I’ve read that the point of life is not to seek and shelter in safety our entire life, but to live life, go out, have adventures, try new things, be spontaneous and free.
I agree. And (you knew there’d be an “and” didn’t you?!). And I know that if you are a modern day human being, currently alive and having been raised by parents who did what their parents did who did what their parents did, etcetera, you are likely living with a fair amount of trauma and stress stored in your body. Even if your parents were the greatest parents on earth, tuned into your every need and there for you, there will always be some amount of stress in our life that physiologically changes and challenges us. And if we have been taught how to effectively deal with these challenges, we grow. But for most of us, because our parents were never modeled this behavior, we were likely never modeled behavior that helps us effectively manage stress. And this stress lives in our body as epigentic changes to our physiologic functions. This begins with bracing our musculoskeletal system against “the next thing” (tight knotted muscles and pain, anyone?), insomnia, vague GI complaints and being short tempered. As we age, these complaints develop into ‘diseases of old age’ that we assume are inevitable, but are more likely the result of the epigenetic changes to our physiology I mentioned above that don’t allow us to heal and restore on a regular basis.
Back to safety.
If we are a person who has had stress and trauma in our life, we often feel very unsafe in our body and unsafe around people. We might always be on high alert, keeping our eyes and ears peeled for signs of danger. We don’t do this consciously; it’s an unconscious activity of our nervous system, constant scanning of our environment for threat. And the more stress and trauma we have experienced in our life, either a). the more hyper vigilant we are (any wonder you’re exhausted?) or b). we just shut down because it’s all too much for us to handle (again, exhaustion anyone?).
Knowing this, how might we feel about ‘getting out there’ and having adventures and living a great big IG worthy life? My guess is that we’re either going to pretend we’re enjoying ourselves all the while exhausting and lying to ourself, which eventually catches up to us in some sort of existential or relational or health crisis or we’re not going to do anything.
Part of our process of living and being alive and experiencing humanness and connection and adventure and freedom means we need to have a safe place to take our leap of faith from. Just as we try to give our children a safe, stable family base from which they can leave home and go out into the world, we need to have a safe base we know we can count on to come back to. When your toddler was learning to walk, remember them looking back at you every step of the way, first standing, then standing and letting go, then those first steps, all of them taken knowing you were there to catch them if they fell. As adults, we often put our partners in the position of ‘safe space’ and while yes, hopefully they are safe and someone to come back to, it’s imperative that we view ourself as safe, too. Our nervous system needs to know that it can rely on ourself to take care of ourself, to do the things we need to do to stay alive. We need to prove to ourself that we are reliable in the care of its container, our body, and that we can deal with things that come up. If our go to is to run away from anything uncomfortable, how can we spread our wings and fly to new experiences? By doing the work of tending our nervous system, discharging the energy of past hurts and traumas and stresses, we create capacity and space in our nervous system for new activities and experiences. We’re excited for challenges because our nervous system knows that challenges can be processed, not just stuffed and held.
So yes, let’s live life! Have adventures! Live big! But first create a safe and loving environment to come home to every single day, then get out there and seize it!