Feeling Safe

by | May 22, 2020

Barton Nature Area, Ann Arbor

I started thinking about safety the other day when the elastic strap on my favorite mask broke.  I had grown attached to that mask and gave it credit for keeping me safe.  I never thought I would grow attached to a mask.  Who would have imagined something like that before the coronavirus?  Like most athletes and former athletes, I have a bit of a superstitious streak in me and don’t like to change up my routines when it feels like I’m winning.  In these pandemic times, winning means you haven’t gotten the virus.  I guess it also means you’re still employed.

I started thinking about safety long before the elastic strap on my mask broke, which means that I was also thinking about danger.  Safety and danger are different sides of the same coin—just as love and fear are different sides of the same coin.  I had a colleague who insisted that every moment was a choice between love and fear.  This same colleague also insisted that reincarnation was as real as adolescence.  She apparently began reading about reincarnation in her teens when she became an orphan.  I haven’t read much about reincarnation, but I am open to the idea of living more than one life.

I can remember being in first grade and having the fantasy of living by myself in a dome made of diamond.  My fantasy wasn’t about a longing for luxury—more about a longing for safety.  I overheard my brother say that diamonds were even harder than steel, so I figured that no one could ever hurt you in a dome made of diamond.  I never told my parents about my fantasy.  This isn’t to say they wouldn’t have been able to relate, since they also seemed preoccupied with safety and danger.  My dad would lock the front door when he went to the curb to get the mail.

As a psychologist, I try to help people feel safer by processing and letting go of times when they felt endangered.  If I were in the home security business, I would install an alarm system in their homes to achieve the same goal.  However, there seems to be little correlation between how safe people feel and how safe they actually are.  If you view the world as a dangerous place, you can own the best alarm system on the market and still not feel secure.  Security seems to be more about letting down your guard than figuring out better ways to fortify it.  As for me, I think I’ll be more receptive to letting down my guard once I can get a new mask.

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