my space tracker

Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Safe Places

Monday, September 1, 2008

Safe Places

"In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina. Can't you see the sunshine? Can't you just feel the moonshine? Ain't it just like a friend of mine? It hit me from behind. Yes I'm gone to Carolina in my mind" James Taylor

It's that time of year. For many of you, it's back to somewhere. For some of you, it's into "no-man's land," that after college, before job, grad school, new kind of life space that is not where you were and not where you are going to be. It's a time full of transitions and translations. Taking stock of your memories and experiences and making sure to hold onto them and carry them with you back to, or forward to where you are going.

Transitions can highlight overwhelming feelings. Even when the transition is a seemingly good one, like finishing school or going on a long trip. Sometimes transitions can be overstimulating, meaning that we get flooded with a ton of feelings all at once and the whole body, brain included, psyche and soul just go into rev.

Rev is one of those states where eating disorder or self injury stuff can fly. Rev often means a call for a sedative or mode of escape. Rev can lead to hurt and hurting.

I am thinking about where else to go when you are in rev mode. And I was thinking about the loveliest of places that I was very recently visiting. I was thinking how great it would be if I could bottle that feeling of tranquility and safety, of calm and faith, of total peace and ease and comfort that I had when staying in this lovely oasis of green trees and blue skies. And of a billion stars at night.

I was thinking too of how many times in my office I hear people express the need to send their mind on vacation. Without a substance or a self hurting act. And then I was thinking about going to Carolina in my mind.

There are real safe places. Quiet places. There are places that you can go to just sit and be, to calm the rev, think about the transitions, cool your self off, or get away from a bad situation or difficult person. Some of my favorites: parks, libraries, museums, book stores, a quiet tree lined street off the beaten path. I like quiet places that I can go to just sit, or wander gently.

And then there are the places you can create in your mind. If you can't actually take off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or find an empty corner in your local library, you can create a safe place in your mind. You can decorate it, and stock it full of comfy furniture, or babbling brooks. And you can go there anytime without going anywhere.

It is a way to keep the spaces that you have visited where you have felt well and whole present and accessible and usable. Make them your safe place. Keep the idea that you can take yourself somewhere whenever you need to.

A lot of the time, when I hear about emotional pain, confusion and rev, I hear how hesitant some of you are to create a place for yourself. And to try it out, before you try out other avenues for escape. I am not saying its a magic solution, but it can help. To go to Carolina in your mind.

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