The Importance of Feeling Safe

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Bob Livingstone is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCS 11087) in private practice for 22 years in San Francisco, California. He holds a Masters Degree ...Read More

Feeling safe is a fundamental human need, essential for both mental and physical well-being. It is the sense of security and freedom from fear or anxiety, allowing individuals to thrive and function optimally in their environment. The significance of feeling safe cannot be overstated, as it directly impacts stress responses, influencing overall health and happiness.

This foundational aspect of human experience shapes how we interact with the world, affecting our ability to connect with others, pursue goals, and engage in daily activities. The interplay between safety, stress, and well-being is complex, wherein a perceived lack of safety can trigger stress responses, thereby affecting one’s overall health.


Recognizing When You Don’t Feel Safe

In reality, many of us do not feel safe much of the time, and this lack of safety is a major trigger for all the fear that washes through us. Recognizing when you don’t feel safe is critical for addressing the underlying issues. Physical signs of not feeling safe can include increased heart rate, sweating, or a sense of hyper-alertness, while emotional signs may involve feelings of dread, anxiety, or being overwhelmed.

These experiences can disrupt daily functioning, leading to avoidance of social interactions, reliance on unhealthy coping mechanisms, or even substance abuse. Over time, a persistent lack of safety can contribute to long-term mental health risks, including anxiety disorders, depression, and complex trauma responses.

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Why We Feel Unsafe

Feeling unsafe often stems from a variety of sources, including past trauma, current environmental stressors, and deeply ingrained beliefs about oneself and the world. Specific triggers that commonly evoke feelings of unsafety may include experiences of rejection, failure, or vulnerability. Additionally, childhood trauma and neglect play significant roles, as they can fundamentally alter one’s perception of safety and trust in others. Understanding these triggers and their origins is a crucial step in learning to create a sense of safety within oneself and in one’s environment.

Steps to Feeling Safe

  • The very first step is to recognize that safety does indeed exist and that you are deserving of it.
  • Think about the moments when you have felt safe and write about them. When you are feeling frightened, turn to your journal and focus on it. For example, if you remember feeling relaxed and warm laying on the beach, bring up a memory of that and allow it to flow into your fears.
  • Be aware that we all have different parts of us inside. Some parts may be identified as children, punitive adults, loving women, caring men and those that carry wisdom. These parts become fragmented and don’t connect when you are not feeling safe. When you are feeling scared, look inside and find which part is being triggered. Once you find your place of wisdom and caring parts; have them communicate reassuring, loving messages.
  • It is important to get enough sleep, eat well, exercise regularly and hang out with those who really have your best interest at heart.
  • Terminate relationships with those who belittle you and are not trustworthy.
  • Discover what unconditional love really means and apply it to yourself-accepting that you are not perfect and that is OK.
  • Seek out psychotherapy to help face, work through and heal from not feeling safe. EMDR(Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and Sandtray Therapy are two modalities that can help you learn to feel safe.
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