How to Feel Safe in your Home as a Woman
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’ testimony on Thursday had me crying from the moment she walked through the door of the Senate hearing room. I understood her fear, her anxiety, and her apprehension to come forward. I know because I too have spent my life in fear from past events I had no control over. I have a strong memory of a grown man sticking his tongue down my throat when I was 3 or 4 years old. I’ve was shoved against the wall at a drunken celebration when I was 22 and kissed against my will. I lived in fear in college about drinking too much in public because I knew so many women who had been raped. I have a strong memory of someone chocking me with a scarf when I was about 12 …but the memories surrounding the event are blurry.
As a child and even to this day I can’t have anything too tight around my neck without experiencing severe panic. I can remember screaming at the top of my lungs as a child whenever my mother tried to put a turtle neck on me. I thought that I was just a little strange, but I realize now I’m not. I lived through something traumatic…and even though my early memories are in flashes it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen…..and as a result I have safety issues.
And I’m not alone. Most women I work with or socialize with refer to this either directly or in passing. Their fear is a way of reliving their past trauma and trying to process it … but with our culture of shame around assault most women don’t feel empowered to voice the very thing that would enable them to work through the fear. My hope is that Dr Ford’s testimony and the #metoo movement that things will start to change….and I want to help.
So many things struck me during Dr. Ford’s testimony but professionally I was struck by what brought her and her husband to couple’s therapy in the first place….a deep desire for two front doors. When she said this it made total sense to me….because I’m the same way certain things. For example, I can’t be in a room with the lights on that has windows without closed curtains or blinds. It physically makes me uncomfortable and even paniced…and to be perfectly frank I don’t exactly know what the root cause is….but I have some ideas.
But professionally I have noticed that most women have at least one thing that they have set up or do in their homes because of past trauma. And I think it’s really important at this time especially if the hearing is bringing up feelings of anxiety around past trauma to evaluate what is triggering you…and if its sever anxiety to seek a therapist to talk it through.
After I had processed the mammoth emotional effect of the hearing one question popped into my head, “what if she’s never gone to therapy and just gotten the second door?” Would the second door actually have made her feel better or would it have served as a reminder of her trauma? In my experience women who make alterations like these in their homes feel better in the short-term but long-term the alteration becomes a daily reminder of their anxiety….instead of serving their initial intent which was to feel safe.
So let’s dig into the top three that I’ve seen….
One of the most common ‘go-tos’ for women when they feel unsafe is to get an alarm system. Now I’m not knocking alarms systems. I live in an urban area where break-ins are relatively common and I will probably get one when I buy my next house. However, I think it’s important to explore ‘why’ you’re getting an alarm before you pay for the installation and the monthly fees. Do you think that having it will subside a strong sense of anxiety or fear or do you simply want the police to be notified if someone tries to force themselves into your home. The two may sound similar but let’s dive a bit deeper because they’re actually two very different things.
if you think that an alarm system will ease your intense anxiety then you’re actually fighting the anxiety…which can make it worse and according to the law of attraction could actually attract more things into your life to be anxious about. So if this is you, here’s what I suggest. Ask yourself when in your past have you felt a similar intense feeling of anxiety and do your best using therapy or personal analysis to resolve your feelings from that past event.
Proceed with getting your alarm system if you feel inclined but take care of the visual cues that you are setting up for yourself as you enter your home. For example become aware that if you put an alarm sticker on your front door or in your lawn you are reminding yourself of your anxiety every time you come home. Now I’m not saying don’t put any stickers on outer windows, etc but become aware of your path….and think about it from a burglar’s point of view….is the average burglar really going to walk up to your front door and walk in? Put your stickers in all of the places that they may see as they’re scouting out the place ….so you cause them anxiety instead of you.
Curtains & Blinds
Ok. Time to move onto my anxiety-causer…..windows without curtains or blinds. And although I think its a pretty common feeling to feel safer when you have closed curtains or blinds when the lights are on your home…it can be much more intense for anyone who grew up in a home with poor boundaries where they constantly felt exposed and whose privacy was not respected. I know because me and many of my clients who have mentioned this very topic grew up in similar circumstances….and it’s not that ‘oh I need to close the curtains feeling'. It’s an almost paniced feeling that someone is going to get you if you don’t.
It’s an easy one not to deal with because basic safety practices are to close the curtains so burglar and other criminals can’t follow your movements ….so it’s a rational thing to do. It’s not that….it’s the intensity of your reaction that I recommend you pay attention to. What stories are you telling yourself will happen if you don’t close the curtains? When you walk past windows without window treatments what do you think about? Do you flash back to any specific moment?
Just take a pause ….and take a look at the root cause of your anxiety so you can let your curtains and blinds not be a reminder of fear but rather something that actually does protect you.
What you watch on TV
Bad things do happen, but they happen much more in our heads and our imaginations than they do in real life. We play out bad scenerios over and over in our heads especially if we have past trauma that we haven’t dealt with…..and we subconsciously pick television shows that feed into that anxiety. If you’d like to put it to the test stop and pause next time you finish watching an episode of a heart pumping gritty show like Law and Order or a horror movie like Halloween. Pause and think, is this really how I want to feel in my home?
Then choose a television show that feeds your intellect but also makes you laugh once in a while…and pause and see how you feel afterwards. From my own experience I know that it makes a huge difference. As I’ve slowly started to curate what I watch on television I’ve found myself feeling safer not only in my home but as I walk my dog through an empty park and simply going about my day.
In fact, Netflix has a section called “Strong Women Leads.” I choose from this section regularly and not all but most of them leave me feeling not only safer but empowered.
Do you want everything in your home to make you feel empowered?
Then check out my book The Powerful Room. Not only does it include straight forward ways to declutter and decorate that will make sense to you on an emotional level, but it will fill your home with intention and help you to use your home …and office as a foundation to reach your most ambitious goals.