Handling change is easier when we feel safe

There is something wonderfully enabling about feeling safe when big changes are upon us. Feeling safe helps us to be resilient and strong in our body, calm and clear in our thoughts and balanced and responsive in our emotions. 

Having the sense that we are safe means we aren't triggered into a stress response of fight or flight when our world is tilting on its axis. 

It means our nervous system is more likely to remain stable and calm so we don’t tip into emotional overwhelm when things are falling apart. 

It means we are more able to process information and think with clarity and insight when everything changes. 

It means we can stay open to the choices that are available to us rather than shut down and spiral into a panic when facing disruption and uncertainty.

Safety is a paradox. Sometimes it’s a cage that limits us and sometimes it’s a nurturing nest that allows us to spread our wings and fly. You can choose how it is for you - is it a cage or a launchpad to your freedom?

So feeling safe is a vital factor as we move through change. This holds true if the change is thrust upon us by unexpected life circumstances or if we intentionally choose it when we’ve had enough of the ‘same old, same old’ and we are ready for a transformation. 

But safety isn't typically seen as a facilitator of transformation and change. 

Most of us are more familiar with the picture that we 'should break out of our comfort zone and not play safe’. There are many memes and quotes telling us that playing it safe is going to hold us back.

For example, Reid Hoffman said ‘ironically, in a changing world, playing it safe is one of the riskiest things you can do’.

So it could seem a bit confusing to hear me say that we need to feel safe to successfully change, a contradiction even?

But the kind of safety I am talking about doesn’t involve playing small, avoiding risk or giving up on your dreams. 

And it’s not about:

  • Staying within the tight sphere of what you have always known.
  • People-pleasing or co-dependency.
  • Suppressing how you truly feel out of fear of being judged.
  • Wrapping yourself in cotton wool so that life can’t touch you.
  • Putting a wall up so that you feel defended.
  • Ignoring the impulse to grow and transform.
  • Settling for a life that doesn’t excite you.
  • Fitting in with other people’s expectations of you.
  • Numbing out rather than engaging fully in life.

‘Playing safe’ can lead to all these things. So yes, becoming free of that self-limiting kind of safety is healthy, liberating even.

Illustration of two people at the top of the mountain

But I am talking about a different kind of safety. The kind of safety that is generated inside you, fills you with a peaceful power and enables you to face life with calm confidence.

The kind of safety that means you can be in the middle of any challenge and know that you are OK, even if life throws up dramatic upheaval such as divorce, bereavement or redundancy. The kind of safety that means you can flow with change, not resist it. 

And we actually need this kind of safety to successfully move through change.

Without it, we can go through the motions of changing things on the outside but on the inside, we are still clinging to the way things were. 

Without it, we just revisit the same old situation in a different form. We get stuck in a continuous cycle of repeating patterns. And the changes we make are no more than moving the furniture around the room. 

When we push ourselves to change without building in the experience of inner safety, first our nervous system is overwhelmed and it can’t process what is happening.

Then we have stress hormones pumping through our body and we are on red alert for danger. This actually locks in the resistance and distress in our system and keeps us even more trapped in the situation we are trying to change. 

Sometimes things can look like they have progressed and shifted at a surface level, but the unresolved distress underneath can trigger a meltdown in some other area of our life. We end up feeling totally stuck and hunkering down in our bunker even more.

How to generate inner safety

The answer is to learn how to generate inner safety. One of the best ways to do that is to work with a coach who provides the right conditions for your internal safety to flourish. 

Someone who can show you the steps to cultivate it in yourself. Steps that can be learnt, put into practice and which deepen your sense of confidence that no matter what, you are going to thrive.

Someone who can hold that safe space for you to step into, so your body, mind and emotions can flow with the changes that are happening in your life, enabling you to grow through those changes and to flourish.

Explore if you feel inspired to do that by asking yourself these questions:

  • How different would my life challenges feel if I felt calm and confident as I face them?
  • If I had a sense of inner safety that helped me feel resilient and strong would it change how I see things?
  • What would I do differently if I had a secure feeling that whatever happened I would be ok? 
  • What would I change in my life now if I felt safe enough to do that?

Safety is a paradox. Sometimes it’s a cage that limits us and sometimes it’s a nurturing nest that allows us to spread our wings and fly. You can choose how it is for you - is it a cage or a launchpad to your freedom?

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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