Nov 27

How to Feel Safer, Be Safer in An Unsafe World

To be safer, we need to decrease actual threats and increase actual resources. To feel safer, we need to stop inflating threats and start recognizing all our resources. Then we don’t have to be afraid of not being afraid. Rick Hanson, PhD

It’s not just survivors of specific types of individualized trauma who often feel unsafe emotionally. It’s also every one of us who has lived through the high-level stress of recent national and worldwide events, never knowing when and how we’ll be dodging the next assaults. How do we address ways to be safer and to feel safer?

In 2015 Cynthia Kane, Washington Post, wrote about “three ways to help yourself feel safe in an insane world” (click on the link for details):

  1. Believe in Yourself: bolster self-confidence with motivational self-talk, for example
  2. Accept Uncertainty: a common life condition
  3. Be Present: that’s where your life is

“We’ll never be able to completely erase the worry and anxiety that keep us from feeling safe, but the more we return to these practices, the more quickly we will be able to return to feeling secure faster,” concludes Kane.

Following the 2016 election Robyn E. Brickel, MA, LMFT, had her own take on finding safety. She suggested the following eight ways. (Again, there’s more info at the link.)

  1. Remember your own self-care skills. 
  2. Grieve.
  3. Surround yourself with the people who make you feel supported and safe.
  4. Help the greater good.
  5. Be a safe space.
  6. Smile and honor those who just want to be loved.
  7. Keep a gratitude journal.
  8. Remember that NO means NO.

More recently Donna Sozio, Ecosalon, described “two powerful techniques to feel safe in the world again” (more at the link):

  1. Reclaim your emotional freedom: Being in the present, cultivating gratitude,and  helping others are some of the strategies to do this.
  2. Learn how to navigate your inner world: Relaxation techniques as well as becoming more aware of one’s physical and mental processes are two of the factors involved.

The article recommends, among other things, the “Four Questions and Turnaround” technique by Byron Katie. You can go to for further instructions about this type of meditation, but the distillation involves four simply stated steps:

  1. Notice (what you’re feeling)
  2. Write (the related thoughts)
  3. Question (address one related question and try to answer it)
  4. Turn It Around (are opposite thoughts truer? or not?)

Bottom line related to Sozio’s tips: “The more you remember that you control your inner emotions and reactions to outside events, you can reclaim your emotional security and feel safe in our world again.”

Nov 23

Holiday Family Gatherings: Prepare For the Dysfunction

That may be a stretch, but maybe you can see where I’m going with this. Although Thanksgiving has a great theme of expressing gratitude and sharing time with important others, holiday family gatherings sometimes bring not just joyful reunions but also dysfunctional misery and chaos.

After all, states therapist Harriet Lerner, Psychology Today: “Families are not fair and we don’t choose the one we are born or adopted into. Today a family is what most people are in recovery from.”

Or, as author Mary Karr once said: “I think a dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it. ”

On the topic of survival over breaking bread together, which applies to holiday family gatherings, some wise words from author Anne Lamott, Salon: “Families: hard, hard, hard, no matter how cherished and astonishing they may also be…At family gatherings where you suddenly feel homicidal or suicidal, remember that in half of all cases, it’s a miracle that this annoying person even lived. Earth is Forgiveness School. You might as well start at the dinner table. That way, you can do this work in comfortable pants.”

For many, the Thanksgiving dinner is notable for all the overeating, over-imbibing, and overreacting. More quotes from some funny people:

David Letterman: “Thanksgiving is the day when you turn to another family member and say, ‘How long has Mom been drinking like this?’ My Mom, after six Bloody Marys looks at the turkey and goes, ‘Here, kitty, kitty’.”

Stephanie Howard: “My mom has a little nickname for [when I came out]. She calls it ‘the Thanksgiving that Stephanie ruined.’ All time is told in our family tree by this one day. I’ll go, ‘Hey Mom, what year did Grandpa have his heart surgery?’ ‘Well, let’s see. The Thanksgiving that you ruined was in ’92, so that means he had his surgery in ’67’.”

Bob Smith: “It wasn’t easy telling my family that I’m gay. I made my carefully worded announcement at Thanksgiving. It was very Norman Rockwell. I said, ‘Mom, would you please pass the gravy to a homosexual?’ She passed it to my father. A terrible scene followed.”