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1 (855) EMPATHY

Life and communication coaching for women.


Safety is an Inside Job

Marina Smerling


“I feel unsafe.”

“I’m needing trust.”

Ever find yourself saying these words? In my experience, needs for “safety” and “trust,” particularly when expressed without any specific requests, are often dead-ends — needs that secretly contain judgments of the other as “unsafe” or “untrustworthy,” and that don’t lend themselves to the sense of connection and compassion that we are ultimately wanting.

These are big needs, important needs, no doubt.

But what if the experience of being safe and feeling trust is an inside job?  What if we get these needs met because we choose them?

I want to suggest that there are a few things we can do to find and create safety.

1) Get clear on what “safety” means. 

First of all, it’s helpful to get clear: what the heck do we mean by “unsafe”?  Usually, what we mean is something like, “I’m worried that if I speak up, you’re going to go away, or you’re going to say mean things, and I might believe them, and that would hurt.”  In other words, we want connection, and we want self-love and acceptance.  How human we are.

2) Cultivate connectedness. 

We often have more agency that we realize about how the conversation goes.  If we want connection, we can say things that help us stay in connection.  We can make requests like, “How are you feeling hearing me say this?” and “Can you let me know if I’m being clear – what are you getting’s important to me here?”  And we can tell people about the impact – positive or negative – of their words upon us, while staying “on our side of the fence,” – speaking about our feelings and our needs that are stimulated by another’s words.

3) Come forward with your vulnerability. 

Likewise, we can create the experience of acceptance by coming forward with our vulnerability.  It’s one of those ironic truths of life that the more we share openly our vulnerability, fear, and insecurity, the more closeness and connection with we usually find.  We come out of our caves to wave our arms in the air and scream, “Aaahh!!! I’m scared!” and before we can retreat in humiliation, we realize we’re not alone.  There’s a thousand other naked souls standing by our side with the same dang fears.And so, if we start off the conversation by openly admitting that this is dang scary for us to talk about, and that it’s an area of some personal insecurity, we’re more likely to be received with loving arms and words alike.

4) Choose to see what you want. 

Our perception alone impacts our experience.  On the one hand, I feel fearful, I doubt, I withdraw, I tell myself, “This person isn’t safe.  This person can’t fully get me.   This person’s not trustworthy.”  And then I hear their words through the lens of “not safe.”  I perceive their actions through the filter of “not trustable.”  My experience confirms my belief, and voila(!), I put another brick on the wall, and retreat into the lonesome “safety” of my enclave.  Proof, yet again, that the world is unsafe and untrustworthy.On the other hand, when I choose to trust, choose to believe that this person sees me, gets me, and cares for me, I listen that I am loved.  I listen that I am held, and safe, in the company of someone human, like me, compassionate, like me.  And voila!  That is my experience.  I savor the proof in the pudding of my choice to trust.

5) Be open to magic. 

Our perceptions of others are highly subjective – we know this.  We know we see the world through a filter of old beliefs and conditioning that may or may not serve us.  But in addition, when we choose to trust, choose to believe we are fundamentally safe and held and cared for, I believe something mysterious happens.  One of those quantum mechanics moments whereby our presence actually impacts the thing we are perceiving, whereby our openness to love impacts the connection between ourselves and those around us, and actually allows more love to come through.I have no proof of this.  I have yet to perform a scientifically controlled double-blind trust experiment.  But it is my strong sense, from my own life experience, and from the intuition bellowing in my heart, that love begets love, and trust begets trust.

6) Ultimately, try it!

I invite you to step into safety and trust by choosing them.  Don a new pair of love and safety-perceiving sunglasses, be proactive about cultivating both connection and self-compassion, and see what happens.  Maybe you were right, and the other person’s a nasty wenchy poo-head and can’t be trusted and screw ‘em.On the other hand, maybe you were wrong.  Maybe waiting for you on the other side of the conversation is a vulnerable human being like you just wanting to love.  Maybe a connection and understanding previously unfathomed awaits.  Maybe, just maybe, when we open ourselves to the possibility that we are loved, miracles are possible.

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