CREATING YOUR PLAN FOR SAFETY FIRST!
Awareness – – Assessment – – Action
Your SAFETY FIRST! plan starts with three parts – – Awareness, Assessment and Action. Ensuring your safety first requires that you be Aware of situations that present danger or risk – both to yourself (in terms of the degree of risk you can tolerate) and to others (in the event that you have thoughts of killing or harming another person), and that you take appropriate steps to protect both yourself and others. Once you have identified dangers and risks and recognize the signals that your body and mind send out in response to these stimuli, you need to Assess why these signals are being triggered. What in your current environment is bringing these responses to the foreground? After connecting the cause (the triggering event, sign or behaviour) with the effect (the signal or response), you will need to take Action in a way that restores a sense of safety both for you and for others around you.
Having this structure in mind and readily accessible as you live your daily life is essential to understanding and interrupting the destructive patterns of the past and replacing them with more healthy patterns. Remember that breaking the old habits based on unconscious scripts linked to your abuse means overcoming the tendency to do the same old (familiar) thing. At first it takes more energy to change, but it gets easier with practice and success. This is why its important to have a plan you can fall back on.
Write down as many physical, emotional or intuitive signs as you can that tell you that your safety might be in question. (For example, your heart beats faster or you sense a clutching sensation in the throat.)
Write down what you think might typically trigger these reactions to certain situations. For example, triggers can be either internal (for example, unconscious memories, dreams or fears) or external (for example, interactions with certain people or particular types of activities or experiences). Remember that EVERYONE has difficulty with certain kinds of situations, though the nature of the situations varies with each individual. If you can, you should try to focus on the types of situations that you perceive to be related to your abuse or abusers.
Write down all of the actions you can think of to help you stabilise yourself after feeling unsafe. Some of these actions will be obvious and practical, such as simply leaving the environment that is causing the danger. Other actions must be tailored to your unique needs, based on the type of abuse you suffered. Try to develop a range of options that will serve you in a variety of situations.
Building Your Support System
Many survivors feel that they have few people they can talk to or get support from regarding their recovery. It is important not to try to recover in a vacuum. You do need help from like-minded and empathetic survivors and trained professionals. HAVOCA encourages combined use of professional therapy and self-help for optimum recovery; we do not share the anti-professional stance of some self-help programs. Learning to trust others and to turn to them for support is a crucial step in recovery. Doing so challenges one of the basic notions that arise from a history of abuse: namely, that people are dangerous.
Now take a thoughtful look at your list. Is it adequate for your everyday needs? Can you identify those people you could call for a routine check-in or cup of coffee and those you could rely on in an emergency situation? If you came up with only one or two names in all, then perhaps you need to expand your support system. If the only person you wrote down is your therapist, then consider getting more involved with other survivor-oriented activities. Co-workers and fellow students may prove to be valuable allies in your recovery; just remember that, by their nature, work and school settings place more restraints on the type of contact you can have with others. If you have a particular interest, such as a sports activity, you may find kindred souls who can be of help in times of need.