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Creating and nurturing safety is the first and highest priority in the healing of codependency.
We need to have safety in three areas if we’re to thrive in our creative and playful ambitions:
1) Physical Safety
2) Emotional Safety
3) Relational Safety
Today is all about Emotional Safety.
Codependency has us believing that safety depends on external factors, namely the physical environment and the people we interact with. This has us seeking safety through either controlling these factors or avoiding them all together.
What if real safety was found within?
What if real safety were a result of how we respond to the unsafe experiences we encounter?
These questions led me to discover how I can resource my safety emotionally, physically, and relationally.
Emotional safety is how safe one feels in:
- Acknowledging their own emotions
- Feeling those emotions
- Acknowledging and feeling what comes after those emotions move through
- Expressing or sharing those emotions
- Acknowledging the emotions others communicate
- Witnessing the emotions of others
- Staying boundaried in their responses to the emotions of others
Without emotional safety, we do not heal. We cannot build secure attachments, know our boundaries, identify and pursue our desires, or experience interconnection and nurture.
This also comes with a paradox. The body often does not feel safe when it starts to relax into safety. It has been trained into hypervigilance due to repeating, chaotic cycles of abuse. Relaxation equals danger in this sense, as it won’t be watching for potential threats.
This is where the work of emotional safety starts: creating moments of “Safe enoughness” to relax for brief moments of time.
This starts with assessing one’s physical safety using the 5 basic senses: Sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. I do this using a question for each sense:
Is there a threat I can see?
Is there a threat I can smell?
Is there a threat I can touch?
Is there a threat I can taste?
Is there a threat I can hear?
Is there a threat?
If the answer to the first five questions is no, then there is no threat currently.
This is the opportunity to practice Pause-Acknowledge-Observe.
This 3-step practice helps your mind and body reconnect and become present for a moment. By pausing, you are slowing down to check in with your awareness and notice what is there. This awareness includes your physical environment, emotional signals, physical sensations, thoughts, and intuitions.
When you notice what is there, you can then acknowledge it. “I am sensing a weirdness in this situation”, or, “I notice I am holding tension in my shoulders as I watch this movie.”
Acknowledgment connects the mind’s and the body’s experiences together. This allows you to understand your lived experience in a direct way.
Then you observe. Observation is where you take the role of watching or witnessing what these sensations, situations, feelings, thoughts, etc., do. You might notice they get louder or closer, or they grow smaller or less intense. You may notice other things start to come into your awareness.
Observation allows you to develop a deeper form of pausing and acknowledging what is present with you. This interrupts the reactive states we tend to have and helps slow down your decision-making, allowing for more potent and aligned action on your behalf.
It also brings relief to chasing, fixing, pleasing, and avoidance habits, as you can observe them more rather than act them out.
This is done briefly, for small bits of time (like 30 seconds total). This helps gently build capacity for being aware of your lived experience, while not flooding or overwhelming your window of tolerance. This helps nurture a sense of safety in navigating big emotions and energy, allowing your body and mind to become safer spaces to inhabit over time.
You can begin this practice by using the PAO tool here: https://pao.freetheself.com