There is a
famous quote from Helen Keller, “"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in
nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding
danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is a
daring adventure or nothing at all."
I like this quote very much because it recognizes with some class
that life has risks and that the ideal of complete safety and security is
pretty much a myth. And yet,
I believe that in the area of intimate, committed relationships, a
fascinating paradox exists: A couple must increase safety in order to deal
If you have not yet read the
section on "brain physiology" (See Three Brains and a Partner)
and the section on Mate Selection please do so now. Also read the
Module on Cuts and Scabs: Wounds and Protections.
This section on "the
paradox of safety" will make a lot more sense to you after you have
read those articles. They will also help you to see why we recommend
to couples the use of what I call "safety procedures" in dealing
with virtually all conflict in relationships.
Without a clear
understanding of brain physiology and the mate selection process, many of
the procedures recommended in the WEB site will seem strange, overly
formal and completely unnecessary.
For example we recommend
that for a period of time (one to two years), whenever you are talking
seriously to each other about relationship issues, you use a formal
structure for communicating that divides clearly between the roles of
sending and receiving (See Couple's
Dialog and The
Conscious Dialog Process in the Educational Module area. These links will only work inside the Workstation).
In normal conversation, the sending and receiving roles change quickly,
often without awareness and sometimes happen simultaneously in the same
Conflict by Appointment
We recommend the seemingly
strange proposition that conflict be dealt with by appointment with each
other, rather than by spontaneous arguments or discussions and that you
both practice being "pure" senders and "pure"
receivers, staying in the same role and only switching roles formally and
intentionally when dealing with conflict issues.
For example, when couples
are using this approach to work on their relationship, they will act in
what others would see as very strange ways. One spouse will say to
the other, "I felt upset by something you said earlier today.
I'd like to make an appointment with you to do one of the couple processes
we are learning." The other partner will agree ASAP and they
will determine a time when they can talk and work --BY APPOINTMENT.
Communication and Your
The reason for this
admittedly strange way of relating to each other is based on our
understanding of the Old Brain, its tendency to perceive emotional hurt as
a survival issue and its power to take over when the level of anxiety or
reactivity gets too high.
There was a fascinating
experiment where researchers hooked up couples to heart rate machines and
encouraged them to deal with conflict issues. Whenever either
partner's heart rate got above 95 (and that's not very high), NO
CONSTRUCTIVE COMMUNICATION OCCURRED. We believe that is a very
significant piece of research and is completely consistent with what we
know about the Old Brain and the Mate Selection process. The reason
we recommend the "safety procedures" taught in this WEB site is
to help "manage" the Old Brain and keep the fear factor
tolerable, so that constructive growth work can happen.
Safety: A Big Deal
We make a big deal about
working to create emotional and physical safety in a relationship.
We recommend 90 consecutive "Safety Days." We will teach you how
to physiologically soothe each other and how to become self-soothing and
we recommend creating safety through becoming sources of pleasure and fun
for each other.
What you will see again and
again as you do the work of your relationship is that what one partner
needs the most, the other will not be able to give without facing some old
anxiety or concern and without developing an underdeveloped skill or
Here’s the paradox.
We are encouraging you to increase the level of safety in your
relationship so you can more effectively face your deepest anxieties. The
main purpose for creating safety for each other is help create an
atmosphere and offer understanding and support for the other to meet,
face, walk into their own deepest fears -- all in the service of love and
growth. This is what makes the relationship task the greatest of all
Growth will not happen
without risk-taking. Risk-taking
is more likely to occur in an atmosphere of increased safety.
And so we recommend that you use and practice the Safety Procedures
recommended in the Couple’s Workstation.