A Safe Place
“My cat Charles, who is eighteen years old, has many hiding places. When he is in one of these a subtle change comes over him. No longer is he vigilant and wary, assessing the environment for its potential threats. In his hiding places, he seems at peace and unafraid.
“These places are many and varied. Some are classic feline sanctuaries: under the bed, behind the drapes, or in the closet. Others are unique to the house we share. … One of them is in plain sight, a spot on the living room rug. When Charles is in this spot, he draws about himself the usual inviolateness of all his other hiding spaces. … In full view, he is calm and relaxed. …
“In a book about Spain, I remember reading an interesting fact about bullfighting. There is a place in the bullring where the bull feels safe. If he can reach this place, he stops running and can gather his full strength. He is no longer afraid. From the point of view of his opponent, he becomes dangerous.
“In bullfighting, the safe place is called the querencia. For humans the querencia is a place in our inner world. … Sometimes it is a viewpoint, a position from which to conduct a life, different for each person. Often it is simply a place of deep inner silence. …
“In working with people with cancer, I have seen the change which happens when a person finds their querencia. In full view of the Matador, they are calm and peaceful. … The inner silence is more secure than any hiding place.” ~Rachel Naomi Remen, MD
Having a Safe Place
We do all need a safe place, and fortunately, most of us have one, or more. Some may be internal (mental) as the quote indicates, but some can be physical too, just as with Charles, the cat. As a Cancer, anywhere in my house is, to a large degree, a safe place. It is my sanctuary. Yet within it, some areas are safer than others. I feel extra safe in my bedroom and my home office, less so in the kitchen or living room.
I also feel safe when I am practicing spiritual growth techniques, and, in a sense, going within as mentioned in the quote. This is a mental safe place rather than a physical one, yet works just as well. In fact, all safe places are really mental. Inside my house is really no safer than many other places I could be, yet my Cancer Homebody attitude makes me feel safe at home. A mental safe place as well as a physical.
Organized Safe Place
Today, fortunately, many who don’t feel physically safe for one reason or another can turn to organized safe places, or safe houses, for help. They try to offer actual physical safety to certain people rather than just a mental feeling of safety. A major one called Safe Place provides safe places for troubled youth. There are others with different names for abused spouses, unmarried pregnant women, homeless people, and so on. While this is certainly a good thing, especially for those who are in physical danger, or at least feel they are, it isn’t always the answer. Sometimes we don’t really need to literally hide in a safe place. We may just need to go within to an imaginary place that feels safe.
Inner Safe Place
Remen tells the story of one man who had cancer and would turn to an inner safe place. There, he imagined himself an infant again in his mother’s arms. It made him feel safe and loved and helped him get well.
In many spiritual groups, you are told to turn within and withdraw from the world. You try to blank out the mind completely when you do this. That method may help some with spiritual development, but it isn’t what seeking a safe place is all about.
When I am stressed out for some reason, one way I can find a safe place is to imagine I am on a beach. Not just any beach, but one I have been to before on vacation. Since a vacation is a pleasant experience, My stress is elevated by doing that. It is not a safe place from physical attacks, hurricanes, or earthquakes, but it is a safe place from stress and worry. As Remen mentions, the safe place for each of us may be different, what matters is that it works.
Junk Food is Not a Good Safe Place
One thing I caution people about: don’t get in the habit of letting some type of junk food be your safe place. There are those who, when stressed or afraid, will eat ice cream, candy, or chips. Others will drink alcohol. Those things may temporarily make you feel better, but none of them is a truly safe place. That is because later on, you will regret turning to this method. It may not be the next day. It may be years later when you are eighty pounds overweight or visiting a doctor because of damage done by alcohol or junk food binging. If you do this, try to break the habit now by using one of the other methods mentions. Find a safe place in your house, your neighborhood, or with your family. Turn inside to a safe place such as that beach, or an amusement park. Imagine doing what makes you happy. Much better than binge-eating junk food.