** This blog may be triggering so please be gentle and keep doing slow & deep belly breathing while reading this**
Children are malleable. It is the age where we make sense of the world. If we are loved and cared for, we form our views of the world based on positive feelings and hope. But things are quite different when we have suffered abuse at the hand of adults… At an age where adults are supposed to love and protect, they take. Children are the most vulnerable so they become the target of such emotional leakages by adults.
How sad! I wish that these abusing adults learned to address their needs in a healthy way. Coz if they do, they wouldn’t harm any children.
I was abused by many over the years – adults who touched me in places that are not meant for them. Adults who wanted to grope and use me for their sexual pleasures… These and many more repeated experiences took my sense of safety away. “Men” became a sign of danger rather than the providers and protectors.
Since I started my recovery and after having worked with many – I realised that this sense of “not feeling safe” is at the core of all of our troubles. When we don’t feel safe, our whole survival system kicks in to try and rebalance us.
When we don’t feel safe, we control ourselves and others
When we don’t feel safe, we shut down and suppress our emotions
When we don’t feel safe, we leave our bodies and become numb
When we don’t feel safe, we isolate ourselves from others
When we don’t feel safe, we don’t trust ourselves and others
When we don’t feel safe, we never let go…
and the list goes on…
In this blog, I have tried to separate this feeling of not being safe into various categories. Once you understand how your sense of un-safety gets triggered, you can do something about it. In my next week’s blog/article, I will share practices and strategies to restoring this sense of safety but for now, let’s keep delving…
When we walk on streets or go to restaurants, clubs and other public places, we assume that people are generally good people and it’s okay for us to walk around and relax and enjoy the environment. This is no longer true for adults who were harmed in public places as children and as adults. They are on the lookout for signs – and their defence mechanism is ever engaged. Some of these people don’t drive, don’t go out or stop themselves from living life because they don’t know how to create that sense of safety.
Emotional Safety from our own emotions
This is extremely common among survivors. When we have flashbacks and anxiety, again our defence mechanism turns on to protect us from apparently this “evil” state that we are feeling in our mind, body and soul. When this happen a lot, brains keeps on getting this message that we are “not capable” of handling extreme emotions. So we keep shutting down even more. It’s not safe to feel what we feel so let’s leave our body, let’s suppress and let’s pretend that “I am OK”.
I have done this for years. My body was a “dangerous” place for me to live so I didn’t live there. I did that to protect myself and protect others (I was afraid of what I might do if I allowed myself to feel these intense feelings?).
Emotional Safety from other people’s emotions
During my early years, my mother and father lived with extreme anger. Though they loved us to death and never hit us, they did get angry with each other and things were thrown around in the house. I remember seeing them in rage and out of control and this was the beginning of my own responses to trauma. It made me feel extremely unsafe.
I decided that my parents couldn’t regulate their emotions so I will do it for them. I took “responsibility” for them and I said to myself that I was never going to burden them with my emotions because they had a lot ging on for them.
I repeated this pattern for many years of my life – I took responsibility for people who were torn in their lives; I attracted people who were angry and who felt that other people had wronged them. I was going to save them
This is one the newest patterns that I have broken through so it’s still fresh and writing about it is hard. I am taking deep breaths as I am writing this so I stay true to my feelings because I know that it’s safe to do that.
Sexual Safety from Ourselves
This is an interesting one and the root of this type of un-safety lies in our feeling ashamed of the abuse and our sexuality. I know that I was so ashamed for many years because I had “allowed” the abuse to occur. The only way I could handle was to shut down my own sexuality because I couldn’t rely on myself to make the “right” decision as far as my sexuality was concerned. It was so much better to avoid and shut down than to confront and find what was going on for me…
For years I had hoped for the “prince charming” to appear and help me feel safe sexually. But how could that happen? I never allowed myself to feel any sexual feelings – because they were unsafe. How could someone else make me feel safe!!
Sexual Safety from Others
This is the most obvious one of all. And this happens because the sexual pleasure is first introduced to us as a way for someone else to use us for their own benefit and pleasure.
This happened to me for years. When I grew up, sex became a dangerous concept and I became extremely alert about what their “intentions” are. I am sure that my partners felt my state and manifested what I was afraid of anyway… So for many years, sex felt like a form of abuse and rape, a duty that I had to do if I were to have any intimacy and things that I wanted.
I want to acknowledge that this blog may have triggered you in ways. I also want to bring your attention to your sense of self. Are you in your body? or are you numbing yourself….
Know that whatever you are feeling – it is OK. and you can do this.
It’s possible to overcome all these feelings of unsafety and that’s exactly what I will talk about in my next week’s article.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. I know this because I have walked this dark path for many years first, by myself and then, with many of you and I have seen the light on your face when the dark tunnel ends…