I have something radical to say and I wish you could hear me because if you were in front of me I would be screaming it: the world is safe. The world has always been safe. Yes, children die, famine exists, natural disasters kill thousands, and we murder one another through war, domestic violence, and hate. But the world is safe. I know that a deep part of you knows that the world is safe, but your life experience has fooled you into believing that it is not. So how do we get back to the purity of the early years before your mother may or may not have responded to you in a way that brought the first doubt of your safety? Perhaps it wasn’t your mom. Maybe it was a teacher or coach who took that certainty of safety away. Perhaps it was the death or loss of someone or something you loved terribly. Even worse, maybe you are caught up in systemic and cultural issues that have made your surroundings a space of insecurity and doubt. But the world is safe. I promise.
Here is how you get back to safety:
Feel, yes all the feelings. As Brene Brown counsels in her famous TED talk, we have to be vulnerable and accept our feelings and imperfections to have a full life. Fear, at its core, is the message that we cannot handle or survive a situation. But that is untrue; it comes from a very primitive belief from childhood. The child is in danger without the care of an adult or someone else. An adult has the autonomy to protect and take action for themselves. Actually, our task as parents is to teach and guide our children to be able to do this so that they can be productive citizens of the world. The issue is that most of us are stuck using the tools of our childhood and our pasts. Somewhere along our journey we decided sad was not to be felt, conflict was to be avoided, and uncertainty was our enemy. These decisions of choosing not to feel these feelings is what filters the world as unsafe for you. You see it is not the world that lacks safety, it is the message that you cannot feel sad that makes you avoid the world and then makes you see it as bad or hard. The task at hand is to let the feeling give you the information it is bringing you. Sad is just a 90 second synapse in your brain. (Yes, that’s how long it takes for emotions to travel.) But sad tells you that the event in front of you needs attention and that you have to take some action, that you have to:
Choose. Yes, we make choices every day. My clients often tell me, “I didn't choose this” and then I remind them non-action or freezing is also a choice. The world begins to look safer when we begin to understand that we make our own choices. Every event in our lives has little tiny or great big crossroads and each time we choose which path to take. For example, my teen clients complain about the piles of homework they get, yet they forget how amazingly they have made the choice to figure out the rubrics of their classes in order to know what to do or not do. I see how difficult it is for them to make these choices and I feel pride for them. But they are stuck in fooling themselves that they are victims to the teacher, college, parents, and lose sight of how resilient they can be.
They forget to show themselves and those around them:
There is nothing more powerful to get rid of fear, anger, or uncertainty than being compassionate. Be compassionate for everyone. When I speak to parents I often tell them I do not believe in evil. They ask me “how can that be, of course there is evil.” My response is that no matter how tragic the action that person had a reason, a motivation. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have to pardon it or look the other way, but if we take a moment to see the world through their eyes we can begin to understand how someone can reach those tragic choices. If I were to run a schools’ bullying campaign I would teach children how to be compassionate. Hurt people; hurt people.
Most of the young group members at my center are taught and experience seeing the world through someone else’s lens. One little one told us a story about how his daddy is always angry in traffic and in his mind he thought “daddy would be much happier right now if he considered that the person who cut him off may be late for work.” Yes, that too makes the world a whole lot safer. Practice thinking that other’s actions are based on feeling safety rather than selfishness and your world and day will begin to be more calm.
And finally remember to:
Repeat the three above so you can join me in this safe and beautiful world of ours.