Life is a far more predictably bumpy ride than anything you are likely to encounter in your daily commute, so why not fasten your emotional safety belt to keep you feeling a bit more protected?
Start by assessing your level of psychological safety right now. Just sit back, close your eyes, and ask yourself: “On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the most safe, where would I place myself in this moment?”
Next, get more specific. Grab a piece of paper and write down your thoughts on:
- What makes me feel safe in my body?
- What makes me feel safe in my relationships?
- What makes me feel safe financially?
- What keeps me rooted, balanced, and secure?
- What anchors me spiritually?
- How do I create emotional safety in the face of internal or external disturbances?
- What can I do to make my home feel like a sanctuary?
- How can I enhance my sense of safety in all areas of my life?
- When do I notice myself feeling unsafe?
Once you have taken the time to look at what helps or hampers your sense of safety, you can willfully choose to seek or avoid those things that make you feel safe or unsafe.
Luckily, there are many ways to increase your sense of safety. Some will seem fairly easy and straightforward, while others might be quite challenging. Some can benefit from tangible modifications, others are more elusive and slippery. Some you can implement on your own, and others, especially those involving long-held patterns, might be easier to eclipse with a therapist.
Before you delve into all the psychological and situational triggers that might be conspiring to leave you feeling emotionally wobbly, try the following exercise:
Starting at either the crown of your head and working down, or the soles of your feet and working up, start noticing whatever physical feelings you can. It might be tension, tingling, heat, cold, numbness, tightness, clamminess, itchiness, pressure, pain, emptiness, burning, humming, motion, twitchiness, or even a scent, color, or shape.
Once you describe it, just sit with it. Allow yourself to have that experience without judging, criticizing, or trying to push it away. This enables you to bypass the story behind what you might be feeling and let yourself mindfully attend to this moment. Usually, a sense of balance, calm, or safety will come over you.
If there are certain people in whose company you feel unsafe, consider steering clear of them. Remember, it pays to pay attention to your intuition. If seeing someone fills you with dread, it may be best to avoid that person until you feel differently. While therapy can help, there are situations that time itself will heal, and others that will never feel good.
Since there is not one right or wrong way to live, only the right way for you in any given moment, it is crucial to give yourself permission to act on what feels right for you today. If that brings up guilt, anger, depression, anxiety, or grief, sit with your feelings. Allow yourself to feel them in your body and to examine what you are telling yourself, especially the repetitive thoughts. If you feel overwhelmed, please contact a therapist.
Practicing sitting with discomfort is one thing, but having trouble coping is another. On the other hand, just because a feeling is unpleasant doesn’t mean it’s unworkable. Learning to find safety in yourself, even when waves of intense feelings wash over you, is a skill you can hone every time something difficult arises.
One way to skillfully navigate unpleasant emotions that make you feel unsafe is to remind yourself how transitory everything is. Most people find that hard to embrace, as it implies all the great, wonderful, ecstatic feelings you love so much wane along with the undesirable ones, but it’s really a small price to pay for a greater sense of equanimity.
Try some of these ideas and let me know how they work for you.
Note: If you are in a situation where you feel physically or psychologically abused, please get help. There are many free resources and shelters available.
© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Nicole S. Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, Holistic Psychotherapy Topic Expert Contributor
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