Hey Shrink #5: Safety Extinguishes Anxiety

Lake in Croatia (David Zinger)

“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” — Swedish proverb

Welcome to the fifth issue of Hey Shrink. The first series of issues of this new newsletter is devoted to understanding, reducing, managing, and transforming anxiety.

“Safety IS the treatment. — Stephen Porges

Sit in safety. Dr. David Martin, a psychologist who taught and wrote about counselling at the University of Manitoba was instrumental in teaching me how psychological safety extinguishes fear. His teaching was in regards to a counselling relationship where the safety created by the counsellor allowed the client to look at, and deal with, many fearful experiences and thoughts. As the client “sat in safety” talking about their anxious thoughts and feelings they experienced the anxiety extinguishing because of the power of psychological safety.

Caring is the key to safety. I taught about 100 Crucial Conversation and Crucial Confrontations courses. The more I taught these helpful and insightful courses, the less I thought of them as communication courses and the more I thought of them as safety courses. The two keys to establishing and maintaining safety in conversation is caring for the other person and caring about what they are interested in.

“Psychological safety is not at odds with having tough conversations – it is what allows us to have tough conversations.” Amy Edmondson

Who or what makes you safe? If you are a leader of a group, ranging from a teacher with a class to a supervisor at a construction site, do you make it safe for your team or class? Do they know you care about them and care about what they are interested in? (And if you don’t care are you taking steps to rekindle your caring or make a job change?)

Psychological safety and courage are simply two sides of the same (immensely valuable) coin. Both are—and will continue to be—needed in a complex and uncertain world. — Amy Edmondson

Keep your extinguishers close. Many of us keep fire extinguishers in our workplace and homes to protect our property and us if fire should ignite. The next time you are anxious, I encourage you to reflect on all the things and people that contribute to your psychological safety so that you can douse your anxiety with your personal ‘safety extinguisher‘. We may be adults, but we can benefit from the comfort of the adult equivalent of a security blanket or a well worn plush bear as we confront and move through anxiety.

Relate and care. We get by with a little help from our friends. Anxiety is seldom a solo experience. If we know someone else is experiencing anxiety, chances are it will have a significant impact on us. Help them to extinguish their anxiety by making them safe through your caring for them, and your caring for what they are experiencing.

To get out, go through. The way out of something is often through something. The way out of anxiety is often through it and psychological safety can create a powerful caring and careful portal or pathway though anxiety.

Hey Shrink: Psychological Zingers for Better Living, Working, and Wellbeing is a weekly newsletter offering perspectives, nuggets, nudges, considerations, or ideas to enhance your wellbeing. I bring 25 years of my counselling knowledge, experience, and perspective to help you and others improve their living, working, and wellbeing. I am available for online and in-person workshops, coaching, and caring conversations.

If you want more zing in your life and work message me directly though LinkedIn or email me at: david@davidzinger.com.

Scroll to Top