Photography and Text by Jules Hovee Steffen
Adults who regress backward in time during therapy in an effort to connect with a previous point in time, may often speak with a younger voice while regressed, accessing the child within. One's memories and feelings may likely remain tethered inside the body's tissues, and long to be released. But, the degree to which one may feel safe, or lack thereof, may likely be a deciding factor as to whether one may or may not connect to the earlier time, and link in to the memories and tethered feelings. When considering the level of shock one may hold inside one's body from pre- and perinatal shocking experiences, safety is integral in paving and pacing the way toward one's healing. It's one's perception and experience of the approaching sailboats, depicted above, as to whether they are on the same trajectory and will collide or not. Safety is the impending concern. What may look like a collision course for one person, may be for another, a wide berth of goodly distance between the boats. One's perception and experience can only speak to the level of safety experienced within.
Whatever situation or experience may be at hand for an individual, the issue of safety is present - as to whether one feels safe or longs to feel safe. We often minimize, deny, and/or fail to acknowledge the significance of feeling safe in our world. We may not realize how essential the issue of safety is in one's life. Safety is the reason a child may experience a stomach ache before walking into the classroom; the degree of safety is what separates a reticent child from playing with a group of children in the school yard during recess; safety may likely feel distant to the teenager who struggles to manuever in social situations when passing in the hall between classes; the lack of safety is prevalent for those who race to defend their choice on an important matter, or justify a decision in the face of one who raises a challenge, or provide an excuse when feeling confronted.
Safety doesn't surface as an issue, only to be considered after one's birth. The origins of safety begin in the pre- and perinatal realm, and have a great deal to do with the level of safety one feels in life, subsequent to one's birth. Prenatally, if one doesn't feel safe during the time of conception - while implanting into the uterine wall - or during a difficult developmental agenda prior to birth (only three, among many other examples), an imprint is created specific to this lack of safety, and is carried forward into life. Each moment, we instantaneously assess the degree to which we feel safe in any given situation. Our hands may feel cold, our face may be flushed, and our pulse or blink rate may increase (just to name a small few), all in response to an instant assessment of safety or lack thereof. We may likely express a multitude of body responses that fluctuate, increase or decrease, depending on our perception and experience of our very early pre- and perinatal experiences.
Finding ways to create safety in one's life is a personal and individualized journey, never to be exactly duplicated by another human being. Discovering what can offer safety in the midst of not feeling safe is an invaluable process. It may be a combination of tangibles and intangibles that surround us in life and exist within us. Taking enough time and creating the space in one's life to connect with the tangibles and intangibles that offer a sense of safety for ourselves, are worthy exercises on the path to our healing and health. When we find safety through the tangibles and intangibles that are gifted to us, we are surely in the middle of the Middle Ground: Where Sages Dwell.
Jules Steffen, LMHC