24 12 2012
Meeting Safety Needs
Excerpt From The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand
and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life by Kevin B. Burk
One of the most valuable life skills we can learn is how to
meet our safety needs. We are responsible for maintaining
the minimum balance in our safety accounts. When we learn to
meet our own safety needs, every area of our lives–including
our relationships–improves dramatically. Meeting our own
safety needs is relatively simple. Meeting other people’s
safety needs, however, is a bit more complicated.
MEETING OUR OWN SAFETY NEEDS
When we realize that we feel unsafe or that our
fight-or-flight response is active, the first thing we must
do is evaluate if we are actually in a dangerous or
threatening situation. If we feel unsafe walking through a
deserted parking lot in the middle of the night, we should
certainly honor that feeling and stay on our guard! When
used correctly, the fight-or-flight response is designed to
save our lives. We simply need to learn how to weed out the
false alarms. If we feel unsafe and there is no reasonable
threat to our life or limb, then our fight-or-flight
response was activated by our egos, and we can safely
The most common reason that we feel unsafe is that we are
projecting our attention into the future or the past. Our
power only exists in the present; when we worry about the
past or the future, we give away our power and feel unsafe.
The “Present Moment Safety Exercise” on the following page
can help to return our awareness to the present moment, and
bring the balance in our master safety account back to its
Often, in order to feel safe enough to even do this
exercise, we need to create some space. If we’re feeling
unsafe in a discussion or an argument, we may need to simply
walk away–to take a few moments to let our tempers cool.
Even though our partner in the discussion may not pose an
actual physical threat to us, if we’re experiencing boundary
violations in the discussion, we will need to reinforce our
boundaries and reclaim our space before we can address our
PRESENT MOMENT SAFETY EXERCISE
Stop whatever it is that you are doing and take a few deep,
If possible, find somewhere to sit or lie down, and then let
yourself feel supported by the chair, floor, bed or sofa.
As you become aware of your body, and aware of your
breathing, feel your mind begin to quiet.
Gently release your attachments to any thoughts and simply
observe any activity of your mind.
Softly draw your awareness back to the present moment. The
more we worry about the past or the future, the more unsafe
we feel. The only place we have any power is in the present
Experience the truth that in the present moment you are
safe. The past has already happened, and the future does not
exist yet. Remember that we create our futures through our
Take a moment to feel the truth that in the present
moment–in this moment, and in every moment–you are
supported, safe and nurtured. Because you are an
individualized aspect of All That Is, your needs are
Let your awareness rest on your breath. Let your mind quiet.
And for a few moments, simply be. Simply experience what it
feels like to be completely safe, completely supported.
You can now consider your current situation from this place
of safety, support, and power. You can evaluate your options
objectively. You are free to make the most elegant choices
available to you. You choose, knowing that your choices
create your reality. You choose to experience the truth that
you are fully supported in this moment and in the next. And
these choices create a present and a future where your needs
continue to be met easily and effortlessly.
MEETING OTHER PEOPLE’S SAFETY NEEDS
Meeting other people’s safety needs is often a tricky
proposition. In our intimate relationships, it’s appropriate
for us to explore emotional connections with our partners.
We can look for ways to nurture and protect our partners,
and expect our partners to nurture and protect us. It’s
rarely appropriate to do this in professional or casual
relationships, however. Unless we share an intimate personal
connection with someone, it’s difficult to meet his or her
safety needs directly. The most we can do is to avoid making
them feel unsafe. We do this by respecting their boundaries.
Other people’s boundaries are not always easy to recognize,
however. Sometimes the only way we can recognize a boundary
is by inadvertently crossing it and making our partner feel
unsafe. Often, our partners didn’t even realize that they
had this particular boundary until we crossed it. Once we’ve
become aware of the boundary, however, we can own it. We can
step back, and take responsibility for crossing the
boundary. And we can choose to respect that boundary from
this point on. We are now both aware of this particular
boundary, but more importantly, we are both aware that the
boundary will be respected. The boundary is now stronger,
and our partner is now able to feel more safe. So how can
you tell if you’ve crossed a boundary that not even your
partner knew existed in the first place? Body language is
the best indication that you may have stepped over a line
and made someone feel unsafe. When we feel unsafe, we adjust
our bodies to protect ourselves. We may:
–Cross our arms in front of our chests.
–Lean forward and drop our heads (breaking eye contact).
–Round our shoulders (expressing the desire to curl up into
a ball to protect ourselves).
–Clench our teeth and tighten our jaw.
–Stop responding to our partner and disengage from the
–Change our tone of voice and become more defensive.
–Raise our voices.
–Speak more emphatically.
If you notice any of these behaviors in your partner, you
have crossed a line and made your partner feel unsafe. And
if you notice any of these behaviors in yourself, then
you’re feeling unsafe because your partner has crossed one
of your boundaries.
In any event, whether you’re feeling unsafe or you’ve made
your partner feel unsafe, what you need to create is some
space to defuse the threat.
–If it’s possible and appropriate to move away from your
partner by taking a step back, or moving your chair.
–Change your body position so that you’re leaning away from
–Take a few deep breaths, and return your awareness to the
–Check your voice and body language. (The louder and more
rapidly we speak, the more aggressive we appear.)
–Slow down, and shift your body into a neutral and
–Uncross your arms and leave the front of your body open
and unprotected. (This makes you vulnerable and demonstrates
that you are not a threat.)
If you’ve made someone feel unsafe through your choice of
words or subject matter, it’s important that you not pursue
that particular subject. If appropriate, you can acknowledge
that you may have inadvertently become too personal, and
apologize. Remember, when we recognize and take
responsibility for crossing a boundary, we make our partners
Kevin B. Burk is the author of The Relationship Handbook:
How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your
Life. Visit http://www.everyrelationship.com for a FREE
report on creating AMAZING Relationships.