“The fastest way to freedom is to feel your feelings”.
Emotional safety is the ability to keep ourselves safe in relationship . So, what does that mean? Do you often say what you really mean, or do you say what you think others want to hear? Can you speak your truth in your relationships? Do you feel punished for voicing your opinion in your most intimate relationships? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you probably need to work on building more emotional safety into your life.
The term emotional safety is about how we make ourselves safe in relationship. It begins with us knowing ourselves well enough to take the time needed to understand what we need and want and how we value ourselves. As with any skill, we must begin where we are. The better we know ourselves, the more capable we are of knowing what emotional safety would look like in our lives.
We have been taught by example to keep our real feelings to ourselves. We have learned to say what others want to hear in order to be loved. And we have learned to allow intrusive, abusive energy to be thrown at us by loved ones to keep peace or to feel we are loved.
Conversation can become complicated when we don’t know how to listen; to hear what someone is really saying. True listening is an act of compassion and love. Many people listen while forming their answer in their head, instead of listening with their heart or being willing to be vulnerable and hear what their beloved is saying. Not what their defensive, hurting or angry self thought they heard or assumed was said. One way we build trust in relationship is to believe that the person we love has our best interest at heart. And that they would not willingly or knowingly hurt us. Relationships are complicated. So building trust is an important aspect of emotional safety.
We can also build trust in relationships, therefore building emotional safety, by trusting ourselves to ask the tough questions we may have been afraid to ask. Relationships bring out our own vulnerabilities. We need to know ourselves well enough to know where we are vulnerable and how we go about getting our needs met. It the person/s we love are too scary for us to speak our truth we need to be willing to look at what we are gaining, or the price we are willing to pay for the love we say we want.
Taking things personally is another factor in building emotional safety. Not everything that is said or happens in relationship is personal. Each one of us has our own issues. It is easy to assume when something is said or someone does something that hurts us, that they meant to do that. And often, that is not the case. Relationship brings out our own vulnerabilities and fears. So, when one we love says something that doesn’t feel good, are we willing to risk asking what they meant ? It can also help if we are willing to ask ourselves, “Is what they said true?; Is this really about me?. By not taking everything personally, we can step back, gain perspective and feel empowered to take care of ourselves.
Remember, we hear through our own filter. So, asking ourselves helpful questions allows us to take responsibility for our own emotional safety. No one outside us makes us safe. Emotional safety is an inside job. When we know ourselves well enough to know what hurts, what makes us angry, and what WE feel like inside, then we can be safe enough to ask for what we need and want in all our relationships.
The other aspect of emotional safety I want to speak to briefly is energetic safety.
This aspect is more difficult for people often because it is based on what we feel. We can’t prove it, we have to trust what we are feeling. We have to know our own energetic boundaries, what our own energy feels like so we can differentiate another. Being in relationship with someone who is really needy or someone who is angry wears on our soul. Being able to know who we are and what energy we tend to put out helps us filter and acknowledge what we feel from someone we are in relationship with.
A tool that might be helpful is to go into places around your neighborhood, sit in a public place and watch people. What do you feel when you walk into a familiar place? Is the energy in this place good, happy, sad, mad, resentful, peaceful ? What do you feel like when you sit there? Can you differentiate your energy from what you are feeling in this place ? The more you practice, the more aware you will be with what you are feeling in your relationships. Then, the next step is speaking up with people you care for and acknowledging what you feel and the impact it has on your life. Are they willing to hear you? Are they willing to take responsibility for their impact on you? If not, you need to be willing to decide what you can and cannot live with. And if you can be willing to take the risk to make yourself emotionally safe in the relationship.
Life is filled with choice every single day. Can we love ourselves enough to make ourselves emotionally safe? Can we love ourselves to open and to take the risk to bloom? May we find the place inside ourselves to take the risk. Many blessings on your journey.
~ Ann Sheppard
“And then the day came
when the risk to remain
tight in a bud was
more painful than the risk to bloom.”
This article is adapted from a retreat on Boundaries. For information about this retreat and the variety of workshops available, please contact me.