Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dignity, Security and Hope

The Canadian Mental Health Commission (MCH) released its findings last week from a five-year research project called Housing First (HF). The study, as reported by the Globe and Mail, found, among other things, that “[f]or every $1 spent providing housing and support for a homeless person with severe mental illness, $2.17 in savings are reaped because they spend less time in hospital, in prison and in shelters.” And, as stated by Louise Bradley, the president and CEO of the MCH, by the second year of living in safe, affordable housing, the study participants, chronically homeless with multiple barriers including mental illness, physical disabilities and substance abuse issues, were asking for help in finding jobs. “A house,” she says, “is so much more than a roof over one’s head. It represents dignity, security and, above all, hope.”

I encourage you to read the full report but what I find interesting is how the larger picture can, and in my experience usually does, reflect our inner life. If I was to grossly summarize the MCH report I would say that safe housing is a pre-requisite for successfully getting on with task of living. If I was to do the same with the work I do, BodyMind Therapy, I would say: feeling safe in who we are and trusting how we feel allows us to live with a sense of abundance. Safe shelter, whether it is composed of concrete and wood or skin and bones, allows us to not just survive, but thrive.

In her book, Trauma and the Body, Pat Ogden (2006) says much the same: you cannot play, care for others, explore, be social, or even adequately regulate your energy needs, without adequate safety. It is what we all need regardless of where we live, how much money we have or who we love.

As for me, creating a sense of inner safety and trust is not only the basis of my work with others but the foundation for my own growth—something I work on each day. Every morning, for example, I talk with the different aspects of myself who are in need of reassurance, validation or just acknowledgement. This may be an angry part or one that feels not good enough or even undeserving. As a result, these parts of self feel heard and are less likely to act out when I least expect or desire it. Knowledge and acceptance of all of who I am is not only the first step in creating an inner sanctuary but an important one in creating a safer external environment. 

Other benefits include:

  • A stronger foundation from which to make change
  • More compassion for self and others
  • Expanded creativity
  • A deeper respect for all life

But it’s a practice. And much like having a secure roof over one's head, it's one that can provide "dignity, security and, above all, hope."

For more information check out my website.

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