Enjoying relationships that are close and tender and trusting, or in other words, intimate, is the fruit of cultivating safe places.
Consider your words: Do you laugh at or criticize other people’s ideas or opinions? Do you, in word or expression or even with body language cause others to feel the need to withhold their real selves? (How I wish I could say no, never! to each of these questions!)
Our tender-sides are those we tend to protect! What self-protective behaviors might you be seeing in your spouse or children? Are they confident enough in your response to them to show you the small child that resides in them? To show their hopes and dreams, their fears and challenges? Can they trust you to keep their confidences and honor their wishes?
Self-protection looks like: withholding ideas or opinions and only sharing a guarded exterior self; keeping to themselves; not confiding in you; being careful, trying to say what they think you want to hear.
Do you know someone with whom you feel absolutely safe? Someone who gives you the sense that no matter what you say or what you’ve done that they will love you and withhold judgement of you?
If you do, you are blessed! That is a priceless friend and advocate! Because when we are free to be ourselves and to feel loved and thoroughly accepted, we can really learn! We can accept feedback because we don’t have to use up our brain power and energy on self-protection, we can just hear what is said knowing we are still loved the same.
I hope that some of these thoughts are helpful. They have come to me through the miriad of experiences I’ve had as a wife and mother, daughter, sister and friend.
May you be able to offer safe spaces to those you love, and may you be the recipient of generous and true friends— even, no especially, those within your family.
P.S. Crazy though it is, that critical and demeaning attitude we all can have at times is a self-protective behavior too! So while we’re trying to guard ourselves, we’re giving others the signal that they need to guard themselves from us! Aaaarg!!! What a vicious cycle! This is one more reason to practice declarations every day and to cultivate safeness with our own selves. If you are mentally cutting on yourself, you are going to be feeling defensive whether you realize it or not…and that will keep this defensive/offensive cycle running in your relationships.
”I can change.”
”I love myself and I like myself.”
”I am human and I forgive myself of past mistakes.”
”I am a good person striving to be better.”
”I love others as I love myself, with gentle kindness and true acceptance.”