Nik Wallenda is a daredevil and a high wire artist. Part of the famous Wallenda family, originally circus performers, he carries on the family tradition by walking the wire across dangerous places at dangerous heights, for people to see both in person and via television. In recent years, he has walked across Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, and the Chicago Skyline canyon of skyscrapers.
He walks the wire without a safety net!
Yes, he walks the wire without a safety net. And that’s his choice. But what about the rest of us? Those of us who aren’t high wire artists, and don’t choose consciously to walk the wire of life without a safety net?
We are born into many kinds of families … some families with, as they say in my field, “good enough” mothers and fathers. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect. It doesn’t mean they haven’t been wounded themselves in some way. It just means that somehow they have managed to be good enough parents, give their children a good enough experience in their development, and prepare their children enough to know themselves and find themselves when they lose their way.
How have the good enough parents done that? Maybe they’ve done their own inner healing work. Maybe they, themselves, have had good enough parents. Maybe they somehow have had a sense of responsibility and a sense of commitment that guided them to find out how to become a good enough parent – inside and out. Maybe a combination.
However the good enough parents do it, bonding with a good enough mother and being held by her physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically, and spiritually … is like being given a safety net. In other words, attachment to a good enough mother is a safety net – outer and inner. Most importantly it is an internal safety net that makes a deep and lasting imprint.
Although we don’t want to know it, don’t want to even imagine it, would likely deny it’s true for us … most children in our world today do not have “good enough” parents. And most adults in our world today did not have “good enough” parents, either. The history of wounding in our families in our world goes back more generations than the famous Wallenda family’s talent as high wire artists.
Family wounding can start in an instant – an instant of neglect, an instant of abuse, an instant of loss, an instant of abandonment, an instant of insanity …
It gets compounded generation by generation, as members who were impacted by that first instant carry it on through their lives, acting it out consciously and unconsciously – through repressing and defending against the wounding experience and its impact on their minds, bodies, hearts, and souls.
Family wounding starts in an instant, but it certainly doesn’t stop in an instant. Family wounding doesn’t stop even in a generation unless that generation doesn’t have children, and even then it still lives on and gets acted out by those who are still alive. But the end of family wounding can begin in a generation if that generation takes responsibility to end it, enters a deep process of psychotherapy to heal the family wounding to the root … and passes that healing tradition onto the next generation to continue.
The result of the family wounding … most children don’t have a safety net. And most adults – within whom the child they once were is still alive – don’t have a safety net either. And the safety net that was needed and either never existed or was shattered … that safety net needs to be replaced or re-created from the inside out. That takes time. It takes time individually. It takes time as a family. And it takes time as a community – local, national, and global.
It’s part of what I offer to help people do when they work with me … replace or re-create a safety net within. And then from the inside out into their lives.
To do that, they need to allow themselves to come to realize – if they haven’t realized already – that living without a safety net as a child led them to build a safety net themselves, as a child. So although they did the best they could for a youngster trying to take care of themselves, they built the kind of safety net a child would build – perhaps a 1-year old’s safety net; perhaps a 4-year old’s safety net; perhaps an 8-year old’s safety net. So the safety net may have helped them as a child, but it is a twisted, distorted, not really safe safety net for an adult. It has holes and knots in it and isn’t really very strong as a here and now safety net – inside or out.
Maybe a little boy had no safety net in his family. Maybe he was sexually abused as a child. Maybe he cried out ‘no’ when his abuser held him down, only to be smacked by the perpetrator in response. So in the face of no safety net, the little boy’s safety net in his mind became to never cry out ‘no.’
As time went on maybe he extended what he thought was his safety net to not saying ‘no’ at all. It might have kept him from being smacked, or worse, as a child. But it also kept him from saying ‘no’ or crying out as an adult at times when he needed to in order to keep himself and his loved ones safe.
Perhaps a little girl had no safety net in her family. Perhaps she was tricked by her family and then humiliated when she discovered she was tricked. Perhaps she built what she imagined as a little girl was a safety net – inaction. Just hiding out in her room and not taking action on anything when at all possible. It might have saved her from humiliation as a child, but as an adult, it led her into unsafety in ways she could have never imagined. For example, people could take advantage of her and her inaction. People could corner her and make her even more vulnerable than she already was and felt from childhood.
In these examples of safety nets lacking in childhood and built by children … we see a tragedy not only in the life of children in our world, but also in the life of the adults they become. Because growing in years and growing in size does not mean maturing. It just means growing in years and size. The child you once were is still alive inside you … needing help, needing healing, needing maturing, and needing real safety.
But who in our world offers to help children and adults create a new inner safety net?
A world so very focused on the external. A world so very focused on functioning. A world so very focused on symptoms. A world that supports the child alive inside, still starving for safety, to continue to use young ways to try to feel safe, and to find more and more ways to feel a respite from the unsafety s/he grew up with and the unsafety s/he still faces today. An example of this is the government suggested practice in the 1950’s of practice drills in case of a nuclear bomb – having children get under their desks in school “for their safety.” So … no saying ‘no’ and no taking action expands into addictions of all sorts to hold the pain and fear of the unsafety at bay. Drugs – street and medicinal – alcohol, television, politics, guns, football, sex, fights, and more. Even prayer and meditation can be misused to mask the lack of safety net that exists within and without.
Because we ignore the lack of safety nets we had as children … Because we ignore and hide from the continued lack of safety nets we have within as adults … Because we reflexively hold at bay the experience of young unsafety … we also hold at bay the experience of unsafety we live with today.
Unaware that any unsafety today will trigger our young experiences of unsafety …we are blind to the unsafety we live with. We are blind and deaf and numb to the truth that we have created the unsafety we live with today … out of our defenses against the unsafety we lived with as children. And we are blind, deaf, and numb to the awareness that the sense of powerlessness we feel in the face of the unsafety today is mostly the experience of powerlessness we felt in the face of unsafety as children long ago, being transferred by us onto today.
Perhaps we tried to get more and more safety by making more and more money, believing that huge amounts of money would one day make us safe. But then comes something like the recession of 2008 and … the safety net we tried to create in the outside world as a way to defend against the lack of safety net on the inside came crashing down. The safety net we tried to create in our late 1990-early 2000 world to defend against the lack of safety net in our world in the years of our childhood … disintegrated.
Maybe we tried to do all sorts of things, unconsciously believing they would create the safety net we didn’t have as a child, and hold at bay the pain and terror of that young lack of safety that still lives within us. Maybe we have destroyed our air and our water, destroyed our forests, our food, and our weather. Maybe we have destroyed our infrastructure. Maybe we have destroyed our travel. Maybe we have destroyed our health. Perhaps we’ve destroyed our politics, our government, our economy, our culture by indiscriminately falling for, accepting, and normalizing the destructive acting out by anybody at all – the lies, sexual abuse, cheating and stealing, bullying and threatening, and more.
Perhaps we have been unconsciously destroying our safety net in the outer world today as a result of trying to avoid facing the shattered safety net from long, long ago, still living in our minds, our hearts, and our bodies.
This is what happens when we defend against what lives within us instead of tending to it and healing it. What we originally defended against ends up being the very thing we create. Defending against a shattered or missing safety net, creates defenses that in the end create the very thing we were trying to defend against … a shattered safety net.
That’s what we’ve done in our world.
That’s what we’ve done in every arena of our world.
And no matter how big or how small, we have all played a part in it.
We all have to take responsibility for it.
We all need to take our part in healing and repairing it …
Starting with healing from the lack of safety net in our lives long ago.
Starting with healing from the lack of safety net still within our psyches and souls.
Starting with healing ourselves – from the inside out.
If we do not start from within ourselves, the safety net will never be truly repaired or re-created – within or without. Because we create from the inside out.
We cannot repair safety nets from the outside in and expect them to sustain over time.
We cannot repair individual safety nets from the outside in and expect them to sustain over time.
We cannot repair communal safety nets from the outside in and expect them to sustain over time.
Do you want a safety net in your outer world?
Then begin now:
Commit to get the help to heal to the root from the lack of safety net in your childhood and within yourself today.
Don’t be tricked by others who are also creating unsafety today by defending themselves against feeling the unsafety from their childhoods that still lives within them.
Don’t be duped or seduced into believing you can continue to hold at bay that painful lack of safety that’s been with you for years and years without consequences.
Don’t be fooled into thinking your holding your unsafety at bay will be safe for you, those you love, or the world as a whole.
It won’t. It isn’t.
Look what it has created in your world already.
Look what it has created in our world already.
Get the help to face it and work through it …
This is the real hope.
We all have this choice.
We all have this opportunity.
We all have this possibility.
And we all live with the consequences of our choices.
This is the real hope …
© Judith Barr, 2016
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP KEEP OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT
If you grow up without someone to welcome you, who you really are….
You don’t have a safety net.
If you grow up without someone to nourish and help you become more and more fully who you are, mind, body, heart, and soul …
You don’t have a safety net.
If you grow up without someone to nurture you into thriving as you …
You don’t have a safety net.
If you grow up with someone who interferes with who you are and who you are meant to develop into …
You don’t have a safety net.
If you grow up with someone who neglects the essence of who you are and your development of that essence into fullness …
You don’t have a safety net.
If you grow up with someone who colludes with someone else’s neglecting or interfering with who you are and have the potential to become …
You don’t have a safety net.
If truth be told, there are very few among us who had “good enough” parents who helped us to form a healthy, lasting internal safety net. And for those of us who didn’t … it is crucial we explore how our self-created safety nets were distorted.
Commit today to explore ways in which your own childhood experience affected your internal safety net. In the absence of the true safety net of attachment to a good enough parent, did you create your own distorted “safety net,” maybe one which led you to avoid owning your ‘no’ or led you to inaction, like the examples in the article … or maybe one which you act out in other ways, with the potential to create unsafety for yourself and those around you?
Working with your internal safety net can be very delicate work. Find a compassionate therapist, one who can safely help you explore and heal the wounding within, and help you create a truly healthy safety net inside.
Imagine what our lives, our children’s lives, the lives of our families, our communities, our world would be like if everyone worked to heal their inner wounding … creating lasting safety nets within themselves … and in doing so creating true, healthy, lasting safety in our world!
2 thoughts on “WHERE IS OUR SAFETY NET? WHICH ONE?”
This is beautiful Judith thank you for publishing such a heartfelt and eloquent piece of truth. It certainly resonates.
Dear Joanne . . .
And thank you for resonating with it, appreciating it, and reaching out to let me know.
May it reach, touch, resonate with, and inspire limitless people all over the world . . .
and help us reclaim our safety from the inside out.
Thanks and blessings, Joanne . . .