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May 24, 2006

Safe Space

What is a safe space? It is a space in which I am accepted for who and what I am right now. Why is it called safe? It is safe because inside it I can be who and what I am right now without fear. What am I fearful of? I am fearful of rejection. Why am I fearful of rejection? I do not know the answer to this question.

Who can reject me? You can. Who else can reject me? I can. When I trust that you are not going to reject me, I feel safe with you; I feel safe outside. When I trust that I am not going to reject myself, I feel safe with me; I feel safe inside.

Let me begin with me, which is always the best place for me to begin. Why on earth would I not feel safe with myself? I would not feel safe if there was a part of me that I had rejected, which was trying to come into my awareness. Something that I had chosen not to look at with the light of my awareness would then seem like a dark shadow on the fringe of my thoughts. So it's the rejected parts of myself that I don't feel safe with and which don't feel safe with me.

How about other people; why would I not feel safe with them? If I take on my dysfunctional role in society, then I feel relatively safe. For example, if I previously learned to invalidate myself and think that I am worthless then I can seek out people who tell me that I am no good and agree that I am worthless, and I can live in an impoverished but stable state with them.

But then let's say that I start to realize that I deserve to be truly happy and I start to assert my truth; I deserve freedom; I deserve love; I deserve pleasure; I deserve peace; I deserve my birthright as a human being. Then what will happen? Then the universe agrees with me and things start to change. And where does that change start? It starts with me; it always starts with me. I stop behaving like a doormat, like a slave, and like a worthless piece of shit. I start saying what I think with calm confidence. I start doing what feels good to me. I start asking for what I want. I start speaking words that are true for me.

And then what happens? Then I'm rocking the boat; I'm disturbing the structure. If I'm not a worthless piece of shit that does everything wrong, then they can't keep believing and telling me that they're better than me. Suddenly their identity is threatened.

They'll do anything they can to get me back into my box. They'll gang together, they'll argue, they'll shame, and they'll blame. But I'm not going back in that box. I'm asserting my identity as love and as creativity. And they're going to have to go and find their own identity; that also will be a beautiful thing.

A safe space is where I know that I can say whatever I want and I will not be shamed and invalidated. I will be accepted and loved for who and what I am. When I know that I am being listened to by one or more benevolent witnesses, I know that I am valid. I then learn that I am lovable, that I do deserve to be here, and that I deserve to be a part of life. And I start to listen to myself more deeply and more compassionately. In time, I learn to love myself unconditionally. I learn to love myself exactly as I am, in every moment.

Once I love myself unconditionally then I see only love within myself and I am unable to see anything but love outside of myself. Once this happens, I have become a perfect witness. Not only this, but I have become unable to hate, to make war, or to injure. And this is what I deserve more than anything. I deserve to be a perfect witness. This is how valuable safe space is for me.

Now in a safe space, I share with you my experiences, my emotions, and my thoughts and you just listen and you do not judge and this heals me and lets me know that I am lovable. And then because you are practicing being a benevolent witness to me, you find that you are also being a benevolent witness to yourself, to your own reactions, your experience of me, your emotions and your thoughts. You have to be a benevolent witness to these things inside of you in order to be a benevolent witness to me.

This is why sharing is reciprocal. Once I have been accepted by you, it is your turn to share about what is being allowed to express itself in you, the parts of you that are coming timidly forward from the dark recesses of your soul; that are blinking into the light of your awareness, having been hidden away in fear for so long. And then when you share, I listen and I do not judge. I simply love you and I love you unconditionally. And then you know that you are always lovable and that every part of you is lovable, just as every part of me is lovable.

Then you see that you are love and that there is nothing inside of you but love. Then you cannot see anything outside of you but love. And then you become unable to hurt, to make war, or to hate. And this is what you deserve more than anything. You deserve to be a perfect witness. This is how valuable safe space is for you.

I could pay someone to listen to me. I could pay someone to be a benevolent witness. And I have. And I do. This is what a psychotherapist is; someone to witness benevolently. I pay them because they do not get the benefit of sharing with me. Many psychotherapists need to share themselves because of their own unresolved trauma which is being awoken by their client's sharing; they have their own therapy or share in some other way.

It's hard for a psychotherapist to provide a space as safe as that found in a reciprocal sharing arrangement because the sharing in itself creates safety for the other person. In fact, in my experience, the best psychotherapists do share, to some extent, with their clients. There are therapists who say that this is bad therapy — the same therapists who see their clients as sick and see themselves as well. These therapists are paid for providing a semi-safe space that is a poor approximation to the free and deeply safe space of a mutual sharing arrangement.

May there be an increasing amount of safe space and may there one day be only safe space.


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