6 Elements To Create Safe Spaces For Transformation
What we can learn from nature is that every organism has its own rhythm. Everything goes through seasons. Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring. And all elements of the cycle have their distinct qualities:
Growth, Crisis, Collapse, Renaissance
Before we can move into the rebirth of the new story we need to create space for the collapse of the old structures. And just like all phases have their distinct qualities, they require their specific spaces in which they can unfold.
Collectively and for many of us personally we are on the verge of moving from crisis to collapse and letting go of what doesn’t serve us anymore. The trees shed their leaves before new shoots can grow in Spring. This phase especially requires a space that is steeped in a quality of safety – an environment that feels so safe that we dare to fall apart and let go of what provided us stability and comfort for a long time.
What are the qualities of a space that represents such a degree of safety that we can be trusting enough to dive into the unknown? And what are the favorable conditions that we can evoke to create this safety?
Nature again is a prime example of creating this transitional spaces to shift from one paradigm to the next. The cocoon of the caterpillar allow the organism to fall apart completely and emerge entirely transformed.
As humans we can attempt to learn from our environment realizing that what we see around us is an analogy for our own nature.
So looking at our own and the collective phase shift, a safe space is not only something that you benefit from yourself but also something that you more and more can learn to offer for others as well. In many ways you are probably already doing it.
Here are some elements that can help to create a safe space even more consciously:
In the way we invite people to the space and the mindset we bring we already create the space. Our intention can be a powerful tool to guide other people into feeling safe and supported. The more clarity you have around your intention the more powerfully it can unfold. It is worth experimenting also with making your intention explicit for yourself or the space that you’re in – be it verbally communicating it, through rituals or just journaling and other forms of focused attention.
2. Physical Spaces
The physical space plays an important role in how safe we feel. Other than some basics like the safety of the structure etc. that we can thankfully take for granted most of the time in Europe it is helpful to reflect on how open or closed the walls and windows are, how intimate the atmosphere is and how the aesthetics of the place support the work that you want to be doing.
3.Cultivating Connection: Self, Other and the World
One of the most powerful tools to create safety is connection. You can start with yourself and connect with your breath and body. The more you relax into your body the safer you will feel. The more relaxed you are, the more others around you can relax.
To connect with others, some form of sharing and communication can be helpful. More on this in the next point.
And it can also be helpful to expand your awareness to the world around you, especially nature. If you realize yourself to be part of a larger organism your sense of safety can increase, also as a group.
4. Structure vs. Freedom and Culture
It is a delicate balance to find the right amount of structure that is needed to allow freedom. The more structure you have, the more you might feel safe but you also limit freedom of moving unrestrictedly. Once you have built a culture as a group and some rules have been internalized, you don’t need to make them explicit that much in the structures. But this needs some time to evolve and trust needs to cover for areas where no structures or rules are in place.
Here are some examples for supportive structures:
It can be as easy to give permission to someone else to open up deeply as setting aside a limited time of undivided attention for speaking just for one person. Than this person knows this time is completely his/hers and he/she won’t be interrupted and therefore feels safe enough to go deeper
- Lowering the threshold: from small to large group
Before speaking up in a large group, many people feel more comfortable to speak to smaller groups (2-4) first. After this, they ideally experience that it’s okay to open up and dare to speak in front of more people.
- Conversation structure
There are many beautiful structures that support deeper conversations. One tool is to use powerful questions to frame the conversation. Another is to have an equal amount of speaking time for everyone in the group by setting an alarm. Some way of feedback or reflection in the end can make everyone feel heard and seen. Combine these together and you are well on your way to a new conversation culture.
- Explicit Agreements
Agreements (ideally collectively created) that everyone adheres to can guide our behavior and act as powerful reminders of how we want to be with each other. If we fail to live up to our agreements we can remind each other and support us in living up to our self-imposed standards.
5. Mental Maps and Orientation
Most of us have been brought up in a very rational world. Therefore we still associate logic with safety. It can be helpful to frame your work with some sort of mental maps that give orientation to others. This way they can connect what is about to happen with their existing knowledge. You can help them build a bridge that can support them to actually open up to experience something new.
6. Acceptance and Allowance
An inner attitude of acceptance and allowance can be felt by others powerfully and helps them to relax into who and how they are in the moment. If you model and signal others that it’s okay to be just as you are they also become more willing to take the risk to reflect on themselves and actually change their behavior if necessary. I love Jamie Catto‘s idea to be a living permission slip.
Now it’s on you! Which other elements do you identify when creating safe spaces for you or others? Please share them in the comments! I’m extra curious to hear what works best for you and learn from each other!
And if you are ready to explore together…
Cocoon – A Safe Space For Courageous Innovators – A 3-Month Transformation Journey
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Requirement for participation is your commitment to move towards the shift actively rather than resisting it. Over the course of three months you’ll be guided in an intensive group coaching program.
Details & Application: http://www.cocoon-community.com