There are endless reasons that cause someone to feel unsafe in their environment. You might experience conflict with your family or with your partner from time to time that causes you to feel uncomfortable in your own home. You might struggle with the kinds of people your roommates bring around, leaving you to keep to yourself in your own room. Living in a safe environment becomes even more important when you are struggling with addiction or other mental health conditions. Environment plays a crucial role in one’s healing, especially because once you feel safe in your environment, you can begin to feel safe with yourself.
Feeling Safe vs. Being Safe
The term “safe” can be defined as being free from danger, harm, or hurt. There is a significant difference between feeling safe versus being safe, and knowing the difference can help you to understand what changes you need to make to your unsafe environment. Feeling safe means that you feel that you are free from anticipated or perceived harm or hurt, whether that be physically or emotionally. Feeling safe in your environment means that you have a sense of control over the environment itself. In times when we feel unsafe, we may acknowledge symptoms of anxiety or fear. Alternatively, being safe means that you are actually free from any harm or hurt. To be safe, you experience no threat of physical or mental harm.
Finding Safety in Your Environment
It is important to acknowledge that there are different environments to consider when understanding how to feel or be safe. Understanding these different environments can help you to know what changes need to be made to create a healthier living situation for yourself and for others. In general, consider internal and external environments:
- Internal environments are comprised of one mental and emotional capabilities and functioning. When someone does not feel safe in their own mind, they might experience a lack of control over thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.
- External environments are comprised of anything outside of oneself. It is normal to question your safety in external environments, such as your living space, work environment, or school environment.
If you find yourself wondering what you could do to feel safer in your internal environment, solutions will be quite different than if you were searching for ways to feel safer in your external environment. For example, an individual that experiences auditory hallucinations may feel unsafe in their mind because they are hearing voices that are not their own. Treatment for this person would not be to change their external environment but instead may involve psychotherapy or medication to help bring these hallucinations to a halt. Likewise, someone feeling unsafe in their external environment might only find a resolution when switching their environment entirely.
How Can I Find Safety in My Internal Environment?
Whether you are feeling unsafe in your external or internal environment, the first step to feeling safe is to identify the cause of your perceived or anticipated harm. Once you are able to label the cause of you feeling uncomfortable or unsafe, you will be better able to know what resources to utilize in your next steps.
Many life situations and circumstances can lead one to feel unsafe in their own internal environment or mind. To feel safe in your own mind, various therapy treatments and coping skills can be used. After identifying what is leading to you feeling unsafe in your own mind, locate resources or treatments that specialize in your threat. For example, the common experience of loss can become overwhelming, causing a person to feel unsafe in their own thoughts. You may benefit from seeing a therapist, or attending a support group, that specializes in grief and loss. If you feel emotionally unsafe in your relationships, you may benefit from therapy that helps you to identify and cope with distress.
Finding Safety in External Environments
On the other hand, feeling unsafe in your external environment can be a bit more challenging to find solutions for. If you are under the age of being considered an adult, it may only be more difficult to foster a healthy living situation for yourself. Like before, assess what factors in your environment are leading to you feeling unsafe. It could be the location of your home, the people you live with, the conversations that are brought up, or even substance use triggers. Once you label the factors affecting your ability to feel safe, consider the options you have to initiate necessary changes.
Oftentimes, feeling unsafe may be at the cause of others. If this is the case, there is little chance that a conversation will solve the problem. Consider alternative living options if you feel physically unsafe with the people you live with. Here are some suggestions on how you can feel safe during challenging times:
- Highlight and utilize your choice of self-care techniques
- Remember that no means no
- Be a safe place for others to confide in and to lean into
- Feel your emotions fully as they surface
- Grieve your losses
- Brighten your surroundings
- Play music or have your television on when you are alone
- Set boundaries
- Have an emergency contact
We all experience feeling unsafe in an environment from time to time. In order to know how to feel safe, you must understand the difference between feeling safe and being safe. Feeling safe in your environment means that you have no anticipated or perceived threat to your well-being while being safe means that you experience no threat of physical or mental harm. Many of us will consider how safe we feel in both our internal (mind) and external (outside of self) environment. To locate how to feel safe in any environment, it is important to label the cause and threat of harm. Once you find the root of why you feel unsafe, you will be able to locate proper resources to help you establish safety once again. West Coast believes that feeling safe in your environment is an essential component to healing in recovery. For information about the treatments we offer, call us at (760) 492-6509.