A healthy relationship requires a solid foundation of trust, which emerges when we feel emotionally safe. In order to feel truly emotionally safe with someone else, we have to feel secure within ourselves and so emotional safety forms the core of any healthy relationship – whether that is the relationship we have with ourselves or one we have with other people.
Securely Connecting with Ourselves
Securely connecting with ourselves means that we take full responsibility for ourselves and know how to tend to ourselves. We are fully connected with ourselves and therefore in touch with our vulnerabilities and shame. We have become psychologically resilient and emotionally mature. We have learnt to value and trust ourselves. We have come to understand our own power and see how we create our own experiences.
We have stopped engaging with the stressful thoughts or horror stories in our minds and now follow our intuition with curiosity and excitement. Life has become a game we are now playing with grace and gratitude. We are open-minded and flexible.
We no longer see ourselves as helpless victims or aggressive defenders. We have become well adjusted to the unpredictability of life and can take instability and insecurity in our stride.
We are also comfortable with depending on others and asking for help or support. Receiving no longer makes us feel uncomfortable but instead is seen as a sign of being valued and loved.
We communicate honestly, openly and tactfully. We are comfortable expressing ourselves authentically while considering the impact of our actions and words onto others. We do not self-sacrifice or bully. We are happy being equals and connecting with others.
Securely Connecting with Others
When we connect with others, we are open, warm and loving. We no longer rely on our fear-based defenses or feel at the mercy of others or circumstances. We no longer connect to get because we have come to realise that we already have everything we need. Neither do we give to get because we know that getting is not founded within love. We also know that we don’t need to get anything because we already have everything there is.
We are no longer bound by our expectations and so do not force them onto others. We no longer judge or criticise but are openly accepting. We do not fear differences and no longer see them as a threat to our ego.
We don’t feel the need to show off or look down on others because we realise that we are harming them and ourselves. We act with integrity, honesty and love.
We apologise when we get caught up in negative states of mind and act out from that place. We are aware how this can negatively affect others and so look after ourselves to avoid inflicting harm.
We are comfortable approaching others and can deal with rejection or negative feedback. We have learnt to care for ourselves to such an extent that caring about and for others has become second nature.
The Treasure That Is Emotional Safety
Emotional safety is vital if we want to have loving, fulfilling, meaningful and deeply committed relationships. Research has shown over and over again that humans thrive – as individuals and with others – when they are in satisfying relationships. When we thrive individually we also contribute more towards others. We are never passive recipients in adult relationships so the better we look after ourselves, the better and happier the relationships we co-create will be.
Emotional safety and loving relating comes naturally for many people. Those people were usually raised by loving and emotionally available parents. Those of us who did not have the most loving role models benefit from observing more emotionally secure people to open ourselves up and connect in ways we were always meant to connect. It also means seeing through the lies in our minds and learning new ways of behaving and relating.
“In any given moment we have two options: to step toward into growth or to step back into safety.” Abraham Maslow
The biggest benefit of becoming emotionally safe for oneself and others lies in the feeling. The feeling of finally realising that we’re whole, that we’re not broken, that we’re safe and that we’re lovable and worthy – always have been and always will be. There is also a knowing that we can cope and thrive in life. We are able to successfully function as healthy, secure and emotionally developed human beings.
From that frame of mind we will naturally engage with others (and ourselves) in loving, open, connected and respectful ways.
“It is extraordinary how many emotional storms one may weather in safety if one is ballasted with ever so little gold.” William McFee
A Perceived Lack of Emotional Safety
The most common problems we encounter in relationships have to do with a perceived lack of emotional safety.
The perception of lack of emotional safety will lead to mistrust and insecurity. There will be countless arguments, recurring problems, inhibitions and secrets. There will be power struggles, judgements and aggression. There will be frustrations, low moods and loneliness. There will be feelings of disconnection and hopelessness. There will be self-doubt and a sense of decreasing self-worth. There will be not feeling heard and not feeling understood. There will shouting and there will be feisty silences. Gottman’s 4 horsemen of the apocalypse (criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling) will be present frequently.
Fear is also present and covers up the love that brought two people together in the hope that both could thrive within their connectedness. Fearful and insecure thoughts are in the way of loving thoughts and a loving, accepting experience.
When we are caught up in a state of low consciousness, we look towards the other and wonder why we don’t feel safe. ‘What are you doing to make me feel this unsafe?’, we ask.
From that state of mind we cannot see our contribution towards the lack of emotional safety. From that state of mind our experience mistakenly seems to come from the outside. We may go into blaming and making a sad situation worse by disempowering ourselves, by losing our own grounding, by mistakenly handing the responsibility for our experience over to someone else.
What To Do For Ourselves
When we perceive a sense of threat in our relationship, we should always ground ourselves first. A hijacked brain that operates from the threat system and a low state of consciousness seldom brings relief or positive solutions. What it does create instead is more problems.
So we have to learn to settle ourselves first. We tend to our own fears. We learn to see through them. We learn to reassure yourself. We reconnect with our innate safety. If we can, we ask for for someone else’s company. Connection soothes us and often helps us to emerge from low states of mind.
What To Do For Our Partner
It is natural, normal and human to get caught up in low states of mind. When negative thinking patterns take over our mind, we feel unhappy, fearful and disconnected. What we need when this happens is understanding, thoughtfulness and compassion When we see our partner struggle, we can approach them with compassion and kindness. That way we will be loving, warm, understanding and supportive, which will help them reconnect with themselves and therefore the sense of safety. In low state of mind we believe the lies of the mind. We believe that we are not safe. We believe that we cannot trust another person. We believe that we are not loved. We believe that our partner is a threat. We believe that we have to defend ourselves. And then we act out based on the lies we believe.
There are times and situations when others may be an actual threat to us but most of the time this is not the case and our perceived threats are completely thought-created.
As humans we have a hard time staying grounded and present and awakening to the truth of our experience of life. So we need to be gentle with each other. Life happens as it does and we have to deal with whatever is happening. We can support each other through experiences we might find difficult.
If we choose to spend our life with another person, then we choose to support them lovingly while also supporting ourselves.We support them best by choosing them. By noticing how special they are. By appreciating them for who they are. By believing in them. By respecting their idiosyncrasies, their wishes, their fears, their insecurities, their dreams. By validating their experience. By being fully present for them in the experience we share together. By being available for connection. By being authentically us. By being open and honest.
We built them up and we respect them. We maintain healthy boundaries and continue treating ourselves with self-compassion and loving self care. We do not demand and we do not feel entitled to them. We keep our promises and act with integrity. We show them who we are so they feel safe in knowing us. We cannot trust what we don’t know. We cannot know what is not present.
“We do not feel emotionally safe with someone we don’t know. Being authentic, being loving and being present are the main requirements for creating emotional safety.” Marlena Tillhon