How to Develop a Feeling of Safety?

I know there have been some threads on this, but would be grateful for what people have learned or can offer as suggestions to develop a sense of safety or cure the feelings that come with the opposite?

I don't really understand it, except for this: I noticed when I feel safe, I actually feel there is an absence of feeling not-safe. I know that sounds obvious, but it seems to be either/or. I also know that for me, it doesn't involve realizing the world is not a safe place at any given time. I know that, and I think though my problem is not one of 'thoughts' or maybe even beliefs, but this pervasive feeling that some catastrophy is going to occur. Mostly deaths of someone, or natural disasters, or violence. (All of these have occurred in the past). It is worse as regards others' safety or well-being, not my own (except for violence/impact). Except also for as it applies to that I am responsible for. But the fear of death of others is one of the worst. I think that's why I don't get angry (genuinely) at people most of the time, because I'm thinking that might/ could occur, not because the anger is buried. And even things like not giving hugs because of covid makes me think I hope they don't die when I couldn't. Yet, I've had to deal with a lot of people dying and do much palliative care, it's not related to 'death' exactly itself.

by analogy, t seemed to develop like this: if you had a person who is not big on blood, or doesn't have a medical background, and they are all of a sudden in a bloody scene. And they totally keep it together and have their hands in there better than most, and at expense to themself and without fear stopping them from what needs to be done, and there's no debriefing seemingly required. But months later, all of a sudden everything red- ketchup, ballons, pen caps, etc- puts them in to terror and a cold sweat and sick, and ready to run. (Not that that's the scenario that occurred, but a similar idea).

I know for me, too, horrible things followed very happy/ hopeful moments. I also am not great on visualizing, I never could find a 'safe place'. But I could think of a red candle.

Also, when they say things work out, even surviving them sometimes it was catastrophic and not what I would consider 'recivered' from, more than just survived and still 'here'.

I work a lot on cognitive distortions, but it seems to be a 'feeling', or maybe an all-pervasive belief or thought I can't identify.

Hoping someone might have some suggestions. It is as if it's too pervasive to isolate one particular incident.

On the other hand, I have also tried to be more assertive (by necessity), and actually though it's been helpful at times it's required also being more curt or negative (by necessity, more than just assertive), also for boundaries, and I don't like how it makes me and that kind of delivery is not true to my character, or at least it never was, so I don't want to do more of that. Also, I am wondering if something somatic might work, but I don't hold that much hope in it.

Thank you if you can help, I am really tired and it really interferes with my life.
 
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MnM

Confident
Have you tried OEI? My therapist introduced me and it's been really interesting. It allows me to breathe again.

Here's what else has worked for me:

1. Am I safe right now? Yes? If not, leave. Go back to safety. Then take baby steps towards where you want to go. For example, leaving my house for whatever reason, I check in. Safe. Yes. Open the door. Safe? Walk down the stairs. Still safe? If not, go back to the door or wait. This is probably best on a non-work day and a day when you have some energy to walk back and forth trying different things. Last week I got to the end of the block and my body said "NO" so I just turned around and walked back. Honouring the senses, that gut instinct, is absolutely key for me.

2. I moved. Several times till I found myself absolutely shocked at the level of safety I felt that I hadn't in sooooo long. Praying to gods that I don't have to move again for a good while.

3. Pets. And kids when I have the energy. They require presence, which can deplete the energy stores, but can also reconnect self to safety and self. They also introduce play, and true play is only possible in safe spaces. (Antisocial play is different obvs)

4. Do a super safe thing and add something in. For example, drinking tea is a sanctuary for me. When I make and drink tea, I am safe. Maybe when I am making tea I feel like maybe I can eat too. Maybe not, but the door is definitely more open after/during tea.

5. Challenging the "always" and "never" - "I feel unsafe all the time" feels true, but logically isn't. I am safe when I am deep in sleep. I am safe when I make tea. Make a list of your safe times if you need to. Increase safe activities and make the list longer, try to get your brain to believe you are safe more than you are unsafe. For example, I witnessed a potential DV incident a few weeks ago in my neighbourhood, and I couldn't just walk away, even though that would have been in my best interest. After that, I suddenly realized both people involved would remember who I was, that I walk by their house daily, they know where I live, and this could be really bad for me (I called the police). I realized I would be locked inside my house unless I let it go, so I went out with the dog (she helps me feel protected also). I stopped at the door, asked myself "Am I safe right now?" Yes, okay. "Is there an immediate threat?" No. Keep walking. As I walked by their place I kept checking in. I made it without being assaulted verbally or physically. Twice a day I now walk by and while I don't *feel* safe yet, at least now I can walk by on their side of the street, I can let the dog pee near their house, I can think about something other than the potential of being assaulted, even if I think about that possibility before and after.

6. Don't force anything. If you're exhausted, don't do any of the above until you have a minute of relief. Your brain knows when you're maxed out, so trying to convince it otherwise has never worked for me without suffering emotionally or eventually, physically.

7. Noise cancelling headphones.

There's probably a bunch more but that's all I got right now. I should probably make a list, because I struggled SO hard with that sense of safety. I think moving to a place that held me in safety was the biggest game changer in laying that baseline of at least basic safety down.

There is no cure for *not* feeling the feelings that come with feeling unsafe, because your brain has your best interest in mind keeping those feelings. If you lose the ability to have those feelings, you risk some pretty shitty disorders. Don't talk your brain into *not* feeling unsafe, but give it reasons to feel safe. <3
 

Renly

MyPTSD Pro
I’ve felt very unsafe in spurts (and for quite irrational or unknown reasons) throughout my life, but especially the last few months now that I’m addressing my trauma…so my heart goes out to you for this more persistent struggle. It’s an awful feeling.

I think MnM’s suggestions are great! The only thing that really popped into my head was EMDR - I worked with my T to reduce my feelings of shame without actually targeting specific memories, we just focused on processing the body sensations I feel associated with shame. It made a huge difference in my ability to talk to her about my issues and I did not feel that icky shame feeling so much after sharing things with her after we targeted it. I haven’t shared much with anyone else that would elicit shame feelings since then, so I’m not sure how well this has generalized yet, but I wonder if using EMDR and just focusing on body sensations may (at the very least) help decrease some of the intensity of the fear you are feeling.
 
Wow, thank you both for your replies. I had to read yours 3 times @MnM , to really get a grasp. It is loaded with ideas. I can use most of them, and I will come back when I am less tired. Also I never heard of OEI; it sounds like both of you included EMDR, which I've thought of but just wonder if you can do on your own?

I also never thought of the 1st 2 sentences of this:

There is no cure for *not* feeling the feelings that come with feeling unsafe, because your brain has your best interest in mind keeping those feelings. If you lose the ability to have those feelings, you risk some pretty shitty disorders. Don't talk your brain into *not* feeling unsafe, but give it reasons to feel safe. <3
and I really like the last. Because I think ultimately with the kind of mind I have it is influenced by what I focus, or fixate on. I can be very positive or very negative, depending what I interpret. And I know from experience positive associations are really efffective for re-writing memories/ associations.

I also think whether it is about others or myself, I don't want to suffer any more. Which of course is unavoidable. But not the suffering caused by me, or even by my own distorted thoughts. Neither do I want to be suspicious or unfair or ungrateful, nor burdensome. It is hard to strike a balance between improvement and pushing out of a comfort zone/ not avoiding, and being able to be vulnerable (not out of choice) and still feel relatively secure or safe. I guess risking suffering might be a risk too great for me. Or my mind wants to say so to solve the issue. Just as equally sometimes trying I can feel like a round peg in a square hole, interfering with other square pegs. But I don't expect accomodations either.

I think covid and other life-realities really threw in obstacles that have created a lot of backslide for me. Like taking vitamins, consistency and re-focusing daily helps a lot.

Needless to say, thank you very much for your incredible post and I will try to do what I can that you suggested! 😊
I’ve felt very unsafe in spurts (and for quite irrational or unknown reasons) throughout my life, but especially the last few months now that I’m addressing my trauma…so my heart goes out to you for this more persistent struggle. It’s an awful feeling.
Thank you very very much @Renly , and for your kind words. You may be very right, that it is working on trauma (or being forced to) that makes everything feel like more of a reminder than is justified. Funny also you mention fear and shame- that might be pretty core. Because for me too it feels pretty shameful to ask for help, or expect help, or even safety or accomodations of sorts. It should be like, 'no one else is this way'. On a big scale it is, or feels, shameful to be 'seen' amd even more so to 'expect', including inclusion or respect. Or maybe trauma-wise, honesty. Just as equally though, it's unfair to project on others what others have done, no 2 people are alike. It's cogniitive distortion in itself, saying it's human nature +/or unavoidable. But the fear exists, I don't want to be proven wrong, or have to go through what I have in my FOO, or with a seperate person afterwards in my 20's. Those 2 things personally skewed my view a lot despite my best efforts. Yet tbh, it also sounds incredibly stupid being so far past. Though I guess with FOO the effects are lasting, especially if reinforced in the present.

Mind you, no one ever said overcoming this stuff would be easy.

Thank you both so much for your help! 🤗
 
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MnM

Confident
EMDR, which I've thought of but just wonder if you can do on your own?
My therapist made me promise I'd never do OEI by myself, because of the potential for awakening hidden trauma or getting in over my head. After covid shut down my EMDR, I tried to continue by myself, but gave up shortly after because it felt unsafe solo and I don't have training, how do I know what I'm doing? So I don't recommend doing it solo. I'm honestly a bit disappointed that the therapist supported me trying to do it solo.

Something I do very carefully solo are TRE exercises (link explains premise), the theory of which is described in Dr Peter Levine's book Waking the Tiger. I began doing the Trauma Release Exercises (link describes the exercises) and saw immediate relief. If you have deep seated trauma, don't do it alone, especially when you haven't had session time with a TRE therapist/trainer. So I don't do it when I am fragile or lost. I do them when I feel I have the mental and emotional resources available to potentially not doing anything for a while and be fine after. I used to do them daily to be able to fall asleep but recently I can do them maybe once a week, if that.

I think ultimately with the kind of mind I have it is influenced by what I focus, or fixate on.
Welcome to being human! This is literally how the brain works. <3 You are what you think and all.
I don't want to suffer any more.
Dear sweet Jesus I bloody hear you. OMG is it ever hard.

But I'm gonna say something hard... perhaps harder?
Stop.
Stop suffering.
*breathes*
Take the emotion out of your symptoms as you can. Write them down. Look at them. Write them out and describe them like a doctor would. They are only symptoms, and they are only feelings.
*breathes*

For example, one of my symptoms is insomnia.
Describe the insomnia. When does it happen? Are you sure it *always* happens? When it didn't happen, what was the day like? What did you eat/drink in the previous 6-12 hours? What did you NOT eat/drink in the previous six hours? Did you shower? Bathe? Listen to loud music? Soft music? No music? Guaranteed I know the basic shape of why and when insomnia happens. Focus on what works and it doesn't happen. Make that list as long as you can.

Write the algorithm that works for you and test it. Does it work again?

For me, this means treating my bed as a beautiful sanctuary. And not being in it unless I absolutely need to rest or sleep. I do not lie in it when I am bored or when I am sad or when I am depressed. I can do that on the kitchen floor, outside, on the couch, so many options. The only place I can sleep is my bed. If I do not honor that, no one is coming with a magic wand to sandman me. This is on me. I cut caffeine and alcohol. I don't eat unless I can honor it. I drink WAY too much tea.

If I know that drinking alcohol results in terrible sleep and increased muscle tremors the next day and yet I choose to drink it because it decreases my anxiety the night of, I am enabling my own suffering.

I can end that. That one. That one suffering. I can do that. Even though it sucks and I really miss coffee.

Do that with everything. It's hard. I still have a glass of wine or whiskey every now and then, when I ask my body if it's okay and I don't feel immediate electric shocks down my legs.

It is hard to strike a balance between improvement and pushing out of a comfort zone/ not avoiding
It is hard. Bloody fking hard. But I'm betting you can make a list of safe "improvement" activities that work for you. Don't throw the baby out, yeah? Write down what does NOT work for you. Those are sometimes *more* important to know. Don't do those things. Don't call it avoidance or comfort zone. They don't work, don't do them. Sure, you can try again now and then but if you know they don't work, why try when it matters and it potentially decreases your energy levels and emotional resilience?

maslow-s-hierarchy-of-needs--scalable-vector-illustration-655400474-5c6a47f246e0fb000165cb0a.jpg

This chart has been my lifeline for that push/pull dilemma. Where are you on this chart? Don't push for esteem or love and belonging if you are looking for a place to live or aren't eating properly. Stay in your "level" and tick off all the boxes on that level. Then try the next level. Add a job. Or a therapist. Get a dog. Do you feel safe? If you can feel safe at least 60% of the time, try a little love and belonging, or only move to try love and belonging when you feel safe. And check back - am I eating? Am I sleeping? Do I bathe? If you've dropped one of them, step back and fill those gaps. I believe that this is self-care. Yes, self-actualization sounds amazing and self-caring (yay let's create something and share it with pride), but if you do not feel safe or whole or secure, whatever you create will scream to both you and everyone around you that you are desperate for safety and validation. Dear jesus it's so much work. I'm honestly thinking about getting this hierarchy chart tattooed on my palm to remind myself. Being able to refer back to it lets me see my true progress, and gddamn is it ever more validating that one step forward two steps back!!

I guess risking suffering might be a risk too great for me.
You're already suffering.
Yeah?
You're already suffering.
We're all suffering.
It fking sucks.
So stop the risks. And stop the suffering. Step back.
Ask yourself "Is this safe? Do I feel safe?" If the answer is yes, bloody stay there for a while. Don't push it. Just be there. And leave before it stops feeling safe, if discerning that is a possibility. If the answer is no, step back. Take the emotion out of it, say "well that didn't work today." Don't judge yourself. It didn't work. You can try again. There's something called object constancy which I bet exists in the majority of the trauma experienced. It means we think in black and white, right and wrong, good and bad. Pain or pleasure. So we avoid the bad and box ourselves into this 2D experience of life. It's like I heard an incest survivor describe once - he couldn't understand it because he despised it and dreaded it, but his mom made him feel so good. So rather than making mom bad, we make sexuality bad, because we never want to feel bad again and the two are connected. Enter cognitive dissonance. Pile them all on top of each other, take away a support system, and 👋PTSD.

sometimes trying I can feel like a round peg in a square hole, interfering with other square pegs. But I don't expect accommodations either.
This tells me you're trying to have a whole Maslow triangle when you're on level two still struggling with bits of level one. Honesty is imperative. Be kind. Be gentle. Rest in your level.

Honouring the senses, that gut instinct, is absolutely key for me. >>*This too.^^ Because it's often supported by intellect and fine-tuned awrareness, if not experience itself.
If you were faced with a similar experience to what pushed you to overflowing, you'd want your gut instincts to still work and to still be able to trust them, yes? You'd want to know to leave? Hide?

Trust them. Listen HARD. Same with your brain telling you something is unsafe. If/when you are faced with a dangerous situation, you want your brain to tell you to gtfo, yes? Honor it. Love it. Listen to it. Give it offerings of safe things, kindness, time. Sing it to sleep, tell it you hear it. I've also screamed at it "Okay already! I fking hear you! You don't need to scream so loud!! I'm trying here!" I don't know if that helps, but it certainly makes me feel better, and it validates that I am in fact listening. It usually makes me smile a little too - small teaspoons of hope, safe food for that brain.

Writing all this out has been therapeutic for me. Thank you 🤗
 
Oh @MnM , wow, thank you for all the work and help! Yes I think you are spot on, and I have never considered it that way, but will. (I actually found the 'bookmark' which I've never used!) . Yes you're pretty much right-on with all of it.

And OMG, it sures sounds whiny when quoted. 😃 I appreciate it very much, I wish I had more words to say right atm but I think it's better I 'start doing'.

And this made me also laugh:

I'm honestly thinking about getting this hierarchy chart tattooed on my palm to remind myself
🤣👍 . As well as shouting at your (my) brain. Though I'M USUALLY NOT A SHOUTER, oops -that truly was unintentional. 😀

Yes I actually have to practise acting on the gut instinct/ danger thing, vs freezing.
Writing all this out has been therapeutic for me. Thank you 🤗
How kind you are! Thank YOU!! 😊🤗
 
I was thinking about this, and Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, and that is true about lower levels. I don't want to belong, well it's not that I don't 'want' to- I'm kind of indifferent. Rather, I fear where I don't belong, or feel like I need protection. From what, Idk? Just triggered maybe.

Also this thought challenging isn't so easy. My brain is mouthy. 🙄
 
Sorry to come back again, but just lastly to say I'm astonished there is a 'safety' level on Maslow's. I always knew of it, agreed with it, related to it. Somehow I missed the word 'safety' though. 😳 And the necessity to meet level 1 first, I knew but don't have it all down. (And stupid question, is 'reproduction' supposed to be sex? Because I'm not planning on having a baby any time soon. Closest I've got there is photocopying.. 😃)
 
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arfie

MyPTSD Pro
in my own case, trust is my biggest obstacle to feeling safe. my ability to trust is deeply rooted in my lifelong hyper-vigilance.

my first step toward building trust was to recognize the physical components of hypervigilance. in the natural design of anxiety, a life-threatening situation our lymphatic systems inject a flood of hormones which are more potent and mind-altering than the most controlled of pharmaceutical drugs. as a child, i had survived so many life-threatening situations that my lymphatic system was stuck in the "on" position. i saw threats everywhere, whether there was an actual threat there, or not. learning how to recognize and remediate my hypervigilant state was step one. as long as my system is flooded with those hormones, i have the trust, awareness and objectivity of a meth head in search of a fix. i need to detox before i can trust my interpretations of the situation at hand.

my second step was building a trust in higher, unseen powers. human leaders and experts don't qualify as higher powers in this step. i don't GET to know the future, but i can trust my higher power will guide me through whatever comes. i often call my own higher power, "god," but any old name will do. when i am angry, i often call my higher power by her acronym. "why you do these things, you gnarly old dickhead?"

my third step was to develop a broader definition of trust. i can trust myself to fix a car, but i'm not so trustworthy in a secretarial position. trust is not an either/or proposition.

but that is me and every case is unique.

gentle support while you sort your own case.
 

Freddyt

MyPTSD Pro
I learned from my golf self improvement program that you have to tell yourself you are before you are.

Putting. Probably the simplest part of the game. The shortest distance, flattest ground, ball rolls easily, should be easy. No it isn't. But you can't get good until you think you are good and you have confidence - whether or not you putt well. Seeing a scorecard that shows you spent far too many strokes with a putter in your hand reinforces your opinion you are not good but a litany of you are good drowns it out and guess what? Suddenly you improve. Why? You believe you are good.

To get better? Self propaganda. You need to tell you. It needs to be so second nature you do it all the time. Picture things you do that are safe, that feel safe, people around you that would help you. It needs to be so second nature it immediately counters feelings of unsafe.

Why? PTSD is a lying bastard. It takes stuff and twists it to its purpose. You need to counter it. It's how come I haven't had a recalled pain incident in months. Sure, it tries to sneak in when I am stressed but when its told its not real enough times it evaporates and disappears.
 

MnM

Confident
I was thinking about this, and Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, and that is true about lower levels. I don't want to belong, well it's not that I don't 'want' to- I'm kind of indifferent. Rather, I fear where I don't belong, or feel like I need protection. From what, Idk? Just triggered maybe.

Also this thought challenging isn't so easy. My brain is mouthy. 🙄
I don't think you'll *want* to belong or *feel* like you want to belong until you have the lower levels of the hierarchy grounded and habitual. I would love to respond to a few other things, but I don't have the energy the last few days and probably won't all week - 6 therapy sessions this week.

Just know that this is your thread, you're allowed to come back to it whenever and however you want, and I feel under no obligation to respond - we all know how ptsd works.... in and out, yes and no. I don't feel obligated in any way. 🤗

Damn mouthy sunuva-brain. Mine is demanding and cheeky as fk. 😜
 
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