Do you know where you feel most safe?
Try remembering a time or place where you’ve felt safe.
What was it like?
What were the circumstances?
What were the smells, sights, sounds, textures that helped you feel safe?
What was happening around you?
Think about it. Sink yourself into it.
Notice what happens when you feel safe.
How does your body feel?
How does your mind feel?
How does your spirit feel?
Safety is an important part of our psychological and physical health.
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Everyone knows that people who engage in sexual bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism have something called a ‘safe word,’ right? We all know this from porn and Fifty Shades of Gray? Okay, good.
And the reason folks into BDSM use safe words is because why?
It’s because that word allows them to have the power to stop when they feel unsafe.
Because feeling safe allows a person to relax and dive deep (or fly high) into what they most desire.
Safety allows desire to rise and speak its wishes.
Safety is a handmaiden of fulfilling our desire.
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There are three places I feel most safe in the world.
By myself. Just me, doing whatever, alone. Near people, far away from people, either way. As long as I’m alone and simply responsible for myself, I feel quite safe. (Mostly. I still carry my keys like Wolverine in dark places at night.) If I’m at a bookstore or library, I am especially at ease.
At the cabin. I haven’t been there in years, and it is almost done falling into the sea, but it is a place I felt safe for years. If I need to remember what complete safety and relaxation feel like, I remember the cabin. The 1960s purple polyester couch, the wooden stairs, the musty smell, the old books. In a moment I can remember these things and feel safe.
The third is in the arms of my beloved. If I need a place to immediately let down, cry, relax, or feel protected from the world, I will ask him to hold me. This is something that happened fairly quickly after we met, but it has also developed over 22 years together. It is the weight of him against me. The size of him and that I feel protected. It is his emotional and physical strength, something I can feel running through his entire being. (I also return the favor, although it’s slightly awkward because he’s 6’4″ and I’m 5’4″ and it’s hard to spoon a man that large; but we do, because men need to feel safe and protected, too.)
What happens in all of these places is that I feel safe. I am not worried. I am not fixing something for myself or other people. I may have responsibilities, but they don’t weigh on me. My whole body feels calmer- the slight electrical current that seems to live atop my skin goes away. That is the feeling of safety to me.
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This is a tattoo of my children’s birthdates. [Yes, it’s cryptic. It’s meant to be. If you can figure it out, I’ll buy you a beer.]
I placed the tattoo on this spot on my arm because that is where they rested their tiny heads when they were babies and I would hold them to sleep or feed. This is the first place my children were safe.
True internal safety is created when children are very small. Zero to five years old is the developmental time when ‘normal’ is established deep in the psyche of humans. If there is a lack of food or clothing or safety, this will register as part of ‘normal’ for that child. If there is lack of attachment or kindness or care, this will also register as ‘normal’ for the child. (It also creates failure to thrive in children who are severely deprived of touch and care.) If there is fear, cruelty, or abuse, this can also register as ‘normal’ for the child. Because this ‘normal’ is developed at a time when the child can barely speak, it is often very hard to change these patterns and establish a healthier sense of ‘normal.’ (It can be done. It is hard work. It takes years of therapy and personal warriorship. But it is worth it, and it is often deeply healing.) The result of children who do not feel safe is often adults who have attachment and bonding difficulties with other adults (which is why you see the rise in people talking about attachment styles and relationships lately).
A felt sense of ‘safety’ is incredibly important in the psychological life of children.
And when we take children from their parents- whether as a form of punishment for legal immigration activities or due to unfair and racist prison sentencing- we are hurting the formation of their psyches. And this is wrong.
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“Us and Them is the opposite of God.”
– Gregory Boyle.
In Tantra, one of the goals of sex is union- the yin and yang combining and making a whole. And that is achieved through safety and trust.
In BDSM, the ‘safe word’ allows for trust because it establishes safety for the most vulnerable person in the interaction.
In spiritual development, safety allows our hearts to be held in forgiveness and grace. When we rest in the safety of the Divine, we are united with the souls of our fellow humans.
Safety is a necessary ingredient in all of these activities. Safety is necessary to healthy human development. And every human deserves to have some place they feel safe. Most especially children. Keeping families together, keeping children safe, is some of the most sensual and spiritual work we can do.
Creating a world where children are safe is also how we make a better world. We have to be better to be safe. And children who have a deeply-instilled sense of safety and security are healthier all around, across their entire lifespan (read the research). Safety is necessary; all humans have a right to it. And, when it comes down to it, creating safety is one of the most life affirming, sacred (and sexy) things we can create for each other.