Updated: Jan 18, 2019
Why are “safe” relationships so important, especially for those of us who have suffered from abusive relationships?
Having suffered from abusive relationships leaves behind the effects of the abuse on our heart, mind, and soul. It can leave behind limiting beliefs, false beliefs, fears, shame, anxiety, flashbacks and can leave us hyper-responsive to anything that appears potentially similar to the abuse that we had suffered. These effects hinder and limit us in living life fully and freely in our authentic selves.
Because we were hurt, abused, traumatized, taken advantage of or left behind by others in the context of relationship, in particular within the significant relationships in our lives, healing needs to happen in relationship(s). In order to receive healing, we need to experience what truly loving, safe, and empathetic relationship(s) are. It is by having these positive experiences that the negative harmful experiences can be minimized and even healed, and a new (healthy) norm developed.
In safe and empathetic relationship(s) healing can happen. Re-Learning with our will and our mind, Re-Experiencing with the choices we make, leading to the Re-Wiring of our nervous system, happens when existing in consistent, positive, loving, empathetic, supportive and respectful relationships.
What I mean by “safe “relationship, is a relationship:
· where there is mutual respect.
· where the individuals speak positively over each other, holding each other in equal regard and value.
· where there is trust and freedom balanced with accountability.
· Where there is kindness and tenderness.
· Where there is empathy.
· Where you feel loved, understood and accepted.
One of the traits that I feel is so important in a safe relationship is empathy. Empathy is “the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by relating and or by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation”.
Theresa Wisemans' four defining attributes of empathy:
· to be able to see the world as others see it
· to be nonjudgmental
· to understand another person’s feelings
· to communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings
It is when being in the presence of empathy, where the telling of our experiences, hurts, and struggles, is received well. It is in the atmosphere of empathy with someone, that our pain is received with open hands and our wounded heart is gently held, with the acknowledgment and kindness that is so needed and deserved.
When you are in a safe relationship(s) you “feel safe” you don’t feel on guard, you don’t feel like you’re constantly having to “stand up” for yourself, you don’t feel like your tiptoeing around trying to “avoid stepping on glass”, you don’t feel like you have to meet unreasonable expectations, and/or you don’t feel alone and abandoned.
I believe that each one of us, when not in a safe relationship, had a deep-down feeling and knowing that something was not right, that "this is not how it is meant to be" and a knowing that it should be different.
Because you may not even know what it looks or feels like to experience and exist in safe relationships, it is all the more important to seek that out. I know that I didn’t know, I just knew it felt wrong but didn’t know different. My norm was my norm of experience and who I had relationships with. Mostly what I knew was abusive, shallow, narcissistic, judgmental, critical, manipulative relationships and to survive meant to try and gain power and control. It was only when I purposefully sought out those individuals that had already journeyed down the path of recovery ahead of me or those who, in the kindness of their hearts were able to empathize, was I able to gain leaps and bounds in my healing and really know and experience what there was for me instead.
It is well worth the effort to keep reaching out, reach out to people, in a safe and cautious way, to those who could be your “safe” people. There is no guarantee of never being hurt by others, for we are all flawed, but there are traits that others possess that we can look for. Along with the above list, here is a resource with a list of the characteristics of safe people. Along with positive traits to look for, there are also negative traits to watch for. Here is a resource with a list of those traits to watch for.
Having precious, safe, relationships in our lives deposits in our heart, mind, and soul the effects of kindness, acceptance, peace and what true love really is. This is what there is for us, instead. It is with this kindness, acceptance, peace, and love that we can then truly be free from the relational abuse we have suffered and live in our created authentic self.
Know that this journey of healing is well worth the traveling. Keep traveling, for the destination awaits with so much more for you.
P.S. Here is a great animation explaining empathy vs sympathy.