(Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs)
A client recently asked me an intriguing question, “What does feeling safe mean to you?”
This took me aback for a moment because like oxygen, feeling safe is equally vital as well as hard to pin down.
Safety is the foundation of a good, solid life. Here is why:
A sense of safety is the first prerequisite for relaxation. You could be in the most bucolic garden paradise, but if a man with a gun were there as well you couldn’t even register—much less enjoy– the smell of the jasmine or the colors of the rose.
A sense of relaxation is a prerequisite to enjoyment. Think of your calmest, happiest times. For me, they include swinging in the hammock with my sons in the backyard, reading books in my personal space, hanging out in a hot tub under a star filled sky, and puttering around the house on weekend mornings with the whole family present.
A sense of enjoyment is what makes us feel alive. Okay, full disclosure here: Adrenaline–from risk taking and fear responses–also makes us feel alive, but adrenaline is like junk food for our brain, causes a reactive drop in dopamine and serotonin as soon as it is metabolized, and has the danger of becoming an addiction. While adrenalin is the bang of a bomb exploding (or say, a triple shot latte which I also do not recommend), enjoyment is the calm wave of the sea.
The good news is that a feeling of safety can be learned. Those of us who did not grow up in homes where we were regarded as precious gifts on loan to our parents to be treated with utmost reverence and delight can in adulthood with time and effort repair the fundamental wounds of being treated as burdens, problems, inconveniences.
Finally I would answer my client’s clever question in this way: Feeling safe means knowing you can handle the turns and twists that life presents, because deep inside you believe that being alive is fundamentally a good experience.