Safe Person Tool
There are many tools we can use to achieve unconditional self love; mindfulness and lovingkindness practices are primary in Buddhist philosophy. I will be posting here about those and many other means I use and teach to move toward inner and outer peace. In this blog entry my topic is ‘safe person’. Please feel welcome to comment about this post and about your own practices to help you with self acceptance.
Last night my friend Shahara Godfrey and I taught about compassion and lovingkindess, particularly as they apply to our own selves, at the East Bay Meditation Center. I have co-led two daylong teachings there before (‘Dharma and Music’ with Anushka Fernandopulle and ‘A Day with Kwan Yin’ with Shahara) but this was my first time teaching as a potential regular teacher there (I will co-teach twice there this year, then, in the new year, will be teaching on my own).
So there I am. I’ve been a meditation practitioner for 22 years; a music and drama teacher all of my adult life; a performer since childhood; a dharma teacher since 2006; an ‘official’ (i.e. trained and certified) dharma teacher for a year. Thousands of hours of reading philosophy and psychology; being in therapy, and going to twelve step groups. Every day I meditate and pray. I am sitting next to a friend for whom I feel real love.
And I am seized with the conviction that I am not good enough.
I developed this ‘core belief’ in childhood, at times when my needs were not met. You know how it is with kids. When our lives hurt we usually figure it’s our fault. Problem is, that kind of core belief sticks around long after childhood fades and we realize that our childhood pain was not our fault.
I’ve learned through years of work that a crucial tool for dealing with the triggering of a negative core belief is to talk about it with a safe person. So, step one: have a safe person. For some this is easy and obvious, but for some it is not. How to have a safe person? Be authentic and keep reaching out, even when it means some people will reject you. Eventually someone will ‘get’ you. Then, keep coming back to that/those people. The ones who are safe and kind and don’t secretly scare you a little bit.
My girlfriend Diane is a safe person for me. So I came home from teaching, all triggered out, and just told her about my experience and feelings. She said nice things, but she didn’t have to. All she really had to do was listen, which she did. I told the whole story, and she didn’t reject me. And within an hour I realized that in fact I had done a great job, that what I teach about (unconditional self love) is a beautiful and important thing. I have very wonderful quotes and poems and readings and songs to share as a part of my teaching. Also, I was with Shahara, and she is a wonderful teacher. The trigger for feeling ‘not good enough’ is sometimes just being my authentic, enthused self in front of a group of strangers.
But I can have faith in the intention and beauty of the path I am on with many others, and my own imperfect self on that path. Sometimes walking toward real healing and goodness – in my own heart and in what I share with others – feels like walking through peanut butter. It is so slow and laborious. But I keep heading forward because what are the other choices? I don’t want to pretend and I don’t want to give up.
Loving ourselves is a prerequisite to truly loving the world. We need to love ourselves without aggrandizement or denial. Then we can love everyone else with so much less judgment and barrier. Letting each other be who we are with genuine presence and love. Doesn’t that sound good? Like, what we need?
There are so many different tools I use and teach to head toward this goal. One of them is the safe person tool. Even if you are frightened, it is so important to put yourself out there and find at least one safe person who can hear and hold your whole true self, your whole true experience. I know it can be really hard to do but if you don’t have a safe person in your life right now you can find one. They are there. We are there. Risk it, and be persistent, and be brave, and patient. We are there.
Let’s practice being that for each other.