Entry Fifty Eight- Leave The Safe

“Leave the safe, explore the new, return to the safe…” (What Happened To You? By Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey)

About two years ago I started therapy. I was a mess. I can still remember my mom telling me that I looked like I was on the verge of tears all of the time. She was right. I was.

I was afraid to sleep. I was afraid to leave the house. I was afraid to be alone with my kids. Some of my fears were rational, but I understand now that many were not.

My husband, my parents and my therapist really encouraged my return to some level of normalcy. If it weren’t for them, I would still be allowing my fears to have total control over how I live. I still have a lot of fears, some of them are valid and some of them are not. I am learning how to limit their control over me.

Not in these exact words, but I was encouraged to “Leave the safe, explore the new, return to the safe.” (What Happened To You? By Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey)

“Leave the safe, explore the new, return to the safe… And through these little challenges, they build the capacity to demonstrate resilience in the face of unexpected stress.

All development involves being exposed to novelty, which in turn activates our stress response. With a safe and stable relational foundation, thousands of moderate doses of stress help create flexible stress-response capabilities….Participating in sports, music, drama, and other activities creates more opportunities for the controllable, predictable stress that helps build resilience.

…It’s a Goldilocks situation. Just as the challenge shouldn’t be too big, it also shouldn’t be too small; it has to be novel enough to cause the child to leave the comfort zone of their known experiences and already-mastered skills. If the challenge is going to build resilience, it has to be moderate- just right. “

What Happened to you? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, And healing By Bruce d. Perry, M.d.,Ph.d. and oprah Winfrey, page 194-195

The excerpt above refers to how children build resilience by challenging their stress-response capabilities through practice and exposure to various challenges. I think that this principle can also be applied to anyone at any age who is struggling with anxiety or healing from trauma.

It definitely resonates with me. “a Goldilocks situation”… A challenge too big and I wouldn’t even attempt it… I would give up due to its perceived impossibility. Reflecting back, over the last two years I have exposed myself (with encouragement from my husband, parents and therapist) to small to moderate “doses of stress” and I do think that this has helped to build my resilience.

“With a safe and stable relational foundation…” What if you don’t have something safe to return to? What if you don’t have a safe and stable relationship to rely on? Maybe the exposure to stress has to be significantly less to still challenge the stress-response system without overwhelming it? I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to live with anxiety or to heal from a traumatic life experience alone. I know that a lot of people do.

I am still not where I want to be…. but who is? It is a journey, and along this journey I will continue to work on building my resilience.

Photo Taken July 2021

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