As we embrace our healing journey, the single most important thing is to ensure that we feel safe, and ensure that we are living in a safe environment.
Safety is the most important consideration because feeling safe is necessary in order for recovery to be possible. A physical and emotional sense of safety needs to be the foundational focus of our healing.
Without both being safe and feeling safe, healing can only occur very slowly and falteringly, if at all, as the sympathetic nervous system (when you’re anxious) will continue to be on high alert.
Without a safe place to live, we will use coping mechanisms to hide the lack of feeling safe. All of our coping mechanisms are to help us feel safe. Addictions, controlling behaviour, outbursts of anger and disconnecting from others all happen when we do not feel safe.
Once we feel safe, we can start letting go of the need to isolate, to be angry, to put up a wall against every one. Ultimately, we can only be happy and heal if we feel safe.
The importance of ‘feeling’ safe, not just ‘being’ safe
You can ‘be’ as safe as humanly possible from harm and yet still ‘feel’ unsafe.
You are not ‘crazy’ or ‘mad’ for feeling unsafe. It is a way that you may often have felt throughout your childhood because often you were not safe. You may not even know ‘being safe’ as a feeling.
As part of your healing, it’s important for you to discover this feeling of ‘being safe’. By doing so, you’ll then be able to remember and recreate this feeling whenever you need to.
What does it take to feel safe?
It takes time, effort, empathy and a lot of patience to create an ongoing and sustainable feeling of safety. Discovering that feeling of safety depends on how long and how much trauma you experienced in your childhood.
Feeling safe is also dependent on your current circumstances, and whether you are in a safe house with a safe partner or friend. To help with feeling safe, having a physical safe place is an essential first step to ensuring you are ‘physically safe’.
Creating a safe place for yourself
Ideally, your home needs to feel and be safe. At the very least, you need one safe place that is yours alone. You might choose anywhere inside or outside. It could be a tree in the garden, your bed, or a place in your home that is truly yours.
No one can come into your safe place without permission. That includes your children, partner or parents.
As well as having a physically safe place to live, it is also a good idea to have a safe place you can go to – maybe the beach or the bush – that feels safe when you are there.
To discover where might be a safe place for you, sit for a while and think about where you might feel at ease. If you cannot think of anywhere, then a first step could be to create an imaginary place.
Examples of an imaginary safe place include:
- Sitting on a cloud
- A room with everything you want and value in it
- Deep down at the bottom of the ocean
Examples of an actual safe place include:
- On the beach
- In your bedroom
- A favourite place in the house
- In the bush
- In your car
- In the high branches of a tree
- Near water
There are no rules or limitations on what your safe place is. You will know if it is right because it will feel safe to you.
Reassess your safe place regularly
It is important that you continually check that the place you have chosen is still safe. You can always create a new one if you want or need to.
A safe place can be destroyed if someone you don’t like, or who is unsafe, enters it without your permission. Never allow an abuser into your safe place.
Also, most people find it best not to work on trauma memories in their safe place. It might be a good idea to view your safe place also as a place where you self-nurture.
To summarise, a safe place needs to be:
- A place where you are comfortable on your own
- A place where you can control who comes in
- A place you have easy access to
Learn more about creating an ongoing and sustainable feeling of safety – along with other tools to help you on your healing journey.
Learn more about healing and trauma recovery...
Heal For Life, by Liz Mullinar
How to Heal Yourself from the Pain of Childhood Trauma and Abuse
This practical guidebook for survivors of childhood trauma or abuse, presents the Heal For Life model of trauma-informed self healing that has already empowered thousands of survivors to find inner peace and hope for a brighter future. This book is highly recommended by survivors and mental health professionals alike.