It’s complicated. And it’s worth a few posts, but in order to talk about it, I need to explain about safe rooms.
A safe room is pretty much what it sounds like.
It’s a room. Or a series of rooms. And it is completely and utterly safe.
It is the space you invent for the part of you who can’t cope with things as they are right now.
So that the part of you who can cope is free to do what needs to be done.
My safe rooms are all in Tel Aviv.
Which is slightly weird and slightly not.
A lot of really unbelievably not safe things happened during a decade of living there.
But it was also a refuge.
At any rate, any safe room I come up with invariably ends up being at least loosely based on my old place in Florentin, or the last apartment of my friend who is dead.
My clients generally do not recognize their safe rooms. The rooms vary.
Sometimes they are otherworldly. Futuristic or medieval. Sometimes they are on beaches or in a forest.
They can be magical or mundane. Silly or practical. Or both.
It doesn’t matter. The main thing is: you are safe.
Or, better, the parts of you who desperately crave safety and sanctuary have places to recover.
“Create a safe room for the you who feels vulnerable and helpless.”
Or the version of you who feels vulnerable and helpless.
This was one of the many exercises we did at my last week-long retreat in Asheville.
Here’s what I wrote:
It’s his apartment again. Except.
There are floor to ceiling bookshelves.
You can never run out of books.
There are beautiful skylights that can only be opened from the inside. With automatic shades. Press a button and cover them up.
The windows are double paned glass, and open outward. With locks.
The door is thick and oak. The key is black.
There are thick rugs and wood floors and a corner that is just for yoga.
The refrigerator is always full.
The closet is spacious and well-lit.
It smells wonderful.
She doesn’t ever have to leave ever ever ever because we own it forever.
Someone brings hot meals. She can just whisper into a plant what she would like, and it will appear in a secret hallway between two doors.
There is no mail except for cards that say sweet things. No phone calls.
There is a giant bathtub. There are flowers.
Guilt is not allowed.
No one needs to know she is here.
You are cared for forever. Without ever being bothered.
And there is enough. There just is.
“Create a safe room for you now.”
Similar. More spacious. Much bigger windows. So much bigger.
And they’re open to the breeze.
A trampoline, of course. In the trampoline room!
The bath is larger.
There is secret door to the Playground!
A business magic planning wishing room for convening and counciling.
Charts and maps and nautical things, pirate ship toys. Singing.
Books. Colors. Wood. Elegant solutions. Water.
Now we can talk about the V.
Once you have a safe room, it’s there for as long as you need it.
This helps you re-order the V.
Right. The V.
This is something I took from Hiro.
She gave me this wonderful image of all the various parts of me flying together.
They’re flying in a V-formation. Like geese.
And sometimes the version of me who is leading is not the right one for that situation.
We need to switch.
How I used this at the airport.
Here’s what I know. If I’m experiencing tension, anxiety, anger …
That’s a pretty good sign that the me who is currently at the front of the V is a) unhappy and b) young.
Sometimes it’s bartender me (who is good in a fight but not so good when I’m trying to avoid getting in a fight). She takes stuff personally. She’s up for anything. And she’s unpredictable.
Again, it makes her fun at parties. Not so much in airports.
Or it’s a much younger version me who knows about the pain of being a victim, but has not yet learned about practicing sovereignty.
Either way, I’ve learned it’s definitely not the me who needs to be at the front of the V.
Not helpful for her and not useful for the situation.
So I ask for a volunteer.
Who would be best at heading up the V?
Possibly pirate queen me. Any version of me who is not impressed by authority, but is also kind, discerning, funny, relaxed and wearing her crown.
Totally regal but not snobby. Not imperious. Casual, lighthearted, powerful, playful, confident, at ease in the world.
I’m not always sure I know that she exists, but I have a sense of what it’s like to be around her.
And I can have her accompany the strongest version of me to the front of the V.
Then we make a safe room for whoever is currently at the front. They get to decide what it’s like, what’s in it, who protects it and how long they want to be there.
They go to the safe room. I stand in the front of the V. Reconfigure my force field. Smile. We begin.
I also make a safe room for the passage through security.
There are flowers. I’m the only one who can see them.
There are trees that ground the room, and skylights that only I know about.
The trees whisper encouragement. Not so much in words but the general sense is something like this:
“Good for you. You’re interacting with your stuff, in a way that is not confrontational and violent.
“Whatever happens, you’re consciously, actively engaging.
“Your internal scientist crew is taking notes on this round.
“You are safe. You are loved. You are a strong, beautiful, sovereign being and so is everyone you meet.
“All your encounters are harmonious, or can be. None of this is personal.”
And I remind myself too:
“This person in front of me is a human being, who happens to be wearing a uniform.
Even though my monsters say that only an abusive person would do this job, do I honestly know that to be true? Always?
Even though I’m going into my past narratives about abuses of power, I can still remember: this is not what is happening right now in this moment.
We are two people. Each interaction is new. I can expect to be treated with kindness. And if that doesn’t happen for whatever reason, it isn’t about me.
I will do my part to alter every part of this encounter and my perception of this encounter that I have influence over.
The rest is out of my hands. It’s about how I react and how I react to reacting. And there isn’t any way to screw this up because it’s all an experiment and we’re taking notes for next time.”
And comment zen for today.
We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff.
It’s a practice, which means that it is ongoing.
You might not be able to use most or any of this right now. Or it might seem way too weird, too conceptual, too far-off.
I have the advantage of having spent the past seven years working on my stuff as my full-time occupation. There are a lot of skills and mindset-shifts that I’m referencing or skipping over here that take time to practice and develop.
As always, use what works and skip what doesn’t. Mess around. Try things. See what you like. See what you need to change, rename, do differently.
If you want to play, you are more than welcome to. One of my favorite things in the world is to learn about other people’s safe rooms, so if you feel like inventing one and sharing it, that would be awesome.