The Illusion of Safety, and How to Get Past It

There is an old story: a heartless general, at the head of a ruthless army, devastates village after village. He arrives at a temple and, to his surprise, finds the gate unlocked. In the middle of the courtyard within kneels a monk. The general dismounts, unsheathes his sword, and approaches the monk. The monk fails to prostrate himself before the general, which offends him. “Do you not know who I am? I am not afraid to kill you,” to which the monk replies, “Do you not know who I am? I am not afraid to die.”….Matilda and I worked together for quite a while, and she taught me more about courage than any colleague, friend or family member ever did. And one of the most important lessons we learned together was to embrace the truth of her mortality, while understanding that now, she was alive. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross hoped that, as people normalized the grief process around death, that they would paradoxically become freer to embrace the vitality that was yet in them. The monk doesn’t want to die, but he has embraced the eventuality of it, and it no longer frightens him. He cannot be threatened…and when we talk of safety, isn’t that what we’re really talking about? Continue Reading The Illusion of Safety, and How to Get Past It

Trauma 101: What You Need to Know On Your Journey

When clients come to me for trauma work, sooner or later they find themselves mourning the loss of safety. Before whatever horrible event happened that brought them in to see me, they had it. A sense of what it is to be safe, or at least safe-enough, that allowed them to get through the day without feeling the need for eyes in the backs of their heads, or that constant spidey-sense that clinicians call “hypervigilence.” It happens in a shocking instant; before that moment, they did not question that they would be able to get through life without major wounds, other than the usual rules of discretion and environmental awareness: don’t walk at night alone, don’t trust the guy who can’t look you in the eyes,etc . And why not? Most people, after all, do seem to get through. After that instance, the terrible “aha,” we understand now that safety is an illusion, that despite due diligence, shit does happen. Usually it’s a mundane moment, perhaps the one where they come out of shock, look around, and realize they are now seeing life with different eyes. In that moment, so much dies. Their faith, their hope, their confidence in themselves that goes along with the lingering and self-serving delusion, “surely I could have done things differently, then this would not have happened.” Self-serving, because none of us is that powerful. Continue Reading Trauma 101: What You Need to Know On Your Journey