The Balancing Act of “Being Safe”

One of pieces of my practice mission is to create and hold safe space for my clients.

Coming to therapy is a big step.  And it isn’t one that people tend to take unless they are facing some pretty significant disruption or pain.  By the time someone is sitting down with me, it isn’t unusual for them to have been through a lot of difficult stuff.  They have faced hurt or betrayal in their relationships, or they have endured significant loss.  For some of my clients, those patterns of loss and hurt have repeated multiple times throughout their lives.

So it’s not a surprise that many of my clients, and folks that I come into contact with in other settings, have settled into a defensive way of viewing the world.  If you are hurt enough times, it is natural to begin to see the world as a place that holds pain and other people as potential sources of pain.  Certainly, the headline news would confirm a bias that the world is full of people who delight in hurting others.  It makes sense that we start to feel that way.

And if you have accepted the belief that other people are mostly dangerous, that our relationships are only a potential experience of pain, then the logical next step is that the only way to be safe is to keep yourself apart.  To trust no one.  To expect the worst of everyone.

No trust means no hurt.  Right?


Maybe if humans were purely logical creatures, then the equation of choosing to avoid trust and dodge relationships to avoid being hurt would work out.  But we’re not.  We are complex, emotional, social creatures.  We need healthy relationships to be healthy.  And healthy relationships mean connecting with others. Healthy relationships mean trusting others.  Healthy relationships mean allowing yourself to experience vulnerability in order to be genuine with others.  Healthy relationships take courage, trust, patience, and a willingness to navigate relationship setbacks.

Therapy is a relationship. 

Therapy is a relationship with the singular goal of helping each client find their way to the healthiest life they can live: emotionally, socially, and physically.  In order to really get the full benefit of therapy, every client who walks through the door is participating in a relationship.

And that means that I am asking my clients, even in their moments of pain, to take a risk. To do something that feels dangerous.  That might seem to be a contradiction with my mission of creating safe space.  But really, it’s all part of the same goal.  If human beings can’t be healthy without healthy relationships, and you have been through experiences that have taught you that relationships are dangerous, then learning how to connect is a fundamental piece of your recovery.

Safe space doesn’t mean that you aren’t doing risky things.  Instead, safe space means that I promise to accompany you while you learn how to take those risks.  I promise to hold on to the tough things, and keep them to myself.  An I promise a relationship that you can count on, even if it’s hard sometimes.

Being safe is not really part of life.  But therapy can help you learn how to be healthy, even in a risky world.

If you have a story of taking a risk and ending up healthier, please feel free to share in the comments. If you need help with learning how to do that, just touch that schedule button.

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