How to Create a Safe Place

Three Parts:Choosing a Location for Your Safe PlaceGoing to Your Safe PlaceIncluding a Protector in Your Safe Place

Your imagination is an incredibly powerful tool. People have long been visualizing environments and scenarios to help them find comfort, and consciously focusing on positive, calming imagery has become a common therapeutic exercise.[1] Whether looking for a way to escape recurring memories you’d rather not think about, or to center yourself while experiencing a tense period in your life, you can create a safe place within your mind that provides the opportunity to go somewhere you can derive comfort and strength at a moment’s notice.

Part 1
Choosing a Location for Your Safe Place

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    Consider the types of places you’ve always felt safe. When setting out to create your safe place, find some privacy where you can calmly think about what comforts you. Take notes to help you organize your thoughts and begin compiling the features that your safe place will include. Start by reflecting on the sort of place you tend to enjoy. Think about those places you’ve been where you felt entirely safe and comfortable and choose the one in which you have had the most positive experiences.[2]
    • For example, maybe wind and water tend to be particularly comforting for you.
    • If you especially enjoy being at the beach, or feel safe when walking through a forest, consider these contexts as an ideal concept upon which to design your safe place.
    • Alternatively, many people feel at peace within certain types of architectural styles or buildings from certain eras. Allow the general type of place you most enjoy to influence your creation of a safe place.
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    Try to choose a place that holds significance to you. When considering the perfect location around which to design your safe place, make sure you also choose somewhere that you feel emotionally or mentally strongly about. Ideally, you’ll literally feel a positive wave of meaning hit you as soon as you think of the place.[3]
    • For instance, some people feel particularly safe in places of worship. If you have vivid memories of attending mass in a cathedral or once came to a life-enhancing realization in a sweat lodge, consider choosing that location for your safe place.
    • Another reliable type of place is one that you associate with family members. If there’s a place dear to your family, and in which you have lots of memories, it may be a perfect safe place.
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    Envision a place you’ve never been before. If you associate calmness or serenity with a certain type of physical environment, this can be a great way to start envision a safe place that is completely of your own design. Your safe place certainly doesn’t have to be somewhere you’ve been, nor that even exists outside of your mind.[4]
    • Even if you’ve never seen a waterfall, but imagine it would comfort you to be near one, use this positive associate to strengthen your safe place by including a waterfall.
    • Alternatively, if you have particularly positive feelings about a certain sports team or musical group, consider an arena or concert venue as a potential safe place. Choose the spot you’d feel most comfortable – whether that’s on the stage or sitting in the dugout.
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    Create your safe place based on traditionally calming sensations. If you’d rather envision your own safe place, think about the most basic sensations or imagery that you find comforting, and recreate them. Try to emphasize simple, serene environments first.
    • For instance, picture yourself lying on an immense, slowly moving, and incredibly soft cloud. You can see in every direction, and the sunset is just starting to remind you of how easily the horizon can melt into the sky. Your eyes feast on an ever-changing palate of purple and maroon, before indulging in a visual dose of tempered orange and glowing gold. You hear only wind, and smell nothing but clean air.
    • Alternatively, you find yourself sitting on the front porch of a cabin at the edge of a pond in a deeply wooded forest. You realize that every single one of the surrounding pine trees are sharing the air you breathe, as a wave of their aroma is brought across the water by a gentle breeze. Birdsong accompanies the arrival of the wind. You’re sitting in a rocking chair, and you realize, suddenly, that you’re smiling.
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    Create an entirely new world with your mind. Recognize that nothing about your safe place has to be traditionally calming, or even “safe” in any prototypical way. What’s important is that you feel safe there. Your ideal safe place may even be within an entirely fantastical environment – perhaps in a medieval kingdom alongside dragons and dwarves.[5]
    • Stated otherwise, make your safe place as imaginative as you wish.
    • If you like fictional places but can’t imagine one in specific detail, don’t hesitate to borrow from a book or movie that particularly appealed to you.
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    Visualize yourself doing something you enjoy in your safe place. It can be remarkably challenging to jump off of a negative or otherwise unpleasant train of thought. Know that you can train yourself to be better at pushing these thoughts away as they arise.[6]
    • When you’re unable to shake a thought you want to avoid, imagine watching yourself in the 3rd person. Watch yourself doing something you enjoy, particularly something active.
    • For instance, if being active is your thing, imagine yourself playing basketball, and clowning around after you make a shot or dribble around one of your friends.
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    Describe to yourself, in great detail, the specifics of your safe place. List off all the sensations you feel when you’re in your safe place. Include attention to all of the senses in your description – list the sounds you hear, the smells you encounter, and note the temperature and the taste of the air. State them to yourself out loud or record them on a sheet of paper. This will help you practice going there at a moment’s notice, when you feel negative mental or emotional sensations arise.[7]
    • Draw a picture to help you visualize your safe place more clearly, and to help remember it for the next time you return.
    • Give your safe place a name. Choose a simple word or phrase that you can use to generate your mental image of your safe place and help transport you there.[8]

Part 2
Going to Your Safe Place

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    Practice going to your safe place whenever you want. You will definitely want to go to your safe place when emotional or mental turmoil arise. You should also practice going there other times as well, if only to develop the strength of the positive imagery that your safe place is built around.[9]
    • Carry a bit of your safe place with you. To help you quickly jump back into your safe place next time you want to, literally hold onto an element of it.
    • For instance, reach out, grab a ray of imagined sunshine, feel and appreciate its very real warmth, and slip it into your pocket before it evaporates. Pull it out next time you want to return to your safe place.
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    Focus on what you “see” at first. Visualizing your safe place and transporting yourself there will heavily depend on your ability to create fully immersive imagery in your brain. As soon as you go to your safe place, take a moment to fully notice the colors of everything around you, the shapes of prominent parts of the place, and the amount and brightness of the light fills the place.[10]
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    Incorporate your other senses gradually. As the image of your safe place comes into focus, start to imagine the sounds of your safe place as well. Imagine touching the key components of the environment, and feeling the texture of everything. Think about what it smells like, and focus on a smell that you enjoy.[11]
    • For instance, in a beach, imagine the feel of sand beneath your feet, water rising and falling from your ankles, and the sounds of waves rolling in to shore.
    • Don’t forget the sensations you feel upon your skin. Think about how the air is moving, the temperature of the sky, and the firmness of the ground.
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    Make yourself physically comfortable. If it is possible to do so, provide yourself a literal environment in which visualizing your safe place will be especially enjoyable. Most importantly, find a place where you won’t be disturbed.[12] Ideally, find somewhere you can comfortably sit or lie down.
    • Choose somewhere relatively quiet, with lighting you’re comfortable with.
    • Engage your senses by incorporating calming movement that might mimic movement occurring in your safe place — perhaps by lying in a hammock or rocking in a chair.
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    Enhance your immersion in your safe place with tangible amplifiers. Play soothing music, or a soundtrack that would better fit the content of your safe place to help you stay there – and to keep other noises from distracting you. You can even light a scented candle, or touch something with the appropriate texture to strengthen your senses’ influence of your mental imaging.[13]
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    Practice basic breathing techniques to help focus on your safe place. To help keep your mind centered on your safe place, close your eyes. Think about any tension you feel in your body. Even if the tension is mental or emotional, assign it a physically tense spot within your body.[14]
    • Focus on your breathing if you don’t immediately find your safe place. To start, take a deep, long calming breath.
    • With each exhale, let some of that tension out of your body. Continue breathing deeply.
    • As you become aware that you’re in your safe place, make sure to engage all of your senses to fully immerse yourself in that environment.
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    “Rescript” negative intrusions into your safe place. Painful memories and images sometime arrive in our mind when we least expect them, or least want to experience them. If a distressing image comes to mind while you’re in your safe place, remind yourself that you are safe and that being in your safe place will help you get rid of the image.[15]
    • As soon as an unpleasant thought or image arises, manipulate it.
    • For instance, immediately shrink the image by envisioning a small, antique television set with the negative image on the screen. As you watch, allow the color of the image to drain away, and the clarity of the image to fade.
    • Alternatively, grab the image as though it is a poster and shake it. Watch as the image becomes cloudy, or dissolves into nothingness as though the ink on the poster has changed to water.

Part 3
Including a Protector in Your Safe Place

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    Welcome a protector of your choosing into your safe place. Remember that your safe place is entirely yours, and what matters most is that it is a place in which you feel safe. Include a figure or companion with which you associate protection if this enhances your feeling of safety.[16]
    • Even if you’re not a spiritual person, the companionship of a Buddhist monk seems to work wonders for imbuing a place with calmness and serenity.
    • Again, be creative in your choice of a protector, and remember that all that matters is that your protector makes you feel even more comfortable in your safe place.
    • Often, an animal companion is a perfect compatriot for your safe place. Know that your protector doesn’t necessarily need to speak with you – they will join you simply to ensure you are safe.
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    Fight nervous or reactionary feelings with a protector at your side. Your safe place is a great place to go when dealing with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Often, people that struggle with traumatic memories become both mentally and physically nervous, and begin to relive traumatic memories when something brings these memories to mind.[17]
    • Choose a protector that can help you work your way through a reminder of a traumatic event in your past.
    • A protector will be especially helpful if you often become physically agitated during periods of mental anguish.
    • This physical-component of your distress is often associated with your body re-experiencing the “fight or flight” response it endures during traumatic events.
    • Picture your protector enduring the physical component of your discomfort with you, and helping you push these memories away.
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    Rely on your protector to help you during tough moments. Have your protector help replace any negative aspects of your safe place with positive ones. You may realize that the safe place you’ve chosen has one or two negative memories associated with it, or a few aspects you wish were different. Recognize that you have the power to alter your safe place, and that your protector can help you do so.[18]
    • When you identify a specific thought or aspect of your safe place that is negative, visualize your protector addressing the issue and completely resolving it.
    • For instance, if your safe place was a room, but you realized there was an area of the room in which you didn’t feel safe, your protector can build a wall to eliminate this part of the room.
    • Later, have your protector do some mental renovations and expand a part of your safe place that you feel especially comfortable in.

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