Sense of Safety
We often hear the phrase ‘a safe space’. In a therapeutic environment a smiling, kind physician may tell us that this is a safe space. For some people a smile may indeed transmit some feeling of trust, for others this might evoke a trigger.
This is not the type of safety I want us to engage with.
I have spent the past 15 years exploring safety and the previous 35 years not knowing that I am not feeling it. It is an ongoing question, a curiosity in my own path to regenerate a sense of safety in myself, and for (in) all my relations.
In the last Trauma master class with Dr. Van Der Kolk, he said;
“Most of the trauma we see in our offices is interpersonal trauma; it occurs in the context of attachment relationships. And if that's the case, then actually nurturing a safe relationship is the great challenge.”
The safety I want us to explore is more about feeling safe in our bodies and helping people to feel safe in their own bodies, in their subjective experiences and in relation to the presence of another person.
To feel safe enough to say when you don't feel safe
To feel safe to feel the inner movement as it is.
Safety is subjective to one's own personal experience. It shades the way we perceive and experience life. The nervous system is the organ that is responsible for constantly checking for levels of safety; hence, safety is a felt sense in the body, in which we can meet and feel our emotions, the movement of energy in the body, as well as being mindful of the attitude of the cognitive mind.
Somatically, it may feel like a different level of resting in the body, a state of inner exhalation as well as feeling safe to feel what we feel, think, and perceive in relation to the world and environment around us.
It is a reciprocal resonance, a dance, of feeling and being felt.
A personal sharing
I recalled the first time that I consciously felt in the body how the lack of a sense of safety appeared in me and in my life.
My mum died and 6 days later I travelled to Ireland to the Open Floor conscious movement teacher training. It was a very long trip. The process of my mum's death and my participation in it was an experience that I hadn’t had time to digest, in addition to the overwhelming grief that struck.
One of the teachers approached me. She was warm and welcoming and commented on my posture, the way my hands hugged my body and the shape of my standing. It felt to her as a form of grounded presence.
At that moment when the teacher spoke these words, my personal experience felt very different, I became aware of the holding in my pelvis, I could not feel my feet, I felt how much energy is invested in holding myself in this way.
Surrounded by so many truly proficient ‘safe space holders I felt so very unsafe in my body and so alone, I felt unmet, unseen, my voice froze and said nothing. It took me by surprise. Up until this moment, I considered myself a free and strong person. I suddenly realise the price I was paying for holding myself, and carrying everything by myself.
I was able to see that this holding was not new and that I had spent most of my childhood and adult life holding myself.
Observing and sensing my early life experience, the environment and atmosphere in which I grew up, I realised that I rarely felt an inner sense of safety in myself, or in the world. I could not really trust myself or others. This created a confusion.
Mentally I had the belief that there was no one in the world that could support my needs or my hypo/hyper arousal states. In my own experience, I felt I was too much for the world, that I had no space.
Emotionally I was very scared, feeling alone and distant from the world to some degree.
I noticed that in my own company I could have some degree of safety, but it was exhausting and lonely.
Energetically in the body it felt like a chronic energetic uplift, a chronic stress and tightening of the hip and lower body.
It was safer to hold myself than to feel fear, confusion, aloneness.
I became consciously aware
That it was safer to hold myself then to feel fear, confusion, aloneness.
That I perceive life from the experience of the past.
That as a young girl, this way of protection was in fact an innate intelligence that orchestrated these dynamics in order to keep me safe. Literally it saved me; I now bow in respect to this movement.
Like myself, many others don't recognise this lack of safety. It is chronically embedded in their being and their way of showing up in the world, it is the ‘normal’ state.
I am happy to say that a sense of safety can be restored and can indeed be regenerated over time. It can be regained.
Why don’t we feel a sense of safety?
As Dr. van der Kolk states and as many other clinicians agree, behind these insecurities lies trauma, oftentimes insecure attachment traumas, interpersonal traumas.
Luckily with today’s developing science alongside our spiritual practices we are able to regenerate safety.
Our trauma lives in the energetic fields of our body, in our brain structure and function, in our nervous system, our emotions and physical body.
Thomas Hubl speaks about how trauma points us into an inner lack, a scarcity.
In my experience, the fundamental scarcity is a lack of a sense of safety, or, in other words fear.
If so, then our work both on the personal and collective journey towards abundance, peace and healthy relations is to regenerate safety by turning our fears into fertile soil, in the same way that we compost organic matter to add soil in our gardens for the flowers to blossom.
How do we start to sense, recognise the level of safety we feel in the body?
Sometimes when faced with a situation or an external stimulus, we might feel a sudden contraction in the body, or our mind racing. For others it can be a knowing, or a hunch, intuition. Our legs may want to flee, or freeze on the spot, perhaps we feel that we need to fight for ourselves.
But when we talk about chronic stress, a deep-seated sense of a lack of safety, it may be a little more difficult to recognise because it becames our ‘normal’ way of being.
In our daily life it may look like
A High level of chronic stress
An inability to form long term relationships
A sense of not belonging
Not taking space in life
Passive Aggressive behaviour
An inability to bring our work to the world
And many other forms.
The remedy, the beginning of healing our sense of not feeling safe, is not safety. It is a direct conscious presencing of the movement of not feeling safe - Thomas Hübl
Since trauma happens in the relational field or in the absence of such a field, it is crucial that we heal ourselves in relation to another, preferably a competent experienced healer.
Oftentimes a traumatic event takes place but the lack of an appropriate relation right after it, is experienced as a secondary trauma which is just as, if not even more impactful on our body, mind and soul.
A pivotal aspect of healing trauma is to reteach the brain and the nervous system, the muscular body, the energetics of the body how a sense of safety does feel by offering new possibilities of movement, of being, of energy, rewiring and building new healthier structures. Bringing abundance to the sacred part.
The contemporary healer recognises and develops attuned skills and offers one of the most powerful healing tools: conscious relation, appropriate relation, caring relation, attuned relation, compassionate relation.Thomas Hübl
Together we can heal.
OneBody - Healing together Facilitating Safety.