Everyone wants to feel safe. My 40 years of experience as a therapist has led me to believe that it is the first need for everyone, the need that comes before other needs. Some people say that we need to feel safe and loved – that our need to feel loved is equal. That may be; I'm just not as sure of it. A famous quote from Stephen Porges says,"If you want to improve the world, start by making people feel safer." I don't think he's commenting there on the need to feel loved, but he is asserting the need to feel safe, and I would agree with that.
How do you try to feel safer? When you're feeling distressed, what do you do to try to feel safer? Before you read the rest of this, take a moment and jot down some answers. Maybe even assemble a short list. Naming your main safety strategies will help you recognize when you've gone into distress, even if you tend to ignore it at the time.
If you're familiar with the material in my book, The 5 Personality Patterns, you may recall that the 5 main safety strategies listed there are: leave, connect, endure, dominate, and perform. You may even find that each of the actions you listed a moment ago falls into one of those categories.
But mostly, notice what you do. Don't judge yourself for what you do. Just notice that, by doing those things, you are trying to feel safer. If you don't feel proud of doing those things, first consider that maybe it's okay that you need to feel safer, and then try to develop better ways to feel safer.
If you find that you often judge other people for what they do to feel safer, try shifting your attention to just noticing that they are trying to feel safer. Then notice how they are trying to feel safer. If you have a way to help them feel safer, put it into action. Don't try to change what they're doing, just change what you're doing. If it works for them, they will like it.
For me, the quote that ties all of this together is this one:
"None of us are safe until all of us are safe."