When Safety in Numbers Isn't Safe
Just in case I need to clarify, I understand the meaning of ‘safety in numbers’; however, I’m beginning to see our experience of the world in a much different light these days. Truthfully, my insight occurred about 3 years ago when one of my sons revealed that he was rather upset about his upbringing. Being a single mom, I did the best I could with what I had and knew at the time; however, while that may have been the case when they were wee ones, by the time he said something, I had taken on a lot of soul searching and personal growth so that I could live with inner peace, grace and ease instead of the train wreck I felt like I had become. So, after listening to him and hearing his concerns, all I could do was apologize for how my chaotic ways impacted him. I told him that the best explanation I had was that I never felt safe within myself. Said another way …. I spent a good portion of my life beating myself up for nearly everything. I walked around feeling guilty, ashamed, unworthy, and above all unacceptable. Yes, I was their mother, but didn’t believe I deserved the honor. There was plenty of evidence to validate my thoughts ….. So, I doubted everything about myself and not surprisingly, the world reflected every bit of it back to me. Needless to say, this only added fuel to the fire. The more unsafe the world appeared to be, the greater my unease or dis-ease, as I like to call it. Just thinking about this ‘scenario’ is rather interesting; I mean, there I was amidst my ‘tribe’ feeling completely unsafe. Don’t get me wrong; to all onlookers, everything appeared unruffled but that’s just it …. safety, like beauty, runs deep. Our challenge is we’ve trained ourselves to relate only to what our eyes see and pay little, if any, attention to what we feel. Therefore, we behave accordingly. In my situation, as long as everything remained status quo, there was safety; yet, I shudder to think back on the amount of unease it took to appear safe ……. talk about effort!
Without going into a big story, allow me to say this …. I grew up like most people; in a home with rules and expectations. Because I am my own person, I came equipped with my own ‘processing unit’ whereby I filtered and interpreted everything I saw, heard and touched in ways that made sense to me. Keep in mind, everyone around me was doing the same thing. The understandable breakdown was that I was infused with other people’s theories, just like everyone else is …. this is the natural course of industrialized evolution. We come into this world needing to be taught. The irony of this is no one really knows anything outside of their experience … everything beyond that is pure speculation! Why? Because, each of us has our own way of processing information … for as similar as we appear, there are significant differences at the DNA level which alter both our chemistry and brain structure, thereby making everyone Divinely unique (that’s all I’m going to say about that for the time being … let me know if you have any questions). When it comes to my experience, a lot of what I saw and heard conflicted with what I felt; however, I was raised to mind my parents and take their word over mine. How could I possibly know what was right or wrong? They were the experienced grown-ups and I wanted to be the good girl which was very important at the time. Our lives were being rocked by a number of circumstances and somebody needed to help keep things as peaceful as possible; so, I took it upon myself to be that person. Fast forward 10 years and I was so confused. More importantly, scared … my insides thought and felt differently in many situations and I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. Surely there was someone else besides me that thought like me …… essentially, I felt unacceptable and doubted my very existence. Life was becoming increasingly painful; although, not because of anyone else. It was all due to the punitive voices coming from within. I desperately needed to feel acceptable and that I belonged somewhere.
As it goes with everything, the world is a constant reflection of our inner world; therefore, it wasn’t hard for me to meet other kids that shared my woes. From there, the rest is history, as they say. We engaged in activities that relieved the pain and provided the illusion of connection. We felt in control and acceptable. What more could we ask for?
My story includes drugs, alcohol and disordered eating. While I successfully stopped using drugs and alcohol after several years, my troubles with food continued for decades. You see, addiction is a dis-ease that is indicated by changes within the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway of the brain. What this means is the way the brain processes information is altered; thereby, affecting behavior. That said, simply eliminating these substances wasn’t enough … the behaviors continued even though they were presented differently. (keep in mind, I was well versed at maintaining appearances). No one knew I was battling an eating disorder. What’s more, I became quite good with deception and the toxic need for people to accept me. Understandably and unfortunately, this is what my son called me on, once he was a married man. However, I must admit, six years prior to his search for answers, I embarked on a spiritual journey that separated me from my kids. They were essentially grown, living on their own, with the exception of my youngest who wanted to live with his dad anyway. Looking back, I understand why he wanted the change; back then, it was something I took very personally. No surprise there … we take things personally when we lack inner peace. How this shows up in the world and what we do with it depends on the individual.
Interestingly enough, if we take a broader look at this, we can see exactly how lack of inner safety is impacting the world. Inner safety and inner peace are truly one and the same and it’s for this reason that safety in numbers is an illusion when the individuals in the group are struggling with being safe within themselves. The solidarity is weak because the foundation is unstable. We must remember that everyone is processing and filtering information on their terms and the only way to establish genuine safety is by accepting our different perspectives and being open to their possible contribution rather than judging or thinking any outside ideas are a threat. Essentially, I believe we all face our own level of self-doubt and judgment as a result of the way the world operates. For as much as I wish to see everyone come to a place of inner safety, my heart yearns to help those afflicted with addiction whether they are the individual living with it or the surrounding family members. It took me 6 years of deliberate searching to come to this realization. I actually moved around quite a bit during that time and the same son actually said at one point, ‘I hope you find what you’re looking for’. Little did he know what I was seeking; however, once I did, the disordered eating ceased and my life unfolded in ways I never dreamed possible.
I share my views and understanding because I know addiction all too well. It’s not uncommon to hear ‘addiction kills’; however, I wonder if we really know to what extent. While I didn’t lose my life, I did lose my family. My parents had their habits as I had mine and even though I never held anything against them, the same cannot be said for them. Our foundation was rocky and our vision clouded. I couldn’t hear them, and they couldn’t hear me; however, they didn’t see their behaviors as the problem because alcohol and mood stabilizing medications are ok. I say this to make a point and that is we never sought help. We lived in the space of good / bad, right / wrong which did nothing but perpetuate the lack of inner safety. I didn’t want to be the bad daughter and at the same time, had no idea what to do with the inner mess. Needless to say, this is what motivated my journey and inspires me to help other people find their way to rise above. It’s for this reason, I stand behind inner safety … it is what connects us to our inner wisdom as well as to the hearts of those we love.