As therapists, friends, or healers of any kind, it’s vital that we provide a safe container in which the other (the internal other as well as the one sitting in front of us) can access, articulate, and integrate the entirety of what they are.
As we make sense of their experience together, discover breath where it had vanished, and find meaning where no meaning was apparent, we prioritize safety and being safe together.
That said, it is a fantasy to believe that work of depth is going to always feel safe. It’s not.
To go back into the unfelt feelings, unmetabolized sensations, dissociated memories, unarticulated thoughts, and lost parts of the soul is not always going to feel safe. These feelings of “unsafe,” while of course very challenging and difficult, are not signs that we have failed or are doing it wrong, but harbingers of wholeness.
The adaptive and protective strategies we employed/ employ to keep us out of overwhelm and defragmentation have served a critical function in preventing unbearable dysregulation and a flood of anxiety through the sacred vessels of our bodies and minds. These strategies were/ are not neurotic, but intelligent and creative. Let us bless the protection they have offered.
If, however, we are called in a deeper way to see whether we are still in need of their protection.. if we sense that the creativity, intimacy, and aliveness that we most deeply long for is to be found within embodiment to the dark as well as the light, we can count on waves of unsafe feeling to make the journey with us. Not as enemies coming to battle, but as wrathful allies and emissaries of the black sun, the open heart, and the ripening body.
We must of course go slow and honor our capacities in the moment, making sure to stay within (and on the edge) of our window of tolerance, knowing that there is no urgency on the path of love. At times, to set aside inner work and care for ourselves in other ways, to nourish ourselves and practice a radical sort of self-compassion.
To tend to waves of unsafety as they appear, to allow them to accompany us at times, trusting in the majesty of the heart to show us the way.
Photo credit: the bounty of the Colorado autumn by Paul McGowan
The next book, The Unfolding Heart, will be published by Sounds True in early 2020, details to come
The next event is The Healing Shame Retreat: Spiritual Awakening and Transforming the Core Wound of Unworthiness, April 24-29, 2019 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, with co-facilitator Jeff Foster