the bad. When you buy a house, you might worry about losing your job and not being able to pay the mortgage. But why are you worrying about things that haven’t happened yet? Let go of your worries and stop trying to control everything.

Takeaway #4: Live in the Present Moment To Truly Enjoy Life

Are you thinking too much? It might seem callous, but this might be true when you’re constantly feeling gloomy. Much unhappiness stems from obsessing over what one needs to do or bemoaning the past. This is why it is important to enjoy the now. Experience everything in your life. For example, don’t focus on posting a picture of your food on Facebook, enjoy it instead. If today is not making you happy, don’t deny your present emotions. Simply ride the waves until you get to a more peaceful place. Anxiety increases when you try to resist your feelings. Embrace them and the tensions will subside.

Takeaway #5: The Mind and the Body are One

People spend lots of time in their heads but forget that the body and mind are connected. By realizing that they are one, you can more easily reach your full potential. Enjoy your surroundings and quiet your brain, and you’ll be able to tap into your unconscious mind and experience a creative breakthrough. Some cultures teach people to listen to their body. They are aware of their stomachs and will stop eating once they are full. Others eat with the head and don’t know when to stop. Be in tune with your entire body and your inner-voice will speak.

What are the chapters in The Wisdom Of Insecurity?

1. The Age of Anxiety
2. Pain and Time
3. The Great Stream
4. The Wisdom of the Body
5. On Being Aware
6. The Marvelous Moment
7. The Transformation of Life
8. Creative Morality
9. Religion Reviewed

What are good quotes from The Wisdom Of Insecurity?

"Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live. " (Meaning)

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"There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly.”

“What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously. A convention is a social convenience, as, for example, money ... but it is absurd to take money too seriously, to confuse it with real wealth ... In somewhat the same way, thoughts, ideas and words are "coins" for real things.”

"Running away from fear is fear, fighting pain is pain, trying to be brave is being scared. If the mind is in pain, the mind is pain. The thinker has no other form than his thought. There is no escape.”

“If we cling to belief in God, we cannot likewise have faith, since faith is not clinging but letting go.”

“The desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing."

“What we have to discover is that there is no safety, that seeking is painful, and that when we imagine that we have found it, we don’t like it.”

“If my awareness of the past and future makes me less aware of the present, I must begin to wonder whether I am actually living in the real world.”

“There is a price to be paid for every increase in consciousness. We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain....In other words, we seem to reach a point where the advantages of being conscious are outweighed by its disadvantages, where extreme sensitivity makes us unadaptable.”

" cannot understand life and its mysteries as long as you try to grasp it. Indeed, you cannot grasp it, just as you cannot walk off with a river in a bucket. If you try to capture running water in a bucket, it is clear that you do not understand it and that you will always be disappointed, for in the bucket the water does not run. To “have” running water you must let go of it and let it run.”

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" of the highest pleasures is to be more or less unconscious of one’s own existence, to be absorbed in interesting sights, sounds, places, and people. Conversely, one of the greatest pains is to be self-conscious, to feel unabsorbed and cut off from the community and the surrounding world.”

"If happiness always depends on something expected in the future, we are chasing a will-o’-the-wisp that ever eludes our grasp, until the future, and ourselves, vanish into the abyss of death.”

“Belief clings, but faith lets go.”

“only doubtful truths need defense.”

“The ego-self constantly pushes reality away. It constructs a future out of empty expectations and a past out of regretful memories.”

― Alan Wilson Watts, The Wisdom Of Insecurity Quotes

What do critics say?

Here's what one of the prominent reviewers had to say about the book: “Perhaps the foremost interpreter of Eastern disciplines for the contemporary West, Watts had the rare gift of ‘writing beautifully the unwritable.’” — Los Angeles Times

* The summary points above have been concluded from the book and other public sources. The editor of this summary review made every effort to maintain information accuracy, including any published quotes, chapters, or takeaways

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Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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