“I feel safe in here”, stated my 8 year old client.
She had just finished wrapping herself up in blankets and sheets that were in the space where we were working.
Now first of all, you need to understand how this was actually a pivotal moment for this little girl. You see, 5 months ago when I first started working with this little one, she was in an almost constant state of stress. Constant state of being in the fight/flight/freeze response. Her baby brain used to “run the show” most of the time.
5 months ago, it was common that when I arrived, she would not only be hiding in the blankets, but also potentially making growling noises and/or refusing to even come out of a corner of the room. Her brain perceived me, school (and everything that was even slightly challenging) as a potential threat. Remember- the brain doesn’t know the difference between a real and a perceived threat.
But on this day? Yes, she had wrapped herself in the blankets- temporarily. She had wrapped them around her and then offered (I didn’t even ask) the reason as to why she was there. “I feel safe in here”. she told me.
You may be wondering why that is such a big deal- this “pivotal” moment as I’m calling it.
You see- for this little one, being able to tell me that she “felt safe” in there, meant that she was getting to her “thinking brain”. She was able to respond and rationalize and find her words to tell me why she was hiding in the blankets. Not only that, but she was also noticing the fact that being under the blankets helped her to feel safe. We were making progress and not only was I seeing it, but the parents and her school were seeing positive changes as well.
Today’s post however, is really about safety.
That client of mine- she often chooses blankets as her safety.
Others, might seek out their “safe person”- often a parent or caregiver.
Some kids wear a favorite jacket or sweatshirt (often putting the hood up) because that helps them to feel safe.
And others? Well sometimes, kids (and teens and even adults) choose to stick with only the things in their life that make them feel safe. And by things, I mean activities, situations, communities and people. It may be a conscious choice, or a subconscious one- but I believe that it’s something many of us do. We may do it because of fear, or lack of confidence, or something else, but it happens- seemingly all the time.
Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel safe. In fact, it’s one of the 6 human emotional needs- to feel safe and secure. To feel a sense of “certainty”.
In my opinion however, and I’m sure at least some of you would agree- that when we always stay in our “safety” zone, we lose the opportunity to grow. We lose the opportunity to have new experiences, find new hobbies or activities, meet new people and expand our horizons. We lose the opportunity to work through situations that we find challenging. We lose the opportunity to figure things out- to problem solve and to learn how to persevere. We lose the opportunity to engage in a world greater than ourselves. When we choose safety- we close our circle, rather than open it.
Now, I’m helping that young client of mine- to integrate reflexes and come out of the (proverbial and figurative) “blankets of life”. To help her engage in the world, to help her work through challenges, to persevere and to build strong and healthy relationships with people.
It’s my hope, that as this little girl grows into an older child, a teen, and even into adulthood- with the work that we are doing now- that she’ll be able to choose growth over safety. Growth over safety because that is where the magic happens.
As for the rest of us?
Give it some thought. How often do you choose “safety” over “growth”?