Do you want to open your heart? But maybe you don’t feel safe enough. Do you want to overcome your anxiety? But maybe you don’t know how. I’ll share with you a model that will help you do all three: feel safer, open your heart, and overcome your anxiety.
Almost all therapy focuses on one level of consciousness, which I call “safety” consciousness. Most of the work we do at this level is designed to help our clients feel safer. “Safer” means many things. It includes learning to speak up, setting boundaries, controlling behaviors, thinking before reacting, prioritizing, and establishing healthier relationships with other people.
Safety helps and hinders
All of these are valuable and deserve attention in therapy, but how much attention and for how long? When we stay focused on safety consciousness we reinforce the idea that safety consciousness is our priority. But I’m proposing that at some point we must shift our focus to include two other forms of consciousness; heart consciousness and spacious consciousness.
Heart consciousness is different than safety consciousness. It involves asking a different set of questions and approaching situations and people from a different energetic/emotional state. When I recently worked with a couple who were struggling as they tried to decide whether to marry, because they accidentally became pregnant, their conversation was entirely rooted in safety consciousness. They were so focused on setting boundaries and making agreements, being guarded and self-protective, that there was no love in the conversation. I suggested that if they don’t make this decision, in part, based on love—opening their hearts—they would end up in a marriage devoid of love.
The woman looked at her partner and said, “Well, you don’t make me feel loved.” He responded in kind, “And you don’t make me feel loved.” If a therapist were focused on safety consciousness, he or she would respond by asking each client, “What do you need your partner to do so that you do feel loved?” But such questions reinforce the idea that it is up to our partners to make us feel a certain way. That’s the first mistake.
Love is not dependent on another person
The second mistake is encouraging clients to think that love is dependent on another person. It’s not, when we access heart consciousness we experience love in our lives that is not dependent on another person.
But it’s very tempting for therapists to try and help their clients feel safe. And there is a time for that, but not all the time. We need to know when to shift from safety consciousness to heart consciousness, because when we make that shift we are able to have a completely different kind of conversation, one in which we are not guarded or defensive. And when we make the shift in consciousness, we will create a different result.
When my clients who were trying to decide whether or not to get married learned how to have converse within heart consciousness, several of their safety issues became unimportant. They left my office agreeing to weave heart consciousness into their relationship during the coming month, and they also agreed if they weren’t able to do so then they shouldn’t get married.
Going beyond time
Beyond heart consciousness is another degree of consciousness that offers us even greater potential to transform our previous limitations. Spacious consciousness is different than safety and heart consciousness. It evokes a unique orientation, one that is not based on time. Most of the work we do in therapy is time-oriented. We are all dealing with the busyness of our lives, the pressures of things that must be accomplished within a certain amount of time, and we are constantly trying to prioritize what to do because we don’t have enough time to do everything we might like to do.
The problem with living in a time-orientation is that we experience anxiety because we feel as though time is running out. When we shift to spacious consciousness our anxiety goes away and we experience our lives in an entirely different way that allows us to make creative and intuitive decisions and engage in new behaviors.
As therapists, as people, we limit ourselves when we only operate within safety consciousness. It is necessary, but not sufficient to live robust, growth oriented lives. I invite you to join us Saturday, June 11th, for a short webinar to learn more about the Three Degrees of Consciousness.