Unless you’ve completely unplugged, there’s a chance you’ve come across a conversation or two (or ten) about creating a ‘safe space.’ Even without meaning to, we gravitate to what we consider our safe space: a local cafe or coffee shop, the gym, a yoga studio. We believe that it is only in this space that we can truly express ourselves without judgment or consequence. Often we use this space when we feel most vulnerable or in general need of support. Sometimes it’s most necessary after a setback; sometimes it’s necessary for us to function on a daily basis.
What many of us don’t realize is that this outer ‘space’ sometimes becomes a crutch, and without it we fear that we’ll fail. We have taken the practical notion of a safe space (to logically do no harm in a shared environment) and we’ve expanded it to serve our needs so specifically that it is sometimes to the detriment of both ourselves and to those around us.
This is mainly due to us seeing the space as we are, instead of seeing the space as it is. The space is the space. Stating the obvious, it is four walls, a floor and a roof. It is neither negative nor positive. It is neither safe nor unsafe. It is we who assign the tone and texture of the space. Taking responsibility for our own perceptions allows us to understand our influence and power over our given situations. This is not to say that you can simply wish away your problems and feel safe in the middle of an objectively unsafe space. But it is to say that understanding what we bring to our individual situations gives us perspective, choice and potential power to address those situations.
It is natural to inject ourselves into everything in our lives, including the spaces where we feel most comfortable and safe. It’s also natural to disregard, whether intentionally or unintentionally, whether our so-called ‘safe space’ has somehow infringed upon everyone and everything around us. If what we are always seeking is balance and harmony, this would be no different. From the person who is disingenuous about the kind of language or activity (and the reasons for such) they choose in mixed company, to the teacher who disregards the actual needs of their students for a perceived teaching goal (whether the lesson lands is of no consequence)… it is possible to use the illusion of our personal ‘safety’ (read: ego), to create the opposite effect on our environment.
Understanding what our presence brings to any given space helps us reflect on the size and scope of our need to feel safe. The more we take responsibility for this understanding, the more likely we are to recognize that the actual safe space is within us. It has always been there, and the more we explore this possibility, the less likely we are to externalize our need to exist in the illusory external safe space. Doing this allows to find harmony in any given space, and create the notion of real ‘safety’ for ourselves from the inside out. We are also less likely to make things ‘unsafe’ for those around us in our quest for that personal effect. We cannot control anything outside of the the borders of our skin, even the space. But what we do have is choice… and in that is actual power. We have the ability to feel safe, to feel supported, to feel capable… no matter what space we objectively find ourselves in.