Sunday, October 7, 2018


Interesting take on the false god of safety, which is used to metaphorically club people in "developed" economies into submission and compliance - and which can and is also used in a mental health context to drive what I cannot tolerate in you underground.

Of course the supposedly "progressive" and "radical" "perspectives" (note the scorn in my quotation marks) of this blog simply substitute for the false god of safety the false god of "the person" of "personal existence." The person is seen as a supremely valuable thing, and as possessing some fundamental reality. I am more drawn to the experience of the transcience of the person, and the movement from person to presence as the only pathway to unlimited redemption and liberation from suffering. "Freedom is never of the person, but from the person." (Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That)
So I don't agree with the Uni speak about power, power relationships and all that fabricated Focault mind stuff, but I do think the description of the dynamic played out in mental health settings is quite accurate and useful:

"A Deeper Look at 'Safety'

When I was a patient in the mental health system, I heard the language of safety a lot! Was I safe, was I going to be safe, would I contract for safety, etc. etc...? Through these questions, safety came to mean that I was simply agreeing not to do anything to hurt myself or someone else.
But what did that leave me with?

Reflection questions

•What has it meant to you when others have asked if you’re 'safe'?
•When you’ve asked others if they’re safe?

Frankly, the more safety questions I got, the less I felt reliant on my own abilities to take care of myself. So instead of feeling safe in the world, I felt like a time bomb that could go off at any time.
It also left my clinical relationships with a huge power discrepancy: If I told the truth -- "I feel like hurting myself" -- the practitioner would feel obliged to take precautions. Perhaps they were legitimately concerned I would follow through. Or, maybe they acted more from a need to protect their job, their license or their organization. Either way, once the magic words got spoken, they mostly had the power and I mostly didn't.

Option two was to lie. If I denied my true experience, I could keep my power. But denying my reality - and keeping secrets in important relationships - also have their costs.
This was abundantly true for me. I felt miserably alone at the most vulnerable times of my life. I came away feeling like there was no one on the planet who I could really trust. I was out of my league and I knew it. I desperately wanted human support and counsel. I desperately wanted to get to the root of my true feelings and to be able to uncover any options I had. Yet, here I was trying to make a good decision - perhaps the most important decision of my life - without knowing a single soul I could trust to be truly honest with.

In retrospect, I don't think there is much that is LESS SAFE for me as a human being in that frame of mind. In fact, I can only think of one thing that's less safe from my perspective:
EVEN MORE UNSAFE = to feel coerced or pressured by others who don't understand my unbearable suffering into making a bad decision makes it even worse.
Unfortunately, that was often where I found myself in times like these, given the mainstream practice of reporting, detaining and drugging those of us who acknowledge the depth of our distress and despair.

Re-Thinking Safety

The painful contradictions noted above have led to a lot of reflecting on what safety actually means to me. Here are two bottom lines I've come to:

1.Real safety doesn’t mean talking to someone with a reporting obligation.
2.Real safety doesn't mean making a safety contracts or promises to stay out of harms way.

Reflection questions

•What does real safety mean to you?
•What makes you feel safe (or safer)?

Real safety - for me - is about creating culturally respectful, mutually responsible, trusting, trustworthy relationships. It happens in relationships where we don’t judge or make assumptions about each other. It happens when someone trusts and believes in me even when they’re uncomfortable. It happens when I'm free to share my deepest truth and you take time to reflect on what I've said. You make the effort and sincerely try to get to the heart and soul of what I'm attempting to get across to you.

When you make that kind of effort and actually 'get' me, everything starts to change. You've proven to me that you can put your needs aside long enough to hear me out when it really matters. So I begin to feel ok about letting you into my world and loosening my grip on the urgency of now.

You've also proven to me that you understand the territory. You've treated me like I have value and like my experiences do too. So I begin to get interested in what you think and might possibly know. I get curious about what I might find out if I stick with you. I feel bouyed up enough to risk the uncertain and the unknown. After all, you're a pleasant companion and the spent time with you feels bearable. That alone gives me hope that there might be something on the other side to make the journey worth hanging in for.

This buys us time. The time we need to take risks, learn from them, explore new possibilities, and learn some more. All the while behind the scenes, subtly, incrementally, without me knowing it, a revolutionary change in my assumptions is taking place. The way I think about how this world and how it all operates (me, others, the planet) will never be the same.

Reflection questions

•What happens when you are with someone you trust and feel safe with?
•How does actually feeling safe change things? (Can you do things when you feel safe that you can't do when you don't?)
•How does being with someone you feel safe with change things? (Have you ever noticed yourself being able to do something with a person you trust that you couldn't do without them...?)

This is what we call building relational safety. As you can see, it is very different from the liability management practices that are oriented toward legal safety. It requires both of us to take risks and be vulnerable, instead of just one of us unilaterally protecting our interests. This is what we call shared risk.

How safe the relationship is for both of us depends on... both of us. It only works if both of us are willing to learn to share our power and take responsibility to do our part. This is what we call mutual responsibility.

Relational safety, shared risk and mutual responsibility are foundation principles in creating relationships that work for both people. You will learn a lot about them - and practice them a lot - in this kind of peer support.

Reflection questions

•What happens to 'safety' for you if...
•I am continually assessing you for 'risk'...?
•I can unilaterally decide to 'keep you safe'...?
•I expect you to do all the risking...?
•I am the authority on what risks you can take...?

Practicing Relational Safety

It's time to put the rubber to the road and practice creating this new kind of safety in our relationships with each other. Here are some strategies to get us started:

1. Initiate proactive conversations

Whenever possible, it's best to practice these principles proactively (by thinking ahead) rather than reactively (oops...). The idea of proactive conversations is to get our concerns on the table early on, before either of us is in discomfort or crisis. That gives us the space to look at ourselves from a comfortable distance. Then we can reflect honestly together about:

1.The kinds of stuff that often comes up for us (in relationships or in our lives); and
2.What we'd like to do differently this time.

For example, if wanting to die is a common issue for either of us, we can talk about it ahead of time.

•We can explore what will help the relationship feel safe for both of us if those kinds of feelings come up again.
•We can both acknowledge (honestly, out loud) the extent of our “bottom lines.”
•We talk about how we each are likely to react when we feel untrusting or disconnected.
•We can figure out together what we will do, should we get to that edge.

By proactively exploring potentially sensitive issues like these, we pave the way for negotiating our relationship when future challenges arise...."

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