Feeling safe with someone
Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person —
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them
all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful
hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with the
breath of kindness blow the rest away.
Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, poet and novelist
Much of the primary mental distress we see today comes from a form of loneliness we are not used to. We understand being ‘alone’ – in other words with nobody around. It is tough for most people. Other people nearby are a comfort. You may think of a crowd as a nasty, brutish place full of noisy, belligerent people seeking their own interests at the expense of everyone else’s needs. Take the crowd away and people will flock to shopping malls, restaurants, places of recreation and entertainment. Mostly they do this to be near others.
There is a deeper, more destructive loneliness. It is characterised not so much by lack of presence as by absence of implicit reassurance. That reassurance is not generated by words of praise or commendation, or by gifts, social media signals of admiration or even smiles. It does not exhibit itself through constant agreement or absence of a contradictory view. ‘Agreeable’ is a nice thing to be; it is not the ‘feeling safe’ that so many are missing. Absence of judgement may seem a step in the right direction. It. too, fails the ‘feeling safe’ test.
Dinah Craik captures beautifully, above, the sort of safety I am discussing.
It is a safety that does not seek its own reassurance because it is confident. A safety that does not require everything to be ‘right’ because right has never been absolute even in the most demanding of beliefs or the most Jesuitical of disciplines. It is a safety that has no formula, no prescription, no process because it ‘is’, rather than ‘does’. Generosity comes close to describing how it works – but only as close as the wrapping on an eternal gift. It is not the gift itself.
This is an age that wants to know what to do. Safety is about who to be. It is a soul that develops from within – not the spiritual soul religion seeks to cultivate nor the shoe sole on which, for stability, we must stand. It is the soul of understanding, of appreciation, of care. And, since it is self-generated, it depends on self-knowledge. Not the narcissistic ‘how do I look?’ sort of knowledge, though that has its place. Nor the knowledge of guilt. That has its place, too, but very much less than most would-be controllers of others’ lives demand.
We rightly strive in our lifetimes to discover who we are. But we are a work in progress. History is important and, when reported accurately, factual – sometimes fascinating. Safety comes not from historical records but from achievable aims. Rather than look in the mirror to discover ourselves we should be using the Telescope of Potential (ToP). Only when we are comfortable with our telescopic vision can we exude the confidence to bring others safety.
Whether politicians or generals or taxi drivers or bosses or friends or The Man on the Corner, we need our own safety to enable others to feel safe. When we know and appreciate ourselves we can ‘breathe the breath of kindness’ Dinah Craik refers to in her quote.
Her birthday was on 20th April 1826.
Who says nothing lasts?
There are three ways of looking through the Telescope Of Potential (TOP). If you’d like to know about them please drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will respond.
27 April 2023