In the world of trauma recovery, you hear many versions of “it’s safe now.”
The assumption underpinning these kinds of statements is usually something like, yes, once upon a time your life WAS dangerous; but now you’re grown up and away from the people who hurt you, so you’re safe now.
We’re presented with this idea that the big problem is convincing ourselves that the world really is “safe” now. That if we can only change our thoughts and beliefs about the safety of the world, we’d feel and function better.
The problem is: the world may not be objectively “safe” now.
Right now, dozens of people reading this are feeling unsafe because of events that are unfolding on national and international levels.
Dozens more are in objectively dangerous situations in their home or work lives due to some of the people they have no choice but to interact with.
“Safety” is not clear cut out there— even when we’re adults.
No one gets to tell you which aspects of an objectively dangerous world out there you “should” be worried about.
No one gets to tell you you’re worried about the “wrong” thing— especially if you’re in a position where the threats to your safety, stability, livelihood, or even your life, have been well-established.
I’m certainly not going to try sell you the idea that all you need to do is convince yourself that you’re “safe” now.
How the hell would I know?
The things that put me, a white, overeducated, relatively professionally successful male, in danger might be VERY different from what puts you in danger.
I don’t get a vote on what your nervous system “should” take seriously as a threat.
Here’s what I do know, as someone who struggles daily with recovery from trauma, depression, and addiction: whether there are or aren’t “objectively” dangerous threats out there today, it is STILL my job to string together moment-by-moment safety and stability in MY life today.
That DOESN’T mean ignoring what’s happening on a national or international level.
But it DOES mean redirecting our attention, again and again and again, to the micro-level where our day to day, moment by moment choices really can make a difference in whether we stay safe, stable, and sober today.
I WISH ignoring political and legal situations happening “out there” was an option— but for most of us with eyes, ears, and empathy, it isn’t.
We need to pay exactly as much attention as we need to pay to those situations— and we have to manage the triggers and memories that those situations are going to evoke in us.
But however we handle the pervasive cultural situations and stressors that surround us and permeate our public discourse, we need to be CLEAR that our FIRST commitment has to be to our own safety, stability, and functioning, WHATEVER happens.
We can’t let what we see on the news derail us.
It’s hard. Your depression, trauma, addiction, eating disorder, or other struggle is going to try to take what’s happening out there, and turn it into an excuse to relapse, backslide, or otherwise neglect or give up on your recovery.
You need to know, though: if you have passionate feelings about what’s going on in the political and legal sphere right now, the world needs you, and we need you safe, stable, and functioning.
If we’re going to change how this world works and protect the most vulnerable among us along the way, we can’t be overwhelmed with our emotional and behavioral struggles.
We need to be thinking as clearly as possible, managing what we’re feeling, and making decisions that are congruent with our values and the world we want to see.
Yes. What’s happening “out there” truly is important— and triggering, for valid reasons.
If you care about “out there,” keep reeling it in and refocusing on you.
You know the drill. Day by day. Hour by hour. Minute by minute.
If we care about THEIR quality of life, we have to protect and defend OUR quality of life today.