Once again it is through my own personal therapy that I first came to work with a concept that has proved invaluable in my professional practice with clients and in my writing to support people during these times.
The model has been powerful for me and for anyone who has had the ground taken out from under their feet by change, whether this is through bereavement, loss, illness or a global pandemic.
When our safe, predictable and certain life is thrown into disarray we often find that the uncertainty makes us feel unsafe. What do you do? I go into an organised frame of mind and start planning, when I do this I’m attempting to find certainty to help myself feel safe. But sooner or later the existential truth that there are no guarantees, and no certainty, make this plan only partially effective.
Understanding that certainty and safety are not the same thing can be helpful for anyone who is experiencing heightened anxiety right now. I’m sure that one of the reasons many people are stressed is because they desire certainty and guarantees during coronavirus, that we simply can’t get.
To feel safe while simultaneously knowing we are living in uncertainty is achievable with support and practice.
Safe and Certain:
This is a position that we can hold if we’ve not yet had the experience of life exploding and / or a traumatic event. Life is experienced as predictable and our expectations are met. Do you have people in your life who come across like this, perhaps?
Unsafe and Certain:
We might believe that adopting a position of certainty helps us to live with feeling unsafe after a disaster. I think of this as ‘the check list option’, where we respond to anxiety with control and checking. We believe this helps our anxiety but it doesn’t deal with our underlying sense of unease. My house becomes quite tidy as my anxiety increases, can you relate?
Unsafe and Uncertain:
This is a powerless, frozen place. A person may find themselves unable to act at all, for fear of the consequences. This response to anxiety is often expressed through a lot of sleeping and inaction, as opposed to the more active and driven response above. The increasing sense of tiredness we are experiencing is likely to be a stress response, not laziness!
Safe and Uncertain:
In this final position, we accept that life is uncertain and that we live in uncertain times. However, we feel safe within ourselves and our ability to function and manage our lives with flexibility. We can be happy and fulfilled while knowing that the certainty we perhaps had when younger, has now gone.
Therapy aims to help us face uncertainty and to feel more confident about living once we have experienced that there are no guarantees and the best laid plans can come unstuck.
These positions are usually found in family therapy resources but I believe are helpful for us all, especially at the moment. The concept is normally found on a grid such as the one I’ve created below.
In my Nourish and Nurture course, we will be looking at the safety, the skills, the resilience we have within us, the way we have survived uncertainty and stored up sustenance for times ahead. We will take heart in the way that nature flows through change and uncertainty. We will find anchors within our selves and spend time each day quietly meditating or reflecting and journalling.
Here is the link to find out more about the group.
Or click here to register for the FREE Taster Week at the end of September.
Wishing you all well,
Miriam Grace: Senior Psychotherapist working online with clients around the world.
Weblinks (including qualifications, experience and contact details) on the top bar above.