Emotional Safety and Mental Health: How Feeling Safe Impacts Our Well-Being
Updated: Oct 12
“Oh, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home,” said Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" after her adventures in the fantastical Land of Oz. This sentence is a reflection of her longing for the safety, comfort, and familiarity of her home, emphasizing the idea that a home is a place of emotional safety and security. The context for her sentence might be different, but the statement itself holds strong emotions. ‘Home’ is a word that most of us long for, and it's the safest place we can turn to. The sense of belongingness, safety, and support comes from home. But what if there is no place like home, or say, no safe place to turn to when needed? Isn’t that thought itself scary? But most importantly, what is ‘home’? Is it a place or an emotion?
The state of being safe is crucial to us humans—physically and emotionally. So, let’s delve deeper into the concept of emotional safety and its role in our daily lives.
What is EMOTIONAL SAFETY?
Firstly, let’s break down the terms ‘emotional’ and ‘safety’. ‘Emotion’ is a word related to one’s feelings, and the word ‘safety’ means protection from any danger or harm. However, we’ve forgotten the basics of life, and emotional safety is one of the significant fragments of it.
When we talk about emotional safety, we create a space for others to let them be their true selves.
Why is EMOTIONAL SAFETY important?
It’s an important aspect when establishing any kind of relationship. For instance, when a parent provides emotional safety to their children, the child can express their true feelings without the fear of scolding, yelling, or rejection. Similarly, when a partner or a friend provides emotional safety, it is easier for the other person to open up and be their authentic selves without any fear of judgment, shaming, or rejection.
It’s a two way street; when you and the other person provide a safe space for each other, it can miraculously transform both of your lives. Creating a safe place for others also means opening a door to getting the same feelings in return. Creating a safe and healthy environment for relationships helps strengthen and grow our bond with other people.
When you are emotionally safe, your physiology changes. The physical symptoms, such as heart rate and respiration go down while the signs of stress lessen, fostering mental well-being. Emotional safety encourages not only the sense of being comfortable in one’s skin but also unraveling more about oneself.
Lack of EMOTIONAL SAFETY
For the brain, emotional and physical pain are practically the same. And when we lack emotional safety, it is similar to being in a constant fight or flight state. If someone has been through an emotionally unsafe childhood, they may experience emotion regulation issues. In such cases, the person’s brain, as a reflex to threat, can go into survival mode to protect from harm.
The scars could be from any experience such as an abusive relationship, an emotionally/physically unsafe childhood, a bunch of bullies from school/college, or any experiences that generated feelings of shame, degradation, rejection, judgment, or any similar emotions. The feeling of being emotionally unsafe might come off as—
Feeling judged and bad about yourself
Not being able to express or be yourself
Lack of trust
Avoiding making new connections
How to build EMOTIONALLY SAFE SPACE?
For living a mentally healthy life, emotional safety is as important as any other need. There should be at least one safe place, a person, where you can feel safe being yourself. Preferably, there should be more than just one because one relationship can’t be burdened with every need. That way it might lead to emotional exhaustion or burnout.
To build an emotionally safe place, TRUST is the crux of it. Without trust, the feeling of safety is not possible. Trust can’t be built with lies, shaming, or blaming. It is built with honesty, authenticity, integrity, kindness and compassion. Other practices can be beneficial to build an emotionally safe environment such as—
Not judging but being curious and asking questions
No blame games
Being okay with mistakes
Everyone needs to feel protected, embraced, and accepted in this world. And this need is equally important as food, air, water, and shelter. But to create an emotionally safe environment, it is also necessary to be in tune with your emotions. So, starting with yourself and radiating the same is the best you could start with.
Let’s accept the differences and diversity.
Let’s be non-judgemental.
Let’s be ourselves.
Written by: Mrunal Ratna (Co-founder at TIMO)
Proofread & edited by: Rubal Prajapati (Counseling Psychologist and Ph.D. Scholar at Bharathiar University)