“The best gift you are ever going to give someone is permission to feel safe in their own skin. To feel worthy. To feel like they are enough.” Hannah Brencher
Game changer #2 applies equally to every relationship we have – partners, children, parents, co-workers, friends and acquaintances.
If we want to get the very best out of almost everyone who crosses our path, the key is to:
do what does not come naturally.
Our natural instinct is to protect ourselves. We can’t help it. Our amygdala, the fight or flight center of our brain, wants to make sure that we are not going to be someone else’s lunch. Which means we are hypervigilant to anything anyone is doing that keeps us from feeling confident, competent, worthy, loved, and most important, safe.
Certainly, safety is a concern. These suggestions are not about when you’re walking down dark side streets alone, or when you are interacting with someone who has a history of uncontrollable rage or other consistently dangerous behaviors. In those cases anything other than having your own safety as your primary concern would be delusional.
We’re looking at our numerous, everyday interactions that make or break our sense of being connected, satisfied and successful.
The problem is that we are sometimes excessively alert to maintaining our safety. The moment we smell or intuit danger (real or imagined) we go on the defense, turning into someone who is not only disengaging, but someone who feels unsafe to be around..
Whoever we’re communicating with is just as hard-wired to protect themselves as we are, so they immediately go on the defensive or distance (fight or flight). And there you have it. Two 12-year-olds, trying to feel better by striking out or pushing away the person with whom we most want to connect.
What doesn’t come naturally when we’re triggered is to stay put. Ground. Pause, breathe, notice the story you’re scaring yourself with, and soften your body. Sometimes that’s all you will be able to do when you’re triggered. And sometimes that will be more than enough.
But when you’re ready, and you want more than to not flip out (which you will almost always regret), consider offering your own deepest desire … a sense of safety … to the other.
That shift has been life changing for me. Recognizing that when I offer safety — a place of refuge — to the people around me, the likelihood that I will receive back the loving concern I’m longing for is increased ten-fold.
I can’t always do it – ask anyone who has known me for a length of time. Or go back and read some earlier posts – not too long ago I talked about storming out of a store because I wasn’t getting my way. But when I can offer someone else the sense of safety that I want for myself, I am humbled by the loving kindness that I experience from the people with whom I interact. And it applies to acquaintances and people I will never see again.
So the next time you feel a self-protective eruption coming, and you can tell it’s not really a dangerous situation, start with pause/breathe/notice the story you’re scaring yourself with/soften your body. Then, once you’re grounded, remind yourself that they’re just as scared and self-protective as you are.
Ask yourself, what will make them feel safe in this moment, right now? Do that.
When I shift the focus from keeping myself safe, understood, and loved, to keeping them safe, understood, and loved, I am loved back in ways that are indescribable.
Again recommending ‘It takes One To Tango’. Even though the author doesn’t use the word safety, that’s what this book is all about.
P.S. Check out the new and improved shiftmag.com site – created by a few extraordinary ‘ordinary’ women who came together to inspire a community shyft towards more conscious living. I’m a staff writer with them so Seedlings has a home there too.