Sunday, 2 June 2013

My safe

I've started and abandoned five blogs this week. It's felt like all the topics were too grand or too hefty to address and so I did what any self-motivated person would do, I watched telly instead.

Every now and then, I think about skipping a week on the blog but for some reason, that doesn't sit right with me. It's the one consistent thing I do in a maelstrom of change so I'm sitting down now to write, not really knowing what's going to come out of me.

I tried to write about God, about spirituality, about my dad but these topics take time so instead, I'll tell you about what's been on my mind this week.

I've been thinking about safety. This week, I learned a new distinction regarding this word that we normally use to describe physical safety but actually, I've started to realise that this can also mean emotional safety.

To me, that means feeling safe to be yourself without feeling under threat of attack, criticism or judgement. On top of that, certain environments are safe for certain things.

Like, have you every been standing in a night club or a house party and thought how weird it was that all these people are assembled specifically for the purpose of throwing their bodies around in various configurations we call dancing? But we're in agreement that this is a safe place to do this. You won't be judged for dancing in a night club, well not as much as you would in the middle of Ikea. Ikea is not an emotionally safe environment for dancing (for arguments with your partner yes, two-stepping - no).

When we interact with people, we look for people who'll make us feel safe. This is what our friends do and why we're able to share our deepest darkest secrets with those closest to us.

But even in a work environment, you want to feel the safety of freedom of expression (appropriate to where you are - you don't want to talk about a miscarriage at a board meeting.... for example).

Safety as much as anything is about trust. There needs to be trust between two people for safety to be created. Like if you were waiting outside your therapist's office and you overheard them on the phone say "I've gotta go. I've got my 3.30 nutjob waiting. Laters" you'd probably find yourself less forthcoming in your session. That would be a safety-lite environment.

I don't believe I grew up in a particularly emotionally safe environment. Parents don't always realise how deeply and profoundly criticism and judgement shape a child's psychology. They often create defining traits in our characters. It was only this week that I saw how much I always want people to feel 'safe' because of my earlier experiences.

Where some people feed on cruel micky-taking, I hate it. Even professionally,  when I interact with an audience member, I hate the idea of them feeling foolish or picked on. I want them to feel great. I got a heckle once that was so good I gave the guy a lap of honour. I ran round the whole audience cheering him. It was a nice moment because he won and I wanted him to feel like a champion.

They say, your wound becomes your work and it's true to say, having people feel great and feeling safe is something that's important to me. How it's going to show up in my work, I've yet to find out (I haven't got time to give everyone a lap of honour and it would be weird if I just ran round you cheering in the street). But it is what I want. If I think of a more practical doable way of achieving that, I'll let you know.

In the mean time, keep the people around you safe. They may not consciously know that's what you're doing but they will appreciate it and love being around you. Being safe is what we all want, after all.


  1. I know that feeling and the need.I hate mickey taking as well. This was a comforting blog and I like you more because of it.

  2. You should do more of this kind of stuff, like try and get a column somewhere (The Guardian maybe?). A lot of these kind of columns don't really try to put a new perspective on things, even if they claim to do so - whereas your writing can be quite thought provoking.
    Of course, you should still be throughly ashamed of yourself for producing so few restaurant reviews since you have been in LA....

  3. Thanks! That was a lovely piece of writing - which I think Is your real strength. Being on UK time, I must be too early for this week's blog. At the risk of cliche, it's father's day in the UK on the 16th, so you can blog about your Dad then.
    Peter Catherwood

  4. Hey Peter, thanks for that. It's not cliched at all. I've been meaning to write about my dad so it'll be up tmrw. Thanks for the comments x


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