How exactly does one feel safe?
It is different for each of us, and then again, it isn't.
Some people needs lots of locks on their doors, gated communities, guns. I am not sure any of those things would ever make me feel safe, in fact, the more of those things I had, the less safe I think I would feel.
I have led a privilege existence in many ways, for most of my life, I have had and been able to expect physical safety. I can sleep at night not worrying whether my partner is going to drag me from my bed in a drunken rage and beat me. Not worried that someone is going to break in and kill me. Not worry that I will come home and find my life ruined by vandals. Now all of these things could still happen in my life, mostly depending upon my choices. For some, no matter what choice they make, the above is their reality. And I never want to forget that for me, a choice, for them it isn’t.
So I guess this is why I have the privilege to think about other kinds of safety. I have the base requirement: (at least as much as anyone can in this brave new world) physical safety. And so that leaves me time to think about emotional safety.
I have sought that the whole of my life and mostly chased it as a fleeting illusion. I have grasped and clung to the idea, while mostly feeling adrift and lost, never really feeling safe.
Now this is not to say that I haven’t been emotionally safe, I have again made choices that have placed me in positions to be hurt. Repeatedly. And this is largely directed and controlled by my past demons that haunt me still.
I have demanded, begged, pleaded for others to provide me the emotional safety that I felt I needed to be intimate. And for most of my life it alluded me. I was not safe, no matter what I did or with whom I did it.
At some point in time though, I got a new idea. I decided to look within. To survey my interior and provide emotional safety for myself. Then after finding a well that provided such nectar, I found that the best way to give it to myself was to give it away to others. And I have found yet another life paradox:
The way to achieve emotional safety is to provide it to others.
When I have sought it out from others, I have been woefully disappointed. I have missed out in grand ways. But every single time I have sought to add emotional safety to the lives of others, I have been rewarded immensely.
My daughter is a prime example. She tells me things. She is 15. And she talks to me. Now I am not delusional. I know that she doesn’t tell me 100%. But she tells me a lot. More than I want to know sometimes. And why does she do this? Because I listen. I don’t react. And I try to create a safe space for her to talk to me. I want her to feel safe in our relationship which means that sometimes I have to be willing to feel distressed, scared, worried, confused, unsure and disappointed. These things that I am wiling to feel, provide her the space to feel safe enough to come to me, trust me and share with me things that are hard to share.
And that ultimately makes me feel safer. After the shock wears off that is...
In my current intimate relationship, I try every day to create a space where he feels safe. For him to feel like he can trust me, tell me things, share with me his demons. And his willingness to do that creates a space where I feel safer.
I wish I would have known this younger. I wish I would have known that I create the space, then invite others in. I am not sure what the fuck I was doing before, but it wasn’t this. That is for damn sure.
But I know that providing others safety, makes me feel safer. And more loved, and trusted and present. I know that I am not ever going to do this perfectly, but if I can bring an awareness and a willingness to my life, wanting to create a safe space for others, then that only bolsters my own feelings of safety and security.
It also strengthens the intimacy tendons in my life. Safety is required for intimacy and connection to flourish. Without safety, there is nothing else really able to grow. I cannot have a true intimate, loving connection with a person with whom I do not feel safe.
I think this is a question we should weave into the fabric of our every day lives:
“Did I make you feel safe today? Emotionally? Physically? Spiritually?”
What would happen if we did that?
Would we be willing to hear the answer?
I promise to try to. With my lover, with my friends, with my kids, with my family. I want to know if I did something to bring about a feeling of safety in their worlds. And if I didn’t, I want to know that too. Even though I may not like it and be disappointed in myself.
I can tell you that the number one reason I have left every relationship I have ever had, I didn’t feel safe. And for the most part, it was me. I wasn’t capable of feeling it regardless and I tended to pick people that didn’t give two shits about helping me to feel safe. But that began to change a couple of years ago and the result has been revolutionary in my life.
Today, I feel safer in all the ways that matter. So I have capacity to show up in the lives of others and do my best to make them feel safer. And when they do not, I can listen and try to give a little more if I can. While also balancing out the reality that with some people no matter what I do, they will never feel safe and that is because they can’t give away something they don’t have.
Life keeps teaching me the same thing, I must possess that which I am being asked to provide others. I have to feel safe to give it away and the best way for me to feel safer, is to be safe for others. It is a paradoxical circle that I am blessed to be caught in. Blessed.
Today, I feel very grateful that giving safety is the best way to experience it for myself. And so the day begins, with me setting an intention to be present, to provide safety for myself and others and to enjoy this life one moment at a time. I pray that you do the same.