Help establishing a sense of safety

triptych

New Here
I am attempting the first of the recovery steps, to establish a sense of safety, however, I’m finding most of the resources I turn to jump straight into pretty triggering material which makes my symptoms worse.

Does anyone know of any workbooks, exercises or other things I can try to help with establishing a sense of safety?

I also don't really know what having a ~sense of safety would feel like so I feel like I won't know when I've achieved that?

(I am on a waiting list for therapy in which I hope to be able to explore my issues but I don’t want to do that if I’m having bad intrusive symptoms it could make worse.)
 

Friday

Moderator
I make lists of things I suck at, so I can practice/get better at handling them.

They’re very fluid lists, as I’m generally working on more than one thing at a time; and the order the list itself is in varies... by how much the thing annoys me, or is causing problems in my life.

The more competent & capable I am the more I trust myself to handle come what may.
 

RussellSue

MyPTSD Pro
I don't know of any workbooks or other resources but I know I have struggled with this, as well.

Recently, my therapist really simplified things for me by asking me what a safe space would look like to me with details as a touchstone for anxiety-relief. It wasn't a huge idea: it turned into a bed in an empty room with high ceilings and big windows that was covered with linen blankets - or basically most any Rough Linen website photo. I don't mean to be so commercial but it happened that way. The goal there is to remind myself of that place in times where I feel unsafe.

For me, the empty room feels safe because my brain is always bouncing off of every detail, all the time - empty gives me less to think about. It's bright, so there is nothing hiding. It has all kinds of linen bed things mostly because I am just one of those linen people and it makes me feel cozy. The rays of the sun are kind of pouring in because I do have some recollection of laying on grass somewhere feeling the sun on me and feeling healthy and happy for the moment.

That was all manufactured. I've never seen that room and I don't have good enough housekeepers in my family to even have a starting point for that room. It just has some things about it that make me feel comforted and not in danger. If I use EMDR for anxiety-reduction, it is my go-to place but it's also somewhere I might think about at any point during the day if I need to be reminded of what safety looks like/feels like for me. There are no people there for good reason - It's just a place to rest in an empty room.

Best of luck to you.
 
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triptych

New Here
I make lists of things I suck at, so I can practice/get better at handling them.

They’re very fluid lists, as I’m generally working on more than one thing at a time; and the order the list itself is in varies... by how much the thing annoys me, or is causing problems in my life.

The more competent & capable I am the more I trust myself to handle come what may.
That seems like a good plan, breaking things down into more manageable chunks. How does that work with more intrusive symptoms though?

@RussellSue
Thank you for your reply! That seems like a good idea. I've been looking at a DBT workbook with similar exercises to this and I might try to work on some of them. I thought visualisation sounded a bit fluffy compared to other things it suggested but hearing it worked for you I will defiantly try and work on it.
 

Friday

Moderator
That seems like a good plan, breaking things down into more manageable chunks. How does that work with more intrusive symptoms though?
Depends on what symptom we’re talking about. Maybe someone has a skeleton key, but I’ve found different things work best in different situations/scenarios.
 

Sues

Confident
I always use deep breathing to help me. I also have a "safe place" that my therapist helped me with because we started EMDR. One thing my therapist said that has helped is there's a difference between "I feel safe" and "I am safe." When the neighbors slam the door (one of my big triggers) I tense up and try to tell myself I am safe while taking slow deep breaths. I know I don't feel safe, but I tell myself that right now, in this moment, I am here and I am safe. It helps.

But one of my biggest issues is safety and feeling safe. I haven't gotten to the point where there's a big improvement yet.... yet. And I think the "yet" part is key here. It will take a while, but that's ok too.

I hope you find a therapist soon. Therapy has helped me so much.
 

shimmerz

MyPTSD Pro
I found I had a roughed in version of a safe place. It was a tropical island with palm trees and caves and sand and I tunnel where I could invite people. I could sleep in a cave by hovering in a tiny alcove. Some days I needed to shut down the tunnel so others could not reach the island. Sometimes I had a horse there or a cat or a dog. Sometimes I had tennis courts. I had a house made of glass as an alternative safe place. I could see out and people couldn't see in. It was a great exercise because I could understand my triggers better. Realizing that a glass house that I could see out of but others couldn' see into had me understand i was many times afraid of being seen, and allowed me to work on that. My safe place morphed in time and now my safe place is installed into me and my heart. I think that is the general idea of the safe place model. Externalized becomes internalized....which is actually what should have happened had I had secure attachment models.
 

TruthSeeker

MyPTSD Pro
I kept a runaway bag in the car with everything I needed for a week to runaway....the bag got smaller over time. I found moving out on my own made me feel unsafe because I didn't know how to do some of the simplest things and that created anxiety......and leaping to illogical conclusions....unfamiliar noises/sounds jacked me up....so getting used to the environment was a huge issue. I moved into a new place, and didn't begin to personalize it because after the family stuff, I thought I would move again....but I didn't. Taking ownership of where you live, your environment, making it your place, with your taste is a huge part of feeling safe...I learned. A new environment gave me cause to worry about everything, but if you work on your house, paint it, lock the doors/windows daily, screw in all the lose screws in cabinets....get to know your place it will feel safer...and you can make it yours...how you want it.....and then you will start paying attention to the little things in the house....I just know my house was a real safety issue for some time till I made it my home.
 

TruthSeeker

MyPTSD Pro
This I can also definitely get behind :))
I get this........sitting safely...and did this.....but now I'm in my 60's and I have that memory of 40+ years, sitting in bed or on the couch in my spare time, sleeping away my spare time, or the warm safe feeling beneath lots of blankets makes me sad looking bad.....what a waste. While it felt/feels good, I'm late in the game.....hoping to change my memories to something that says....I lived....before it is too late. I don't know if anyone can relate.....but I don't want to look back with regrets of being too afraid to live.....I have spent most of my life that way.
 

triptych

New Here
there's a difference between "I feel safe" and "I am safe." When the neighbors slam the door (one of my big triggers) I tense up and try to tell myself I am safe while taking slow deep breaths. I know I don't feel safe, but I tell myself that right now, in this moment, I am here and I am safe. It helps.
That’s a good distinction.

I think I often feel safer in unsafe situations because at least then I am in control of the danger whereas when there is nothing unsafe but I still feel unsafe I start to think I'm losing it. I think being able to feel safe and relax when I am actually safe is an issue. Repeating "I'm safe right now" has helped me a lot too when I'm safe but don't feel it.
 
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