Do you know what it’s like to feel “triggered?” In this episode I’ll talk about why we stay triggered, and how to create safety within ourselves to successfully move forward with our lives.
After experiencing a betrayal, our safety can feel compromised, causing us to feel perpetually “stuck” in a pattern of flight, flight or freeze. Although this pretends to keep us safe, it actually is keeping us from being able to move forward.
Listen to learn how to use science-backed tools to calm the brain, relax the body, and ultimately allow you to move forward with your life.
I’m Andrea Giles, and you’re listening to The Heal from Infidelity podcast, episode number 10, Creating Safety.
Hello and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity podcast where courageous women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become the boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves ever. If you know there’s more for you than the life you’re currently living but don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place. Stick around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks off. Is it possible? It is, and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host, Andrea Giles. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hi everybody. I’m so glad to be here with you today. I cannot believe it’s already episode number 10, double digits here we come, super fun. It’s been such an adventure to do this podcast and to jump in and hear from you and to hear what’s landing, hear what people are wanting more help with. I love it, it’s been so fun. So today I’m going to be talking about creating safety. What does that even mean? I’m going to talk about that. Okay? When I first start working with a client, the first thing we do together is connect to why they want to feel better. What is it that they want and why do they want it? And I’ve talked about this in past episodes, but this matters so much because if we don’t have a really strong reason why we want to do something, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing and we are wired that way, right?
We’re programmed to stay where we are, to not change things up. And when we have experienced something like a betrayal of a loved one, what happens is our brain starts taking on patterns of trauma. It changes the pattern. We have some patterns that can form from that. Sometimes, not everybody, but oftentimes, okay? What happens is our sense of safety is so threatened that we often wonder what we can’t even trust. We either go the person that I was supposed to trust the most that was supposed to love me the most, let me down and betrayed me. And so what we’ll do is start scanning for all the evidence of why we’re in danger. We’ll start to wonder how we miss the signs. We’ll wonder if anybody’s trustworthy. We’ll wonder if we will ever be able to trust anybody again. We wonder if we’ll be able to trust him again.
We’ll be looking and scanning for external views of safety and validation, but we sometimes can’t even access those, we can’t feel them. We sometimes disconnect from what’s real, like our brains feel like they’re hijacked. We can’t really figure out what’s true, what’s not true, true what’s real, what’s not real. We spend a lot of time living in a fight, flight, or freeze place. I like to think of it like olden days where they had like a castle, right? There’s a castle and up on top, you see the guard up there. There’s a person up there standing on top in the watch tower, always watching, scanning for danger, looking around, watching to see if there’s any danger coming. Part of the problem with that though is that there’s people down below. There’s people who want to connect with you, who want to be with you.
There’s experiences that you can have. There’s joy to be felt. There’s peace to be felt. And if we’re always in that watch tower, we’re not down with the people and we’re not even really with ourselves because we have lost our trust in ourself. We’re not feeling it. We’re not connecting with ourselves. There’s a word for this, it’s disassociation. It means disconnected, separate. We do this as a protective measure because it feels too scary to be in the present. It feels too scary to really process the emotions, and so we separate from it. We stay in that place of avoidance, not really wanting to go in and feel the feelings that we might need to feel to process. So what is the remedy for this? Does any of that sound familiar? I’m raising my hand over here too. Yep, I know all of these things well.
I know what it feels like to feel like my brain has been hijacked. I know what it feels like to think that I can’t make sense of anything that I don’t know which way is up. I remember that spot. It’s not a particularly fun spot to be in, but for a lot of people, it’s hard to think of getting out of it because it can seem dangerous to get out of it. Like, well, what then? I’m opening myself up to get hurt. That’s why I start at the beginning of our work together with coming up with why you want to do this work, why it matters to you. What’s on the other side of it? Why are you willing to go through the experience of creating a new way of responding for yourself that can feel a little bit vulnerable and dangerous? Why?
Connecting with that and that becomes the motivation to move forward. So I’m going to tell you a little story about one way I learned about what needs to happen to step into safety. Okay? Several years ago, I went to a retreat. It was when I was single, and I went to a retreat that was for women who had been through similar things as me. It was run by Dr. Kevin Skinner of the Addo Recovery Group in Utah. Such a good guy, I really enjoyed working with him. Anyway, he shared a story with me that has stuck with me, and I remember really having it ring true with me when he said it, and I want to tell you now. So it’s just a little fact. Okay. So if you have a cow and a buffalo out on a field or on the planes, and if they see a storm coming, the cows will head the other way, they’ll run the other way.
The storm’s coming, I got to get out, I got to get out, I don’t want to get stuck in the storm. A buffalo, however, will turn towards the storm, it will look towards it. Sometimes the buffalo will just stand still, and sometimes the buffalo will walk towards it. Isn’t that amazing? The buffalo will walk towards it. Sometimes the buffalo is alone and sometimes it goes with its buffalo buddies and they walk towards the storm, and there’s a wisdom in this because the cow, they’re running, right? They’re running, and what they’re actually doing is they’re prolonging their exposure to the storm. They’re staying in it longer. The buffalo understands, yep, I’m heading straight for a storm, it’s not going to be fun. It’s going to be windy, I’m going to get wet, I might even get hailed on, might be uncomfortable, might feel scary, but I know that by heading to it, I’m going to be out of the storm that much faster.
And I remember when I was first going through all of this, kind of feeling numb, and I did that intentionally because I didn’t really want to feel all of it. I didn’t want to feel the grief, the sadness, the shame, all of those things. So sometimes I would just numb out and purposely try to avoid it. That for me was one way of trying to run from the storm. I did not even want to see the storm. I didn’t want to look at it, it was too painful or so I thought. And my healing began as I started to look towards it and really go into it, really feel it, stand there and let it beat me down, feel all of it. And in doing that, we create safety for ourselves. It sounds a little bit counterintuitive, but the other one where the cows running away, they’re standing in that storm that much longer in creating more pain for themselves, more division from the things that they actually want, more lack of trust.
And with the buffalo in heading towards the storm, they are moving quicker to a safe place by allowing it, saying bring it, let’s go. So how does one create a safe place? How do you create safety for yourself? Often what we do is we look for external things. We think, well, if this person does this or says this in just the right way, then I’ll feel safe, but that doesn’t work. It might work temporarily, it might help for sure, it might help create a feeling of safety temporarily. But unless we can come down off of that watch tower and access the part of our brain that is the deep thinker, that is the wise advocate of ourselves, we’re not even going to be able to recognize when it is safe, because we’ll be in this constant state of fear or of worry or of trying to get away.
We won’t be able to even really take a hard look at it. So we have other people maybe involved trying to help us feel safe, trying to bring us down from that tower. And like I said, that might work temporarily, it might help, but the real power comes when we are willing to take ourselves down and really allow ourselves to feel all of it. When we are willing to create a safe place for ourselves so that our minds can calm down. It’s a process of going out of our head and down into our body. Our brains are freaking out. It’s really like they’re hijacked and they’re trying to make sense of things and trying to tell you that you’re in so much danger and it’s pushing a pause on that, reminding yourself that you’re not actually in danger, that you’re actually safe, and then creating a safe place for yourself where you go back into your body, where you feel emotionally regulated, where you can breathe, where you remind yourself that you’re okay.
So I’m going to go through some things that work. Now, what works for one person might not work at all for somebody else, but I am going to tell you some of the resources and tools that I have seen in my clients and in myself that seem to be very effective, and I want you to try one or two of them. I want you to practice. Now, it’s not a one and done type thing, right? Sometimes we can try something once and go, ah, that didn’t work, must not work. It must not work for me, I’ve got to try something else. Or sometimes we just give up and think that we have to live with the panicked, heightened state that we’re in. If you try something, I want you to try it at least five times. I want you to give yourself time to practice it, to become familiar with it, to really experiment with it.
So one of the first things that I’m sure you’ve heard of is deep breathing. Deep breathing calms down our nervous system. Deep breathing gets us out of our head and into our body. One technique for this is breathing in for four counts, holding it and pushing out hard, pushing out hard for six to eight counts. Do this over and over again, and you’ll feel yourself settle, you’ll feel your heart rate calm down. That’s one. Another option is meditation. Meditation is a way of calming down the body, bringing you out of your head and into your body, grounding you, grounding you back into your own safety, reminding you that you are not actually in danger in this moment. Now, for some of us, when we think of meditation, it can sound boring, like I just sit there and do nothing, right?
I want you to try something, there are guided meditations that are intentional for trauma. One person that does this is named Tara Brach. You can look her up, Tara Brach, and she does guided meditations for lots of different things, but she does some specific ones for trauma where she knows the words to say that can help you go into that safe place inside your body. Try it out, give it a shot. There’s an app, it’s called Insight Timer. I have it, I love it. I just used it a few days ago when I couldn’t sleep at night. I found a guided meditation for sleep, turned it on, out I went. Insight Timer, look it up. There’s all kinds of different guided meditations. Another option is yoga, especially trauma centered yoga. You can find these online. You can search for trauma centered yoga, and the people who teach it are trained to have motion and movement and breathing that brings you back to your body, back to safety.
One thing that I’ve done with some of my clients is I’ve had them make a physical emergency kit. So in your car, you might have an emergency kit with like Neosporin and medicine and band-aids and things like that. I have my clients make a emergency kit for when they’re heightened and when they feel very, very threatened. Now, the key elements to have in this are things that reach all of their senses, so smells, texture, taste, touch. I have one client who she put in a special rock, she put in a candle that she really liked the smell to. She put in a piece of fabric that felt comforting to her. The more you can get out of your head and back into your body through your senses, the quicker you’re going to be able to get to that safe place.
So feeling, touching, smelling, any of those things, bringing in all the senses will help remind you that you’re not actually in danger. Another one that I use all the time and that I have all of my clients use is journaling. Journaling is so powerful because it gives a voice to the pain that’s inside your head without judgment, you’re just dumping it out. You’re taking what’s in your brain and you’re writing it down. You’re being present, you’re giving it a voice, you’re validating yourself. You’re saying, this is the experience I’m having right now, this is what’s happening right now, and just the act of getting it out of your head and onto paper can make a little shift. I’ve had it happen in the past where I have maybe felt a little bit keyed up and I’ll just write it down.
Sometimes just a paragraph and just being able to see it in front of me, I can ask myself this question, is that actually real? Is that actually true? And then I can challenge it a little bit and go, actually, no, I’m not in danger. Maybe there’s another way of looking at this. Maybe there’s more to this. I can challenge it a little bit. But at first, you’re just dumping it out. You’re giving a voice to your own pain, to your own experience, and you’re being present with it. Another idea is tapping. There’s an app for that too. Tapping is all about emotional regulation and changing your pathways in your brain. The app that I suggest is called The Tapping Solution. And again, just like with the meditation app, there are apps in here that are guided for specific issues that you might be facing. So you can go in and learn the general skill and practice on your own as much as you want.
Now, once we are back in our body and we have a clear mind again, that’s when we can go do some digging and find the thoughts and the feelings that are creating our current results. We don’t want to go looking for those things when we are feeling heightened because we’re not in our most rational mind. It’s like the toddler running around with a knife when we’re in that heightened space, we are looking out, we’re watching for danger. We are sometimes panicked, we’re sometimes running away. We’re not in a place to really do the deep work of finding the thoughts that were causing it in the first place. So the sooner you can get settled back into your body, that’s when you can start looking for the thoughts that created the fear or the panic in the first place. What was it? What was I thinking?
What was the trigger? What did I see? What did I hear? What did somebody say to me, and then what did I make that mean? What were my thoughts about that? That’s when you can go start doing some investigating and showing your brain, this is what happens when I believe this story. This is what happens when I think this, it creates this in my body. And then once we have that awareness comes the next step of deliberately deciding what you want and creating a new reality for yourself based on new thoughts, new feelings, new actions, and then creating a new result. But before we do that, we have to feel safe. We have to feel like we have a foundation of safety under us, and it comes from ourselves. We can look to other people to help us, we can have our people that feel safe, but ultimately, learning how to do this is the best gift you can give yourself.
It means that at any time, in any place, anywhere, you have the skill to regulate your own emotion. That’s power, that is power. And I will add that many of my clients worry about their children. They worry that their kids are feeling heightened emotion based on maybe some of the circumstances that they’re dealing with. And the more that you learn how to do this, you get to go pass that along to your children. You get to teach them these tools as well. How powerful for these children to learn how to regulate their own emotions at a young age? And it trickles on down. We show up differently when we know how to handle our own emotions. We don’t react as quickly. We are more deliberate in how we show up.
So this is the first step to safety. This is where I start with all of my clients and what I recommend for you, getting clear on where you’re going, why you’re going there, and then learning how to get to a safe place so you can keep moving forward. And like that buffalo, the quicker you practice these things, go toward the storm, feel the feelings, process the feelings, allow all of it, the quicker you’re going to get out of the storm and on with your life. That’s all I’ve got for today. Again, I’m so grateful for you for listening and for sharing, and I will see you next week. Thank you. Bye-bye.
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