Recently, I have had misgivings about schools and colleges setting up “safe places” where students beliefs or values are not challenged by others. Paradoxically, I believe strongly in the need for safe places – but for me, this is not about creating a public space that feels safe for a particular person or group. I believe that each of us can create our own “safe place” – within ourselves.
It was common in the 60’s and 70’s for sophomores to be used for sociological or psychological experiments (with permission of the class or individual). My first experience of such an experiment really puzzled me.
The class was asked to watch a short video and then answer questions. Scattered throughout the lecture hall were graduate psychology “plants” whose job it was to give the wrong answer. Eg. “Did the young man have curly hair?” We were supposed to raise our hand if we agreed with this statement. The plants all raised their hands and predictably those of us near a plant raised a hand. Slowly, more and more hands went up, agreeing with that statement. However, since the man’s hair was straight, there were some in the class who did not raise a hand. The people who went against the majority suffered strong disapproval: glowering, nasty comments, head shaking. It was shocking that those who went against the incorrect majority opinion were bullied. Such is the power of a group.
Would you have been swayed?.
I believe that when our safe place is our own deep understanding of who we are, we will have the courage to be true to our own experience of an event and less vulnerable to bullying.
So, how do you create your private safe place?
Before I had children, I found spaces outdoors where I would not be interrupted: a sitting rock, the crook of a tree, a “grotto” under low hanging branches of an evergreen tree. However, as a wife, career woman, and mother, it was difficult to find the privacy to simply be myself. Even the bathroom was not safe from the calls of “Mumeeee, I need you.”
Fortunately, I loved to run. My private time began at 6am before the family was up. I would run over to the local high school and take several spins around the track. I had a few rules: no thinking about work or family problems; stay focused on how my body felt; be present to the moment. Some days I was rewarded with clarity and a deep connection to myself that set the tone for my whole day.
Any activity you enjoy can become a place where you experience your essential self. Even every day tasks, if you focus on them, can take you out of the world and the roles you play. When you are centered, you have arrived at your “safe place.”