Our most fundamental need in life is to be safe. When we feel safe, the body relaxes, we become more flexible in the way we see life and are generally happier. But throughout life we all suffer different traumas and feel vulnerable. Maybe we were made fun as a child at school, were a child of divorce, felt inadequate as a parent or perhaps suffered more severe traumas such as some form of physical or sexual abuse. All of these are now reference points for your brain to bring up from time to time arousing feelings of insecurity and vulnerability.
How to we heal insecurity and feel safe again?
I’m going to give you a simple acronym to play with that builds on the practice that Christopher Germer, PhD and Kristen Neff PhD use to cultivate self-compassion called “Soften, Soothe, Allow.” The new acronym of S.A.F.E which I’ll explain in a moment, integrates the ability to inquire a bit deeper into the vulnerability that is there and expands a wiser, more secure awareness of our common humanity.
The acronym for this practice is S.A.F.E:
- Soften – When a vulnerability arises, whether it’s a feeling of sadness, anxiety, grief, anger, or shame, take a moment to gently soften awareness into that area of the body. At this point you are just resting your awareness into this area. If it helps you can say, “Breathing in, I am aware of this vulnerability, breathing out softening into it.”
- Allow/Accept– We’re not striving to change this feeling, or make it any different, we’re just allowing and letting be. Acceptance doesn’t imply that you are okay with it or want it there, it’s simply acknowledging the reality of its existence. Here you are just saying to yourself, “allowing, allowing, allowing.”
- Feel into it with kindness – Now we have the opportunity to deepen our awareness and investigate the feeling. You may choose to put your hand on your heart or wherever you feel the sensation in your body. This applies love or kindness to the feeling which may shift it all by itself. The brain also has to map the sensation of the touch with is inversely correlated with mental rumination, turning the volume down on negative thinking.
- As you feel into it you might ask, “What does this feeling believe?” Does it believe you are unlovable, unworthy, or perhaps that if you allow it to be, it will consume you?
- Ask the question, what does this feeling need right now? Does it need to feel cared for, to feel secure, to feel a sense of belonging?
- Whatever the answer, see if you can wish that for yourself. For example, May I feel loved, may I feel secure, may I feel a sense of belonging. Make this personal to whatever your needs are.
- Expand awareness and wishes to all people – Whatever your vulnerability, it’s important you know you’re not alone. Feeling vulnerable is part of the human condition and millions of people struggle with the same source of vulnerability that you experience. But when we’re feeling vulnerable with anxiety, depression or shame, it becomes all about us, we need to also impersonalize the experience and get out of ourselves.
- Now is the opportunity to make that realization real by imagining all the other people who struggle with this same feeling of vulnerability and to wish them all the same prayers that you just wished yourself.
- For example, May we all feel loved, may we all feel a sense of safety and security, May we all feel that sense of belonging, etc…
Then see what you notice.
Take this with you and play with it as an experiment, letting go of expectations and opening up to curiosity to see what you notice.
You are an active participant in your own health and well-being. You can feel S.A.F.E again, you can feel whole, let the past be the past and enter into the security of the present moment.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Father and son image available from Shutterstock.