I sat pondering what to write today. Several ideas were swirling around in my mind. I read Crazy in the Coconut’s post from a few days ago. She shared a wonderful experience she had with one of her dogs. I thought about how this applies to people.
People need to find a safe place. It is difficult to cope when you are in danger. If on the battle field or in an abusive relationship, the main directive is still to survive. One problem that can occur is portrayed in the story of the dog chained to a stove, when the dog was finally released, it continued to cower by the stove. Oddly, people prefer dangerous and familiar over safe but unfamiliar. This is one reason why prisoners of war and abusive victims will often be afraid of a safe place until they understand what safe means. However, when you finally do get a place to be safe, the temptation is to stay there. I often complained to my counselor that I wanted a cocoon. (He used the metaphor of the healing process is like a caterpillar turning in into a butterfly.) He pointed out how tempting it would be for me to simply stay in the cocoon. In the article, Bourbon describes the first tentative steps outside the dog’s safe place. My counselor would give me assignments to help me venture outside of my safe place. After the assignment, he would review with me how I felt. He helped me evaluate if the activity needed adjustments. Eventually I started recognizing other safe situations. Some may ask, “Where is the practical application for this?” I found a safe place at my work. I had familiar routines, just enough challenge, and control over what I did each day. Then my boss was changed. My routines were shattered, the tasks were overwhelming and I had no control over what I could do each day. I panicked. My counselor calmed me down then asked, “Will this boss do anything to you that you haven’t had happen before?” I thought, “Nope, he would not hurt me like I was hurt before.” I took the process of the first step. Calming my mind and stepping forward into a place that wasn’t my safe place. The sky didn’t fall in, I could cope in the unfamiliar territory. Yes, my counselor coached me through the steps like the Bourbon coached TBS through the first steps. But the bottom line, my counselor could not take the first steps for me. I had to take the steps myself. This is why I encourage baby steps, small steps, any step to start moving forward.