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Confessions of Living in a Polarized World

Recently, I have been contemplating the idea of safety. In the US, I often hear the phrase, “creating a safe space.”

My initial reaction was, “What does that even mean- safe? Because I am pretty sure that no one is bombing us, and we still have more individual freedoms than most countries. Natural disasters have not devastated our whole livelihood. We aren’t under oppressive dictators that put you in prison when you disagree with them!”

But after living in the US for a year now, I am starting to understand what they mean by “safe”. Though we are not facing the same kind of danger or threats much of the world is facing, we are experiencing a kind of threat that feels very unsafe in our bodies. We facing polarization!

The current polarized culture feels so threatening in our bodies because it butts up against our human need for acceptance. In order to feel accepted here, you must align yourself with one extreme or the other. The middle ground seems VERY UNSAFE because it is means rejection by all. And to our brains, rejection equals death.

For someone who has lived abroad for more than a decade, I find I am in that dangerous middle ground on nearly all accounts. So in conversations, I keep all my true thoughts or opinions to myself. I spend a lot of energy masking, being what I need to be in order to "fit in".

I think to myself, “If they only knew what I believe, they would not want me around.” (I feel like I am in grade school again.)

In light of that, I have been contemplating how to create that safe space everyone talks about. I breathe in deeply, reminding myself I am ok. I tell myself, “It’s ok if they reject me. I will never reject me. It’s ok if they don’t understand me. I understand me.” And as I breathe out, I remember others who are suffering in the world and pray, “May we all have peace and safety.”

How do you find you create safety for yourself?

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