Will I Ever Feel Safe Again?
It’s hard for any of us to feel safe in what is, after all, an unsafe world.
Q I was adopted at a few weeks old. I started getting OCD when I was in junior school and would keep washing my hands and turning off light switches, because if I didn’t do it I felt something bad was going to happened to me.
My adopted mum was very critical towards me when I was growing up, and wouldn’t even let me speak to my friends without her listening in to my conversation all the time. She always made the world seem a dangerous place to me, and I never did go far from home. Now it’s really bad and I don’t trust myself to be alone. Do you think I can ever feel safe?
A Not being brought up and loved by the woman in whose womb you first lived – and with whom you made your first ‘bond’ – has been called ‘The Primal Wound’.
Your first few weeks of your life, the trauma of losing your birth mother, and then the type of bond you made with your ‘new mum’, will all still be very significant to you today.You have clearly been ‘storing up’ anxiety for many years as a result of your childhood experiences.
Your early trauma of being separated from your birth mother is ‘pre-verbal’ – you suffered both physical and emotional abandonment before you were old enough to understand it, or to be able to speak about it.
This trauma will have been stored away in both your body and your sub-conscious mind. It will probably now show itself in different ways, such as in physical ailments, or repeated ritual behaviours.
It will have had an effect upon how your brain works – particularly to do with the way you perceive the world and the ways you think, feel and react based upon the ‘brain chemistry’ which those early traumas set up for you.
It’s as if one part of your brain is overworking and another underworking. Too much emotion and not enough logic and reasoning.
Your adoptive mother probably meant well and was trying to keep you safe (in her own way) - but It didn't help you to feel safe and secure in the world.
If you can’t resolve the difficulties from the past with your adoptive mother now – either in person, or by letter or over the telephone/Skype – then you’ll have to let it go and focus solely upon healing your own emotional wounds.
Only you can make yourself feel safer… it’s a state of mind.
In my opinion you have to now ‘adopt the new-born you’ and start again – and get it right this time. You must give yourself what you needed from birth, to the time you were that scared little junior school kid.
You need to talk to 'little you' like the loving caring and sensitive parent that you needed. Give yourself the reassurance that you're not alone, and that you will always be there to take care of that vulnerable younger you. Together you will cope with whatever life throws at you.
Make sure you cuddle ‘little you’ very often. I know you haven’t learnt how to do that before, so it may feel awkward to you at first to show yourself the unconditional, consistent and reliable love and care that you need.
Be sure to get plenty of Oxytocin… the hormone which brings us feelings of safety and emotional bonding. It’s released inside us when we have real hugs that last for over 20 seconds. It’s essential for mental and physical health.
The dosage is…as much as you can get of those hugs!
It’s never too late to make up for the loving foundations that have been lacking from our lives.
So get cuddling and developing those feelings of safety, security and belonging – which are basic human needs we all share.
When you calm your body, you can then begin to calm your mind. This will start to change your ‘brain chemistry’ and bring you more pleasant feelings more of the time.
When your emotional brain is calm then you can make better use of the thinking part of your brain – and become the sensible, guiding and responsible ‘parent’ to yourself that you should have had all those years ago.
It’s hard for any of us to feel safe in what is, after all, an unsafe world; but I trust that you will feel safer when you can learn how to calm yourself down emotionally, so that you can then ‘think straight’, and have more balance and clarity in your life.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR
www.maxineharley.com - where you will find plenty of free and inexpensive resources to help you to understand and manage your emotional state - and to heal your early emotional wounds.