Authenticity and Safety
I have been thinking a lot recently around authenticity. How I live within my life, how much of myself that I bring to my relationship, to my work and into this blog. I have learned to pay attention to my body, to the sensations which can point the way to what is “good” for me and to what is “bad” or “unhealthy”. What I have noticed is the feelings which can bring up a very visceral response from my body and have me feeling the “whoosh” of reactivity is when there is a lack of safety.
The next question then is; What is safety? And an even deeper one; Where in our lives are we feeling unsafe? When I say safety and even when I started thinking about it my first “go to” was to look at physical safety. For some, this is as far as safety needs to extend. Ultimately whether it's at home, work or play we all have the innate need and desire to be physically safe. The need to know that our body truly belongs to us and no one, in any way is and ever should be allowed to be in the position to violate that safety in any way. Sadly, that statement is not true for so many people. They have learned to live with adjusting as much as they can to another so as to maintain as much “safety” as they can. I remember the movie from the early 90’s called “Sleeping with the enemy”, Julia Roberts was the main character and part of the story which seemed to have been imprinted into my memory was the need to make sure the towels were straight and the patterns were aligned. The repercussions if this didn’t occur were dire. Yes, this movie can be viewed by some as an extreme case of abuse by the husband and yet… how did it start? Their relationship as so many do, did not start with the overt abuse, that abuse takes time to occur. A slow degradation or letting go of parts of ourselves to (in some way) save other parts of ourselves.
There are many other sides to physical safety which could fill many such pages, however for the case of a shortened blog I then ask; What other safety do we also look for? There can be emotional safety, mental safety, spiritual safety, sexual safety even financial safety. From my own personal experience I can reflect on a time when I to lacked emotional, spiritual and financial safety when in my previous relationship. I always think that these forms of safety, although just as impactful as physical safety are even harder to “pin down” or at times “justify” as abuse. I do know that my past relationship started out with stress but, I considered that normal with a new relationship and learning to live together as a blended family. Why should it be such a big deal that my beliefs were ridiculed, told to be kept in the dark and shadows? Why should it matter that my partner at the time refused to do any of the household chores even to the point of not closing cupboard doors and when pushed, continually threatened to leave… well, kick me out since it was his home and by that time I had “leant” him so much money that I felt financially bankrupt by him and unable to support myself or my 2 children. Fear, my constant companion, the need to make everything “just right” so that he wouldn’t take out his anger and frustration upon me led me to stay far longer than I should have. I wasn’t safe within that relationship for a long time and within that I became very good at hiding it, first to myself and then to my friends until it became untenable.
Why do I share this very personal story you may ask? Well, it goes back to the beginning of this blog… if I am going to live authentically then this is part of me and something which also allows me to see and connect to the pain of abuse in others, allowing me to hold their story “safely” so they too can heal because I know we all can. It is the process of learning to know what is right for each one of us, the willingness and also that momentary strength of being able to say “NO” to say “ENOUGH … I am worth more than this…..!” and then to perhaps keep saying that if the other party goes into anger, hate, retribution and lies.
So I ask you, when have you needed to say no? When is enough for you? and if there isn’t that challenge in your life, look around at your friends and family, look closely, see with both eyes and feel with your heart. If something “feels” off then it may be all it takes to know is to ask. Ask without judgment or expectation, ask only the willingness to listen, to hold that person’s story gently and with caring hands and then to help when help is needed.