“Whenever I’ve been told, as a survivor of trauma, that I’m in a safe place, my body tenses and my palms get sweaty. My entire visceral being longs to cry out, “Please don’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t be feeling.”
A client of mine recently resonated with this experience only her wounding around the word safe carried even graver implications. Her abuser often assured her that she was “safe” in his care. No doubt that for people such as my client, the word itself poses the problem.
Let me be clear—working with the concept of safety as teachers or as human services providers is critical. Yes, people are more likely to thrive when they experience a general sense of safety and empowerment. Yet telling people what they should/shouldn’t be experiencing is incredibly disempowering. As helpers, we can set the intention for ourselves to make our class, our therapy office, or our sacred spaces as safe as possible. We can do this by using inclusive language, avoiding statements that could be triggers for a good portion of people, offering modifications in the spirit of flexibility, and using the language of invitation instead of the language of command (see inset). However, it’s up to the individual to evaluate their own experience of safety in that space.”