She didn’t feel emotionally safe.

I met a friend for coffee last week.  She wanted to make a few decisions about her life and wanted my thoughts.  After we ordered our lunch, I asked what was going on.  She said that she wasn’t feeling emotionally safe in a current (long-term) relationship.  Yup – she’d come to the correct place – Jessica’s Psychiatric Booth (joke for us old(er) Peanuts fans!).

We talked about it a bit, examined the situation and then later that evening, I realized how many people I’d talked with lately who, while they maybe didn’t finger the exact word, were really not feeling emotionally safe (or safe to be vulnerable).  It made me wonder how that sort of thing happens in a relationship that usually starts out so open.  Bear with me here and see if my thinking on this topic is straight:

1. When we feel safe, we can be emotionally vulnerable.

2. Emotional vulnerability means surrendering fully to a situation.  It’s what they call being open and transparent.  At work or in other situations, it means feeling like your back is covered.

3. When one doesn’t feel safe to be vulnerable, they build walls to protect themselves.  Lack of trust results in these barriers.  It starts out as little things that cause us to build these walls.

4. Walls and barriers will sabotage potentially good relationships, good jobs and friendships because it’s hard to open ourselves up to new things and new ideas when we are scared of being hurt.

5. There are times where no matter what you do there is no safety in a situation –   Where the other person involved only has his or her own back.  Run!

6. To be vulnerable you must first accept yourself for your strengths and weaknesses.  Then, you really have to accept the same things in the other person (as hard as that can be because our s*** is always so much better than someone elses’ … right??!) If we can’t do that, we’ll damage our self-esteem and our relationships – whether work or personal.

7. You must voice your needs (gently and respectfully).  They are valuable and deserve to be heard.  That is vulnerability.  And, once they are heard and met, you will feel safe to do it again.  That’s when the beauty of any kind of relationship unfolds.

Thanks to my friends for allowing me to have these deep conversations the last few weeks.  It’s forced me to step outside myself and really think about how insecurities (and we all have them) affect us or better yet, destroy great opportunities, relationships or experiences.

One thing I know for sure – love, acceptance and respect are plentiful, yet elusive, when we don’t feel emotionally safe.  Good topic over a glass of wine or coffee with someone important in your life.

Enjoy your Tuesday!

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