In many ways, we are similar to other living things. Growth in all living things happens when their surroundings provide the necessary nutrients and protection from harsh environments. No matter how much we want to grow physically, mentally, and spiritually, our growth is limited by the nutrients available and our ability to process those nutrients. We need a safe place, free from constant threat, to absorb the available nutrients. Our task is two-fold. First, we need to find environments that have the necessary elements for growth available. Second, we must take advantage of the available elements for growth. Even as adults, we still need caring and supportive places, where we find safety (a secure base), and enjoy reassurance and validation. In the right environment, and with the right effort, we thrive.
Unlike vulnerable children, we have power to change environments. We can make or find places that provide the nutrients and resources we need. In a safe place, we can courageously explore, looking deeper inside ourselves to address personal problems. Without a secure base, the unknown world is too scary and dangerous. We retreat and hide, stagnating personal growth.
Environments of Critical Judgments
Harsh criticism is painful. When a partner or parent constantly criticizes, the target of the denigrations focuses on avoiding the hurt rather than seeking growth. Curiosity for life is stymied; the creative and natural child curiosity is curtailed, exchanged for limiting protections. These toxic environments fail to provide the necessary elements for growth.
An impoverished childhood full of hurts and neglect skews a child’s social growth for life. It handicaps the child’s ability to accurately respond to social cues. The childhood traumas often lead to unhealthy adult relationships which further repel growth. It is a perpetuating and destructive cycle. Those stuck in these heart-breaking cycles implement more and more complex mechanisms that take them further and further from reality.
“The fact is that people are good, Give people affection and security, and they will give affection and be secure in their feelings and their behavior.”~Abraham Maslow
To acknowledge personal deficits that overwhelm the resources we have available to adequately address them is frightening. We avoid such damning information, fail to grow, and continue in our limited life. remaining in contact with reality, seeing our own strengths and weakness is a necessary element for growth.
Having a safe place to retreat gives a sense of security. The respite recharges our resolve, providing additional resources to face the world. The safe place allows us to step into the dark corners of our humanity and bring hidden elements into the light. It’s a courageous journey into our souls but with a safe retreat that affirms our worth and bolsters self-confidence, we are willing to risk the unknown and adventurously move forward.
“The safe place allows us to step into the dark corners of our humanity and bring hidden elements into the light.”~T. Franklin Murphy
Safety and Growth
A safe place consists of supportive, compassionate others and a supportive compassionate self. Slowly, with growth, we allow our self to be human, without constant berating for normal imperfections. When we are gentle, we discover imperfections without protective avoidance. We aren’t impelled to bury unsavory aspects of the through justifications or blame.
Each new enlightenment illuminates deeper into the corners of our mind. We’ve embarked on an exciting process of self-discovery—a journey. Not a journey of days, weeks, or even years but a journey continuing throughout the remainder of our lives. The joy doesn’t come from an imaginary destination of perfection but from the comfort of entering a new cycle of growth. The safety zone—compassionate acceptance of self—slowly expands, along with an improved self also comes improved relationships. Each step inviting more beauty and more growth.