Well, it’s the first Monday morning after the zombie apocalypse (do you capitalise “zombie apocalypse”?), and even though I had a particular piece in mind when I went to bed last night, as it often happens I find my thoughts drifting elsewhere after the first sip of coffee. There’s a note that’s been pinned to my corkboard for a couple of months that seems particularly germane today, I’m not sure why, and I sought it out when I sat down. Perhaps it’s the non-stop politics on my social media feeds, the pictures of the women’s marches around the world this past weekend, or some of the egregious vitriol in comments from members of both extremes, left and right. Probably that, actually, since the one sentence synopsis on the index card mentions them by name: Morons. It actually says morons.
The concept of a safe place, a happy place, the use of it physically or only in minds of those who need one, and its efficacy as a useful and valid tool to manage anxiety are under threat because of a small but vocal bunch of thugs who throw it like they were throwing rocks. I’ve seen this quite a bit over the last year, and I bet you have as well. It’s not unusual for a tiny percentage of extremists – again, on both ends of the spectrum – to use whatever acrimonious nastiness they can, but this particular thing, this twisting of a great device I use all the time, has really begun to dig at my psyche.
EMDR, or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing, is an evidence-based treatment for victims of trauma, and it’s practised by many reputable therapists around the globe. It is also particularly harsh because it involves dragging up the tough memories, the horrible thoughts, and the visceral reactions we have along with them in order to put all these things back in their proper place and perspective. It’s a tough slog. I’d often be a big blubbery mess for a day or two afterwards. On one of the first sessions I had with the wonderful woman who facilitated this with me, she told me to choose a safe place, a happy place, a calm setting in my mind where I could go, or more often than not where she could lead me, when the shit really began flying. It was as necessary as the sense of a physically safe place to do the work. More so, perhaps, since re-experiencing a trauma can colour the surroundings we do it in.
Not just useful, but crucial. It was for me, anyway.
Since then I have used it when faced with stressful situations or unforeseen circumstances, those things I call the blunt sticks of doom. Though this has certainly gotten easier with time, I will still close my eyes and go to my happy place while in my doctor’s waiting room, and I’ve become rather adept at opening it up in a side window (Microsoft reference FTW) in those situations when I can’t focus completely on it. Though the actual place, a particular and real memory for me, has changed over time, it’s still one of the first and most useful tools in my kit and comes with me everywhere. So when I see things like this:
I tend to channel my inner Jayne Cobb. (Firefly reference FTW!)
By the way, despite the fact that I lean just to the left politically, I chose that particular image to emphasise my earlier point about both sides having their own contingent of dickheads.
There is legislation of one sort or another in most jurisdictions that protect a person’s right to be free from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse in the workplace. Instruction in health and safety regulations are part of every employee orientation I can remember and are often required to be posted in conspicuous places for later reference. Accessibility options for the disabled are everywhere, by law, and rightly so. I cannot recall ever seeing a sarcastic remark about the delicate little paraplegic and his reserved parking space tossed out in a Twitter flame war, can you? Probably not, because there is an almost universal understanding and acceptance of the need for these things, and disapproval of those who abuse them.
For those of us with serious, often debilitating anxiety issues, a safe place we can retreat to in our minds or in reality is as useful, often as necessary, as a parking spot only for expectant mothers or those with movement difficulties. While it’s silly to ponder the legislation of such things, we can try to work on the understanding and acceptance of them. If becoming a happy place activist is a bit too much for you (I so now want a t-shirt with that on it), then at least don’t let the brazen misuse of the tool keep you from carrying it. A hammer is meant to build a house, but there will always be some jerk who reaches for it as a weapon when their words fail them.
I call mine Vera.