Fear will bully your child into poor behavior - Karyn Purvis
I woke up this morning thinking about felt safety. Felt safety is a concept used in TBRI or the “parenting with connection” approach. It’s something you might hear adoptive parents or parents with kids from hard places talk about but in light of the state of the country, it seems like something we should all talk about. Felt Safety is different than being safe, it is about feeling safe. You can be safe, but not feel safe. When we don’t feel safe we are triggered into a fight, flight or freeze mode. It is a pretty simple concept to understand, but a really hard one to put into practice. It requires respectful listening and honest understanding, effective leadership and maybe the hardest of all, shared control.
When my kids don’t feel safe, it is not their responsibility to try to make themselves feel safe. When they take on that responsibility, they usually choose very unhealthy coping mechanisms. It is my husband and I’s job as the strong safe adults in their lives to help them feel safe. It’s my job to lay down my rights so that they can feel safe. I may feel like I have the right to watch a bit of TV or listen to some news, but sometimes/most of the time, screens and noise lead to sensory overload and lack of felt safety. I may and often do feel like I have the right to connect with people and talk as long as the conversation takes, but if I don't come home when I say I am going to come home, so long felt safety. I may feel like I have the right to finish reading a chapter in a book or read my Bible but if it pushes past their bedtime, I can kiss felt safety and a calm bedtime goodbye. But if I give up my rights and we maintain a sense of felt safety in our home, we become more resilient and fear is no longer bullying our children into bad behavior.
The more I am aware of this in my children, the more I am aware of this in my own life. When I don’t feel safe, I start responding to life defensively and a little triggered. As a woman, when a man makes me feel unsafe. I walk a little faster. I become hypervigilant, my pulse races and I want to flee. When I feel unsafe in the church, when my ideas or even my existence as a woman feel attacked I start to hide. I distance myself from what feels unsafe.
This is true of homes, churches, schools, communities, and countries. The question we should be asking is whose job is it to create felt safety? Well, it is the role of the strong safe adults, the leaders of our country to create felt safety. It is their job to not argue and fight for their own rights but listen and hear EVERYONE and create a culture where everyone gets to feel safe. Because we live in a republic democracy where citizens have the right to choose their leaders and have representation, it is not only our leaders' responsibility but it the responsibility of us as citizens. Creating felt safety is a big task. It is hard to create felt safety just inside a home because it requires hearing and respecting and actively protecting. How much bigger is the job outside the home?
What if those of us with privilege stood up and said: “I have some rights that I could lay down so that you can feel safe.”
- I don't actually need an AR15, I could give that up so that our children could feel safer.
- I don’t actually need to give you a hug, I could give that up so that you could feel safer
- I don’t actually need to post tasteless jokes on social media about guns, race, sexuality, gender, LGBT individuals, and issues, or the generation that is getting the blame for all that is wrong in the world, I could give that up so that you could feel safer
- I don’t actually need to look like the most woke white person right now, I could give that up and listen to you so that you could feel safer
- I don’t actually need to argue about whether racism really exists, I could give that up so that you could feel safer.
- I don’t actually need to be right I could give that up so that I could listen to you and you could feel safer
This Lent season I am giving up debilitating anger towards those who aren’t providing felt safety and I am going let my passion move me to stand in the gaps I see...
- I stand with children, they should be safe and protected in schools. I am a Wyoming girl, but I stand for some serious gun reform.
- I stand for racial justice, could we (the privileged and children of the many generations of oppressors) stop fighting over whether it exists or not and just move towards each other.
- I stand with women, our bodies are not free for taking, free for the grabbing, free for the looking.
- I stand with anyone who feels like an other in the church, may you know that you are welcome at the table, that Jesus came to you just as you are. He will transform you, you will change because He will change you. But may the church not get in the way of you knowing Jesus.