We tend to not feel safe when times are chaotic. At this moment, with so much unrest and uncertainty, chaos seems almost ubiquitous. This is one of the reasons for the unprecedented polarity and extreme emotion running rampant all over the world. Chaos comes from fear—a darkness deep inside that holds all of our unresolved feelings from long ago.
We all have this residue from earlier experiences that left us feeling insecure, vulnerable, and generally unsafe. We coped as best we could when the original traumas took place, but those self-protective strategies remained. We learned early to fight, flee, freeze, or fawn (placate). These were once helpful for our self-preservation, but now they’ve become a hindrance. The very tactics that once turned a frightening situation into something mildly manageable have done a U-turn and now do us more harm than good.
Why? Because those self-preserving strategies were meant to be temporary, getting us out of an acute crisis, not permanent. The only way to truly feel safe is to heal these old wounds.
How? Own them, look into them as a non-critical, non-judgmental observer. Talk to the younger parts of yourself who endured the difficulties and assure those children that they are completely loved and accepted. Explain that the chaos they had to tolerate is over and they are safe. You are with them now and all is well.
Remember, chaos can come in many forms. Sometimes it’s obvious—the clutter, noise, intense emotion, and scattered energy that litters a space to the point of being unrecognizable is but one form. Many other forms are deceptively subtle.
Let’s say someone you love walks into a room with mixed emotions. Their mind is spinning with disparate thoughts and they want you to listen or help them. They’ve shown up in your sensitive space with their brand of chaos. When they leave, if you aren’t really centered and balanced it might feel as if you just got beaten up; you might feel exhausted; or you might find you own old traumas getting triggered.
This is also what chaos looks, sounds, and feels like. It doesn’t feel safe, unless you’re really on your game. None of us is prepared perfectly for an encounter like this all the time so, chances are, you’ll find yourself in the path of someone else’s chaos from time to time and won’t always know what to do. Here are a few suggestions to help you navigate these waters. The more you practice these tips, the easier it will be to bring them forward when they’re most needed.
1) Breathe. We feel more balanced and safer when we can take long, low-belly breaths. They help slow down the body/mind/spirit system so we can better maintain our equilibrium.
2) Feel your emotions and then let them flow by like a river. You’re acknowledging and validating their presence without letting them pull you under.*
3) Remind yourself that you are safe. The chaos doesn’t belong to you; it’s the other person’s. No matter what, you and your inner children are 100% safe.
4) Take the time to use involved detachment. This means you care, but are not melding into the other person’s drama. Maintain a mental and emotional distance and you won’t get caught up in the trauma revival.
5) Lastly, if you choose to engage with a chaotic individual, remember to respond, rather than react. Reactions are emotional and carry lots of intensity, which just fuels the fire. Responses are more thoughtful, much less intense, and often can defuse a charged conversation.
If you can remember to employ any or all of these tactics, you’ll feel like you not only did yourself a favor, but helped the other person, too. Of course, if they are invested in creating “misery” company for themselves, this routine might disappoint them. If that’s the case, the other person is free to make his/her own choices. At least you won’t be any worse for wear.
*For a deeper healing, wait until you’re alone, close your eyes, and go inward. Ask yourself why you felt these emotions. What are they connected to and what are they trying to tell you? Think of these feelings as teachers and learn what is necessary in order to continue your growth.