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  • Hayley O'Brien

Are you unsafe or uncomfortable?



Moving from surviving to healing can be a long and tiring process. At any given moment, we can be safe or unsafe. We can be comfortable or uncomfortable. It’s important to note that safety and comfort are different things. Before Covid, I had the pleasure of attending a training with Pathlight Behavioral Health & Eating Recovery Center that did such a good job highlighting the difference between safety and comfort.


Part of what makes the healing process so challenging is often times we feel comforted by dangerous behavior (self harm, substance abuse, eating disorder behavior, abusive relationships, etc...) Unsafe doesn’t always mean you FEEL unsafe. We have our dorsal vegal response to thank for this - The part of our nervous system that shuts our body DOWN. We feel dissociative, collapsed, frozen. In this state we are most susceptible danger but we don’t feel like we are. Until you start to feel uncountable here, it can be hard to want to change. 


Ultimately, feeling unsafe and uncomfortable can be a motivating force. This is typically what pushes folks to seek treatment. The “I've had enough!” feeling. Or “this sucks” feeling. These feelings are helpful! They usually get us to want to try something new. Maybe see what all this healing is about...


The roadblock that most people hit is finding how uncomfortable SAFE behavior feels. 


“So wait - you’re telling me I just gave up that shitty uncomfortable situation for this shitty and uncomfortable situation?”


That’s right! Welcome to healing. 


The truth is that with time you will have moments that feel both safe AND comfortable. It takes a while for your body to trust this safety but when it does, these safe moments may turn into longer stretches.


*My blog is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for therapy or medical care.

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