Creating Safe Spaces

Recently I have been exploring the world of online writing groups.  My current group is run by a beautiful writer and coach, and consists of five other participants from all over the world.  Everyday for two weeks, we free write on a prompt, self critic and censor free, and share our work in a private virtual community.  We have never met, we have never spoken, and yet we somehow through our words reveal the most intimate details of our lives.

I think there is something about the anonymity that actually allowed for the type of honesty that manifested in this particular group.  The anonymity, and of course the safe vibration that was created by each of the members and the facilitator.  It was unspoken that there would be no judgment.  It was unspoken that our words would stay contained within the boundaries of our digital room.

As I moved through the two weeks, I started wondering about how we create safety in our lives and our relationships.  As a psychiatrist, it is critically important for my patients to feel secure.  There are the basics.  Over time, they come to know the steady details of my office…the four pillows and white blanket that rest on the couch, the tray of multi colored stones on the table, the statue that rests on the bureau behind me, and the dim lights that come on as dusk settles.  They know where they sit, and they know where I sit.  Some eventually feel comfortable enough to adjust the blinds to their liking, or take their shoes off and drape the blanket across their lap.

We also create safety by respecting the boundaries of our sessions.  Most patients arrive on time, and I arrive on time.  We start on time and we end on time.  Many patients schedule their appointments on the same day and time of the week, so it becomes a consistent and known part of the routine.  We are bound by the laws of confidentiality, so they know that what happens within our 30, 60, or 90 minutes together, will never leave the room without their consent.

But beyond the details, it is my responsibility to create a sacred space for patients to reveal themselves.  I must listen without judgment.  I see them and hear them.  I allow sessions full of silence, non stop talking, hand trembling anger, or rivers of tears.

I respect my patients and I see them as whole, courageous individuals who live with a medical problem, rather than troubled and ill souls.  I believe that my patients can do great things, and that there is so much that I can learn from them.

What I learn from my practice, and what I learn from my writing group, is that such rules and boundaries create safety.  And when we feel safe, healing and growth can occur.  When we feel safe, the ever present inner critic settles down, and we feel like we can finally speak our truth that so desperately needs to be expressed.  When we feel safe, we can allow ourselves permission to be vulnerable and broken, knowing that we will be mirrored back in a way that somehow feels less broken.

I don’t think that the sacred space is limited to writing circles and the psychiatrist’s office.  It’s something we can all provide to another, and to ourselves.  We can reach out to each other, see each other, and hold a space that allows each of us to fully be who we are.  When we show our hearts, owning all of the good, bad, and ugly of what lives within us, we allow others to do the same.  I know for myself, the times where I have felt the arms of safety, be it in silence, chatter, tears, or laughter, those are the very moments where I have also felt unconditional love.

So today, and in the week ahead, I invite you to join me in recognizing the sacred spaces within your life.  Where do they exist?  Doe someone co-create them with you?  How can we each more consciously create space for each other to be who we truly are?

With gratitude, Monisha