I've been thinking a lot about control and belonging lately and wondering how that might relate to the dichotomy of freedom versus safety, especially in our current cultural experience of COVID-19. We are seeing a lot of struggle between the two in the media, on social media, at the grocery store, and displayed at a diverse array of protests. Some people appear to be happy to accept the "new normal" of restricted movement and mandatory mask-wearing in the name of safety. Others vehemently oppose the removal of these freedoms and would rather take their chances with the virus than lose a shred of freedom. Could it be that freedom is a form of having control over one's life? And could belonging be a form of safety in the sense that we find safety in the herd? Baumeister seems to think so. He states as much about belonging in his article, The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation, "The innate quality presumably has an evolutionary basis. It seems clear that the desire to form and maintain social bonds would have both survival and reproductive benefits." Conforming to the rules of the group not only gives us a sense of belonging, but our desire to belong is also enmeshed with our need for safety. Elliot Aronson has described this dichotomy of needs in another way in his book, The Social Animal, "One consequence of the fact that we are social animals is that we live in a state of tension between values associated with individuality and values associated with conformity."
Aronson uses a story from humorist James Thurber's autobiography to discuss this topic further in the chapter on conformity in The Social Animal. If the group around us is running in one direction, is it safest to assume they must be running from something dangerous and join the crowd? Alternatively, we could choose to be individualistic at that moment and declare our freedom to do our "own thing." But if we are wrong, the consequences can be deadly. Adding another layer to this decision-making process is considering whether or not our choice to buck the herd may cause harm to others. This is the conundrum of our present-day situation. To mask or not to mask. At the very least, that decision calls to question the impression of the potential for causing harm to others. Aronson describes this well in a different context, "That conformist reflex was undoubtedly crucial in our hunter-gatherer past; indeed nonconformity can be disastrous. Suppose I suddenly decide I am fed up with being a conformist. So I hop in my car and start driving down the left-hand side of the road—not a terribly smart or adaptive way of expressing my rugged individualism and not very fair to you if you happen to be driving toward me (conformist-style) on the same street."
On the other hand, Elliot warns, "Sometimes the need to conform will even silence an individual's certain knowledge of a forthcoming disaster." Evolutionarily speaking, our inclination towards conformity has proved to be a successful survival skill. Aronson also points out that historically, our tendency to conform has equally had devastating consequences. He cites the example of what occurred in Nazi Germany, among others, "In his memoirs, Albert Speer, one of Hitler's top advisers, described the circle around Hitler as one of total conformity—deviation was not permitted." Indeed, the Nazi’s had a phrase to justify and conceal their intentions for the Jews, ”für ihr sicherheit” which means, ”for your safety.”
I've been spending some time with horses lately. Horses are well known for their representation of freedom. However, they are also prey animals and find their safety in the herd. What I recently learned about horses is that what they really want from humans is the promise of safety. These prey animals will acquiesce to the will of their human captors but not without gain. In a sense, they revoke their freedom in trade for safety. Once in the safety of the pasture or the barn, they no longer have to worry about survival in the same way. Their handlers meet their food and water needs, and protection from other predatory animals is established. This is quite appealing to vulnerable animals.
What about human animals? We are at the top of the food chain because of our brains' capacity. But we are also incredibly vulnerable, naked, delicate creatures. Desmon Morris goes into great detail regarding this unique quality of our species in his book, The Naked Ape, "The temperature-controlling devices are of vital importance, and the possession of a thick, hairy, insulating coat obviously plays a major roll in preventing heat loss. In intense sunlight it will also prevent over-heating and damage to the skin from direct exposure to the sun's rays." Our vulnerability goes far beyond our hairlessness. If we were alone and naked in a field with no weapons, our food chain status would suddenly drop significantly. Part of what keeps us a dominant animal is our connection to each other. Our society and culture functions in a similar fashion as does the horse and it's handler.
As long as we go along with society's rules, we get to enjoy a certain amount of safety and security. What we trade for that sense of safety are varying degrees of freedom. In 2020 as the media bombards the citizens with mortality reminders, real or imagined dangers lurking behind that conceptual curtain of security in our perception has ballooned. The media has thereby increased the appeal for safety in the human brain. The prospect of trading more personal agency for greater protection from the looming threat seems logical. In this sense, all that a manipulative social system has to do to gain greater control over its people is to present a more significant outside threat. As society adds more and more rules to its domain, the human-animal looking for safety will gladly follow each additional restriction and willingly succumb to submission.
On the other side of this spectrum, we have the freedom fighters. Many of which appear to be of the right-wing ideology. It is suspect that some of their behavior may be motivated by the need to display Sociopolitical Control. According to the article, "Desire for control, perception of control: their impact on autonomous motivation and psychological adjustment" written by, Camille Amoura, Sophie Berjot, Nicolas Gillet, Emin Altintas, "Sociopolitical Control refers to the individuals' attempts to defend their personal goals and values in the political and social world." Many people representing this group have shown up at various state capitals across the country with their assault rifles to protest and rebel against the societal force of law that threatens their personal agency. I should also mention that many have protested the same removal of freedoms in a more peaceful fashion.
Through fear tactics, the puppeteer that is the media and its comrade social media seem to have convinced the majority of the left-wing to take the safety it offers and give up their freedom to do so. To my great surprise, it is the right-wing that hasn't taken the bait or at least doesn't value society's protection but instead sees the government as the threat itself (To be fair, I should also mention there are a few genuinely rogue non-partisans who oppose the mainstream storyline). Prominent social psychologist Jonathan Heidt talks about this in a recent interview in The Atlantic. "And when you look at the people who are loudest on Twitter and elsewhere, it's quite clear that this pandemic is turning into just another culture-war issue, where people on the left see what they want to see and people on the right see what they want to see."
Social psychologist Elliot Aronson expands on the driving forces behind this phenomenon in his book, The Social Animal. "These tendencies helped keep us alive when we fought with stones and clubs, but over the millennia the human tendency to see the world in tribal, us-and-them terms has laid the foundation for conflict, political division, hatred, and war." Our us-and-them tribal mind drives the stake of our confirmation bias' deep into the ground of our selective thinking. Thus, through the "us" group of our choosing, our biases and values become firmly rooted in our constructed reality's groupthink structure. Elliot defines it this way, "groupthink: a kind of thinking in which maintaining group agreement overrides a careful consideration of the facts in a realistic manner." This polarization of politics is far-reaching, and the chasm that divides us appears to be growing deeper every day.
Those with a greed-driven intent have indeed been using the science of Social Psychology to weaponize against us our human needs for control and belonging for quite some time. Intentional societal manipulation has been in play, at least since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. This phenomenon has been made clear in "The Century of The Self - Happiness Machines" documentary. One iteration of this manipulation was the "Torches of Freedom" slogan calling for women to pick up the habit of smoking. In this example, "Torches of Freedom" preyed on the personal agency aspect of control. The control over one's life to do whatever they want, to have the freedom to smoke. Once enough women fell into the trap and started smoking, it's enticement would expand to include filling the need for belonging, since everyone was doing it.
Looking through today's pandemic lens, it seems the media’s use of the words "for your safety," could be interchangeable with the words, ”control over the population.” It’s agenda is keenly hidden. In the face of a global pandemic, public relations has aptly targeted our need for personal control and safety alike. In the article "Desire for control, perception of control: their impact on autonomous motivation and psychological adjustment," they explain this universal need well. "Personal Control is close to SE (Bandura 1977; Skinner 1996). It refers to the individuals' perception (or belief) that performing the required behaviors can lead to the desired outcome. In other words, personal control is a judgment that one has the ability, resources, or opportunities to take action to increase the likelihood of obtaining positive outcomes or avoiding negative ones" (Thompson and Schlehofer 2008, p. 42). Take wearing masks, for example. Wearing a mask in public has become one of those new societal rules that we must abide by. The idea is that if we wear a mask out in public, we are gaining some sense of personal control in the hopes of a more favorable outcome. From a psychological perspective, this "perception" of control may very well be helping people maintain their sanity in the midst of what otherwise feels like a completely out of control situation. This is true regardless of whether masks of all types prevent the spread of the virus. Regarding this, there are scientific studies that support both the idea that they do and also the idea that they are making things worse. But for this specific psychological exploration, that particular debate is beside the point.
What if someone is not agreeable with trading their freedom for the safety of the herd or society's rules and regulations? What if they don't believe the media messaging and don't buy into the imposition of fear? One might choose to head to the Capital wielding semi-automatics. This certainly is not a very diplomatic option. So, what can they do if they don't agree with the ideology of toting big guns around to prove their freedom? What if they respect the needs and feelings of those around them and yet desire to maintain their own need for personal agency? Going back to the analogy of handler and horse as a metaphor of society's hold on the individual, this nameless character might feel like a captured horse who senses that its handler's intentions are impure. After all, it is the building of trust that makes this arrangement work. Building real trust with its people is something the United States government has failed to achieve in any real way.
The contrast of Sweden's response to the pandemic is stark. There appears to be mutual trust between their people and their government. Instead of mandates, they have simply advised their citizens to take common-sense precautions, and the people have gladly agreed. This difference may be attributed to the theory of external justification versus internal justification. In the book The Social Animal, Elliot Aronson defines external justification as "a person's justification for his or her dissonant behavior that is situation-determined." He describes "internal justification as "the reduction of dissonance by changing something about oneself (e.g., one's attitude or behavior) in the direction of one's statements." A government like the USA who uses mandates and fines, and scare tactics to impose mask-wearing, provides plenty of external justification to wear a mask. External justification works so long as the person thinks someone may be watching who could impose consequences if they don't wear a mask. But since it requires no personalization of the decision, the person is likely not to wear one when they think no authorities are looking. Contrarily, a country like Sweden has offered its citizens the opportunity to formulate internal justification. With no outside threat of consequences, if a person makes the initial choice to wear a mask despite it being uncomfortable, they will have to increase their internal belief in the benefit of wearing one. They will naturally do this to reduce the experience of cognitive dissonance that choosing to wear a mask even though it is uncomfortable, may cause. A causality of this as Aronson points out is that, “It is those who are threatened with mild punishment who develop a dislike for the forbidden activity; people who are severely threatened, if anything, are even more drawn to the forbidden activity.” Therefore the Swedes who were under mild to no threat of external punishment, if they have ever worn a mask, are more likely to continue to wear a mask even when they think no authority is looking.
Due to the mistrust between the United States government and its citizens, some may resist submission to either party and their groupthink agendas. However, as much as any of us claim to be non-conformists, rugged individualists, we still can't extract the particular spice that is ourselves from the soup of the society we swim in. Like it or not, we do not exist as sovereign animals. We are "Social Animals." As Fyodor Dostoyevsky puts it in his novel The Brothers Karamazov, "Rebel comrades are after all, not natural friends, not community, not family but merely, unchosen, inescapable company." In this sense, we may be inseparable from the herd and yet left with a feeling of being tribeless.
One of the most significant ways we are intertwined with society at large is through the media. Indeed it is striking to realize the impact of "media contagion." And the effect it has on the emotions and actions of those who are tuning into it. Which incidentally is almost everyone. Aronson writes about the impact of "Emotional Contagion, which occurs when one person's emotional behavior triggers similar emotions and behaviors in observers." He gives the example of the spike in teen suicide that followed the sensationalized media coverage of four teenagers who died after carrying out a suicide pact in the 1980s in New Jersey.
In another example, Elliot wrote about the cyanide-laced Tylenol that killed seven people in Chicago in 1982. Even back then, when we didn't yet have internet or social media, the media's message of these poisonings we're unavoidable. This caused mass paranoia, and people began going to the hospital for every little discomfort, afraid they had been poised. Aronson expands on media manipulation as he tells us, "when the media bombard viewers with bad news about crime and terrorism, people will overestimate the prevalence of violence and disaster." In 2020, one could insert "COVID death tolls" into that sentence as we can see the effects of hysteria, causing some to wear masks even while driving alone in their vehicles. While Elliot referred to the perception of violent threats in the country, it stands to reason that anything repetitious that instigates a person's fight or flight response would have the same effect. He goes on to say, "Such coverage obviously presents a distorted picture of the world." Aronson points out, "It is good to be informed, and the media play a crucial role in keeping us informed. However, there can be a downside to this kind of exposure, as well. Whether it is intentional or not, repeated vivid imagery of this sort shapes attitudes and opinions."
There is a human cognitive skill of efficiency that we use regularly called Availability Heuristics. “The availability heuristic is the tendency to predict the likelihood of an event, or judge how risky it is, based on how easy it is to bring specific examples to mind.” When we are bombarded with media messaging, whatever the message is, it will be readily retrieved through heuristics causing us to psychologically inflate its prevalence. This is one of the ways we make sense of a world in which we are continually required to ingest enormous amounts of information and make decisions based on that information. Awareness of the way external input affects our world view is paramount. But is awareness itself enough to reign in its effect on us? Or is it better to turn off or at least dial back the amount of media and social media we ingest?
Turning off the media may not be enough, either. We will be presented with choices like, should we send our children to school wearing masks all day? And wonder, what kind of psychological impact will this have on them. Perhaps this is the era where the commune may thrive. If we can not separate ourselves from the masses with whom we disagree, we might consider looking to create smaller communities of like-minded individuals with whom to strike the perfect balance between safety and freedom. Maybe this is our best option, considering how populated the planet has become and considering Elliot's assertion that human groups work most optimally with 150 or fewer members. "A useful implication of knowing the 150-person limit is that human organizations function better when they don't get too large when they can operate like communities rather than bureaucracies. Small schools have lower rates of violence and absences, better relationships, and higher-quality learning than larger, impersonal schools do. Being mindful of the limitations of our evolved hunter-gatherer minds provides ways of optimizing our lives and institutions." (Kindle location 502) .
To escape society's grip, we would need to develop a self-sustaining model of life. This would have to entail learning to live off the land, growing our own food, and developing our own form of government. However, we need to be ever mindful of our susceptibility to entrapment as it relates to cognitive dissonance theory. Even if we decide to join a smaller unit of communal living and renounce our larger society, we are still susceptible to the problems associated with groupthink mentalities. Aronson defines entrapment as "the process by which people make a small decision, justify it, and over time find themselves increasingly committed to a belief or activity." He describes this entrapment process to be precisely the way many cult leaders have gotten their followers to commit terrible atrocities.
To achieve harmony, peace, freedom, and belonging in just the right ratios, we will inevitably face the centuries-old human quest for Utopia and Self-actualization. Maybe it comes down to mindfulness and balance. Through mindfulness, we can gain awareness of our evolutionary biases born through cognitive dissonance theory and question our own perspectives. And if we are smart, we might adopt the strategy of the first president of the United States. In The Social Animal, it states, "As the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin75 pointed out, it was precisely for this reason that Abraham Lincoln chose a cabinet that included several people who disagreed with his policies about how best to end slavery." We can follow suit by including in our innermost circle those who are like-minded and also hold different perspectives from that of our own.
In conclusion, whether we call these diametric concepts, "safety and freedom," "control and belonging, or "conformity and individuality," just like horses, humans require a healthy balance between each. We are made from the fabric of our culture as much as we are a part of it. Like one piece in an elaborate quilt, we are bound together. Our humanity's very nature is to find ways to cooperate as we can not change the truth of our interdependence. And yet we all require the respect and dignity that can only be found in the personal agency to decide how we want the stitching and design to look on our particular patch of life.
The whole world walked into a cinema
All were enthralled in the show
So absorbed were they
they forgot they paid the dough
They began to believe
This story was their life
When an actor yelled out, “Shooter!”
You can imagine the strife
The whole world ran out of the theater
and poured out onto the streets
They all scattered and scrambled
to get home for relief
To shelter in place
The big plan
Was to isolate
With the world
On the run
No one stopped
To scout the gun
No one looked around at all
In their minds, their neighbors
One by one did fall
They battened down the hatches
They closed up all the walls
They turned on their televisions
To see the news of the streets
To no one's surprise, they saw
The gunman on their screen
The death toll was rising
The people were scared
By way of the panic
Prefrontal cortex impaired
All the while the film kept
Lacing through the reel
Which fed their adrenaline
And told the people how to feel
Someone flipped a breaker
And the screen went black
With revolution calling
The reel fell off the track
The streets were empty
The sky was blue
The animals aplenty
They knew just what to do
They knocked on their neighbors doors
And exclaimed, “Come out and play!"
It was only a movie
"Come out and seize the day”
The people poured out of their houses
The oceans were clear, the rivers too
The sun was out and shining
The sky was crystal blue
Just when they
Were wondering “how?”
The projectionist pulled back the curtain
And took a bow
Imagine each of our lives was a flower. Now, imagine each petal that unfolds when the flower blooms represent the choices we make in our hearts along the path of life. The thoughts we choose to think. The emotions we allow and release. The actions we take, or the stillness we embrace. Life itself is exponential growth. From cell division to the reproduction of plants and animals, we are destined to expand in every way.
Our lives are the blossoming of a flower with trillions of petals. The intention we put into one petal informs the next. Opening us up to greater and greater capacities for love, light and healing. Or, alternatively exposing us towards escalating hell realm possibilities. This is true of our lives as individuals and this is true of our experience as a collective in the way that we affect each other. Humanity is like it’s own version of a field of wildflowers. Our individual capacity to open effects those around us. This is the reason why every choice we make matters.
This concept is otherwise known as The Butterfly Effect. Coined in 1972 by meteorologist Edward Lorenz. He tied this idea to chaos theory and was pointing to the relationship of all things great and small. Such that something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the globe could lead to a hurricane on the other. This is the reason why everything we do or don’t do matters. Even the innermost shift that no one from the outside can see, can have a tremendous impact on our world. If each of us could really grasp this and take it to heart, we would understand the immensity of our own power. When we collectively wake up to this truth and claim it as our birthright, we will heal the planet and humanity will step into it’s divinity.
The following is a skimming of the surface of the very complex story that has been the last twenty years of my life. Some of the events and choices that opened each petal in their perfection were of the light. Some unfolded greater traumas. This is the life path that led me to wake up to my own personal power as I receive it with gratitude from the Source of All.
When I was just beginning my adult life in this world, I was blessed with a beautiful and fiery red-headed baby boy who was born in the school bus I was living in at the time. I named him Mountain. Obtaining an education as a single mother is something I never could have prepared myself for. Nevertheless, my tenacious nature carried me through. My journey has come full circle from 2002 to 2020.
Evergreen State College was my introduction to the world of higher education. The two short years I attended back in 2002 had a lasting effect on not only my own life but the people whose lives I have touched along my path. I took a class called, “The Politics of Prison” and applied the knowledge gained in the class to my strong interest in women's rights in childbirth.
I created a non-profit organization called, “The Birth Attendants” which served incarcerated pregnant women at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Gig Harbor. First, I created a pregnancy support group within the prison walls. Then established a doula program in which we attended and supported these women during their hospital births. These laboring mothers were mistreated and often even chained to the bed. ( You can watch a short animation film which was created later all about, “The Birth Attendants” project here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1Ngtl_x0go ).
I left Evergreen while The Birth Attendants was still young to follow my interest in birth. It was then that I attended a midwifery school in Portland, Oregon. The Birth Attendants program is still serving incarcerated pregnant women today.
After four more years of education at Birthingway College of Midwifery, and completing an internship, I earned my Bachelor of Science in Midwifery Degree and became a licensed midwife. I traveled to a remote town in the mountains near Cuernavaca, Mexico and studied with a traditional medicine woman and midwife. After that, I worked for eight years at a birth center in Portland, Oregon.
Behind closed doors, much of my love life and private life was traumatizing. In the midst of my schooling and training, I had many destructive romantic relationships in an attempt to fill the void of masculine love in my life. Finally, I met someone I wanted to create a life with and I had another beautiful baby boy. He was born at home in water in Portland, Oregon in 2011 on a bluff overlooking the Willamette River.
I ran my own private midwifery practice, “Blossom Midwifery”, out of an office in our home. I was the breadwinner, the mother, the book keeper, and the midwife. I worked hard every day and all through the night many times over. While some elements between my new partner and I were in alignment, our alchemy was short lived. Realizing our incompatibility, we dissolved the relationship between us, two and a half years after the birth of our son. I am proud to say that we maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship to this day.
In total, I have attended close to four hundred natural births, most of which were water births. To witness and guide at the pivotal moment of birth and see a woman’s transformation into motherhood has been a spiritual gift beyond measure. I have resuscitated babies who struggled to enter this world safely. I have wept countless tears for the ones I couldn’t save. I have been steeped in the gnarly political climate of women-rights in childbirth and have experienced first hand the modern-day witch hunts which silently wreak havoc on personal freedom and the right to a non-violent birth experience.
I have experienced the way a group of persecuted people often turns against each other, believing their ability to stay safe lays in finding fault and placing blame among themselves. Modern-day witch hunts are akin to modern-day slavery. The way in which the prison-industrial complex targets people of color and socio-economically challenged demographics is merely one grotesque tendril of a very large web of hidden fascism.
It was during my education at Evergreen in my Politics of Prison class that I first began to understand the way in which these oppressions covertly underpin our society. The time I spent as a midwife gave me first-hand experience of this phenomenon. I have had to face the personal trauma of these experiences and learn how to transmute them into the strong character which I have become.
I have lived through years of sleep deprivation and devotion to protecting a mother’s right to give birth any way she chooses. A guardian ever in awe, I stood in the wake of the power and wisdom their bodies wielded. Quietly, I greeted new life into this world with the tenderness of the one who mothers the mother.
However, after this outpouring of loving service, I came to an impasse. The politics of midwifery became too great a burden upon my psyche, my family, and my health. The need for tending to my own personal healing finally became loud enough that I had no choice but to answer the call. I walked away from midwifery having made a lasting impact on the many families I have served. And with a heavy heart to heal.
In 2016, I relinquished my worldly possessions and bought a sailboat. In search of peace and healing, with the help of a skilled skipper, I took her across the Columbia River Bar. We went offshore through the Straight of Juan de Fuca and arrived at my home town destination of Orcas Island, Washington. There, I lived on my boat for two years with my second son who was five years old at the time. As it would turn out, living on a boat with a small child alone in the dead of winter was not creating the life of peace that I had been looking for. This time I had to take up my sword against the elements. I experienced increasing stress every day as we faced challenges of power outages and frigid conditions.
I worked at a local restaurant as a waitress. I was in a state of humility as I felt these witch hunts had squelched my spirit and that my hard-earned education lay in waste at the bottom of the ocean I had crossed. During this time, I felt completely defeated in life. All of my education, my service of women, my service as a mother, all of my striving had left me alone, broke and cold. But as Rocky Balboa says, “Life’s not about how hard of a hit you can give. It’s about how many you can take and still keep moving forward.”
In December of 2018, we moved in with my current partner on the dry and healing land of Orcas. In January of 2019, I sold my sailboat. Once a symbol of hope, freedom and a fresh start was now an albatross removed from my neck.
While the move was grounding and a step towards the direction of setting down roots for the first time in my life, I faced some very personal and painful traumas this year. I also watched my stepfather who had been both my beloved hero and the greatest villain in the story of my life, die before my eyes.
In an instant, the life and love I had been seeking relentlessly for the entirety of my years on this planet shattered across the landscape of my heart. The shock of disillusionment was excruciating. But like the aftermath of a forest burned to the ground, new life emerged in me. In my darkest hour, I was sent the most compassionate spirit teacher and many angels living in human form and in nature. The light was shone upon the path back to myself. My true Self. The Self that I had misplaced around the age of five.
I began to heal my relationship with my mother. I quit using alcohol to numb the pain in my heart and made a choice to turn and face the hurt that simmered deep within me. Making the decision to walk through the fire of the emotions in me, was the thing my inner child had been waiting for me to do all along. She no longer has to be alone with the shock of waking up in this world of dichotomies. She has me now.
I started a new entrepreneurial business, (www.joyjech.com) and began to heal through my art and creativity. Art has been a fundamental therapy for my integration.
I was born a healer. Without regret, this healing energy has moved through me and into others countess times in this lifetime. However, something changed in 2019. I learned to pour this healing power into my own self. A new awareness has arrived, showing me that the more I do this for myself, the stronger my ability to heal others grows. I have always known this intellectually but now I have come to a deep understanding that it is the inner work in each one of our psyche's that effects the most change on the outside.
There is a new calling in me to pursue an education focused on psychology so that I can take this understanding to the next level. It is now that I will pursue through Evergreen, a second bachelor’s degree, to put me on the track of my new goal of obtaining a Ph.D. in psychology.
2020 is my diving board. I am so ready to dive into the warm waters of self-exploration, expansion, creativity, connection, and increasing neuroplasticity! The flower of my life, my heart, and my soul is ready to bloom unabashedly. I have become my own midwife, providing the space I need to feel safe to open to this life.