Fasten Your Emotional Safety Belt

Man alone on benchLife 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 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Nicole S. Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, Holistic Psychotherapy Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Carmen

    May 9th, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    The bad thing about all of this is that I read it and I know that I aspire to being emotionally safe and secure but then I never do the prep work to make all of that a possibility. I am that person who waits until the very last minute to do anything, and by then of course you know that it’s too late to really succeed. I think that I am going to take this weekend to work on some of this for myself because I know that I am never going to have that safety net that I want until I do some of this.

  • Nicole

    May 10th, 2014 at 5:58 AM

    Hi Carmen,
    Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences.
    The important thing is to start where you are.
    The past is over.
    Every minute you have the opportunity to choose to do something differently.
    It can be the smallest thing, like answering one of the questions above.
    Once you start to feel the joy in actively creating more safety for yourself, both internally and externally, you will find it easier to stick with those changes that made you feel better.
    As a yogi, I can tell you how just showing up on the mat every day is the key ingredient to making things happen.
    Similarly, the tiniest shift can really catalyze a great sense of accomplishment and personal evolution.
    Wishing you every goodness,

  • Piper

    May 10th, 2014 at 2:41 PM

    I know that one of the biggest challenges that I face is to rid myself of the toxic people and toxic energy that is in my life. I seem to always attract those people into my sphere who really are not that good for me.

  • Nicole

    May 11th, 2014 at 6:02 AM

    Hi Piper,
    It certainly takes courage to recognize a pattern in our lives that doesn’t serve.
    And, that’s the first step.
    One way to succeed in eliminating some of these people is to cut back on your contact. You will find longer-lasting change with a more gradual approach. Experiment with some assertiveness techniques (I am sure there are good tips on Good Therapy) and setting better boundaries.
    Once you get more comfortable being assertive you will find fewer energy sapping people being attracted to you.
    Sending all good thoughts,

  • parsons

    May 12th, 2014 at 3:42 AM

    You have to make yourself a place to feel safe, a soft place to fall. This could be your home, the home of a friend, or even just knowing that you have those people on whom you can faithfully rely to give you love and support.
    We all need those places and those people in our lives who make an outstanding effort to keep us safe and to help us have some peace in ouur lives. Find someone like that on whom you can count, create a meaningful and peaceful sanctuary for yourself, and you will find the peace that you have been searching out in your life.

  • Nicole

    May 12th, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Thank you Parsons. That was beautifully said.

  • Jake

    May 14th, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    Even when no one else is willing to do this for you then you have to be willing to do this for yourself. Being emotionally insecure is the woring way to go through life, it is so much better to assure yourself that you can take care of this. That means being strong and powering through even when it hurts a little, figuring out what is causing that hurt and dealing with it in a way that allows you to see that this can’t hurt you anymore. You can’t continue to carry the baggage of the past with you and allow it to consume and hurt you from this point on. From this point forward it is time to let it go, get healthy and enjoy the ride again.

  • Nicole

    May 16th, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    You are right, Jake.
    That said, everyone has moments of anxiety and insecurity; especially, when faced with new challenges. At those times, being extra gentle with oneself, extra patient, and extra compassionate can actually create a greater sense of safety.
    Once the dust settles, it may be easier to make the wholesale changes you speak of: letting go of the past as best as one can, taking control of one’s feelings by thinking about things differently, and pushing through discomfort.

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