Emotional Safety is Necessary for Emotional Connection

 / 

Emotional Safety is Necessary for Emotional Connection

Is emotional safety necessary for emotional connection?
The latest research in neurobiology shows that emotional safety is one of the most important aspects of a satisfying connection in a loving relationship.

We need to feel safe before we’re able to be vulnerable, and as Brené Brown reminds us, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.”

Some people get turned off by the idea of prioritizing safety in their relationship because they equate a “safe” relationship with a “boring” one, but it turns out that the security relationship we all long for is cultivated best when we feel safe.

Stephen Porges, Ph.D., a pioneer in the field of neuroscience and one of the world’s leading experts on the autonomic nervous system, confirms that we have an imperative for safety deeply wired into our minds and bodies.

Porges’ Polyvagal Theory describes how our autonomic nervous system mediates safety, trust, and intimacy through a subsystem he calls the social engagement system.

Our brain is constantly detecting through our senses whether we are in a situation that is safe, dangerous, or life-threatening.

When our body and mind experience safety, our social engagement system enables us to collaborate, listen, empathize, and connect, as well as be creative, innovative, and bold in our thinking and ideas. This has positive benefits for our relationships as well as our lives in general.

Most couples I see in my practice aren’t dealing with life-threatening situations. Instead, they are navigating chronic relationship disconnection, tension, defensiveness, or irritability that signals danger to their senses, which ultimately takes a toll on their relationship.

Our brain’s ability to be aware of these signals is a phenomenon called neuroception, a term coined by Porges to describe how our nervous system relies on feelings in our body to assess our level of risk and safety.

This awareness lies outside of conscious thought. Our brains are wired to provide a continual analysis of information through our senses to decide how and when to initiate and be open to connect with each other.

When we perceive safety through neuroception, our social engagement systems can function and help us create warmth and connection. When we perceive danger, all our resources move towards assessing the level of danger we may be in and protecting us from it.

The subtle threats of disconnection

Christine and Jack, married and in their late thirties, both have high-stress jobs and travel a lot for work, sometimes spending weeks apart from each other.

When they finally reunite, instead of feeling joy and connection, they argue. The cycle goes like this: Jack is critical, Christine counter-attacks, Jack gets flooded and shuts down, Christine feels abandoned. Neither partner feels secure.

We role play a reunion scenario in my office. Their faces, voices, and bodies are tense, reflecting the anxiety they feel inside. Christine and Jack are signaling danger to each other without even realizing it. As humans, we have a capacity to sense threat at its most subtle levels, beyond logic or cognition. This deeply wired system is firing whether we want it to or not.

Neuroception also mobilizes our defenses when we detect a threat, which is what’s happening with Christine and Jack.

Even though they “know” cognitively that they’re safe with each other, their senses are receiving very different information through each other’s voices, eyes, facial expressions, and body language.

When we don’t feel safe, our bodies don’t want to engage, connect, or provide the emotional warmth our relationships need in order to thrive.

Read How to Stop Feeling Anxious, Depressed and Emotionally Overwhelmed

Creating a secure and safe bond

How does a couple convey emotional safety to each other under stress? How do they consciously pave the way for a connection that leaves them inspired and wanting more?

Stan Tatkin, PsyD, the developer of the Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT), incorporates neuroscience to teach couples how to recognize the safety and security system of their relationship to create and maintain lasting love.

In learning how to cultivate a sense of safety on a neuroceptive level, Christine and Jack began to intentionally communicate feelings of interest, acceptance, and love to each other.

They focused on being more intentional about greeting each other in a way that reassured and invited the other in. As they practiced this, their eyes and faces softened, and their voices became calmer and friendlier. Soon, a new way of connecting was possible between them.

Read Are You Emotionally Safe In Your Relationship?

Instead of dreading their reunions, they begin to look forward to them.

The beauty of a nervous system that helps us survive life-threatening events is that it also supports us in deepening our feelings of closeness and connection with one another.

Our relationships are far from boring when we feel safe. Emotional safety enables us the freedom to collaborate, dream, be wildly creative, share bold ideas, feel increased compassion, and express ourselves freely with one another.

The more we understand how our bodies play a role in our relationships, the more we can make them work for us instead of against us.

By Ellen Boeder


Emotional Safety is Necessary for Emotional Connection

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Up Next

Codependency or Love? 8 Signs Of Enmeshment In Romantic Relationships

Eight Signs Of Enmeshment In Romantic Relationships

Ever felt like you’re too close in your relationship? When two become one, where’s the “me” in the “we”? Welcome to the world of enmeshment in romantic relationships. It’s where deep love can sometimes feel like a tight squeeze. So, are you in a cosy embrace or a restrictive hold?

Join us as we shed light on these blurred boundaries and help you find your footing. It’s all about striking the right balance: being close yet maintaining your own space.

Ready to dive deeper into understanding enmeshment in romantic relationships and balancing your love connection? Let’s get started.



Up Next

Dating Someone With Relationship OCD? 7 Strategies For Supporting Your Loved One

Dating Someone With Relationship OCD? Seven Essential Insights

Relationships are built on trust, understanding, and commitment. These are the pillars that hold a relationship steady, even when storms come. And just like any challenge in life, some storms are tougher than others. One such challenge is when you are dating someone with Relationship OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). 

This condition can bring unique difficulties, but with knowledge and patience, you can meet these challenges head-on. When you are dating someone with OCD and anxiety, both of you must make an effort to understand this disorder.

When both of you are informed, you can navigate the challe



Up Next

What Is A Summer Fling? 20 Tips On How To Have A Summer Fling

What Is A Summer Fling? Twenty Strategies To Have A Summer Fling

Warm breezes, sandy beaches, and a whirlwind romance that lasts just a season – ever wondered what is a summer fling? Dive in as we unravel this sun-kissed mystery and give you the ultimate guide on how to have a summer fling.

What Is a Summer Fling? 

The quintessential charm of summer lies in its fleeting nature, much like the brief but passionate encounters we often refer to as “summer flings”. What is a summer fling? 

It’s a



Up Next

What Is a Serial Dater? The Underlying Psychology and 5 Warning Signs

What Is a Serial Dater? Underlying Psychology and Five Signs

Have you ever come across someone who seems to be constantly dating, jumping from one relationship to another with lightning speed? They just might be a serial dater. What is a serial dater, you ask? 

Serial daters always have a new partner on their arm, leaving behind a trail of broken hearts. If you’ve ever wondered what drives these individuals to engage in such a whirlwind of romantic entanglements, then you’ve stumbled upon the world of serial dating. 

Let’s explore what it means to be a serial dater, identify the telltale signs of a serial dater, and delve into the complexities of this dating phenomenon. So, fasten your seatbelts as we embark on a journey to understand the enigmatic world of serial dating.



Up Next

How To Deal With A Perfectionist Partner

How To Deal With A Perfectionist Partner: Eleven Tips

Do you have a partner who constantly strives for perfection in every aspect of their life? While it may seem admirable at first, dealing with a perfectionist partner can sometimes be challenging. Let’s explore how to deal with a perfectionist partner and build a healthier relationship. 

How to deal with a perfectionist partner

A perfectionist partner has high standards and relentless pursuit of flawlessness, which can create tension and frustration in a relationship. However, it’s important to remember that perfectionism is often rooted in



Up Next

Healing Attachment Wounds: 6 Strategies For Overcoming Insecure Anxious Attachment In Adults

Anxious Attachment In Adults: Six Ways To Overcome And Heal

Anxious attachment in adults is a result of negative attachment between parents and children, in childhood. This post is going to delve deep into the insecure anxious attachment style, how insecure anxious attachment in adults work, and how to overcome anxious attachment.

A childhood characterized by healthy, supportive parenting – in other words, secure attachment – is the foundation for calm and confident adulthood.

What Causes Anxious Attachment In Adults?

If you suffer from chronic anxiety you already know it’s a negative and und



Up Next

How To Keep Them Interested? A Cosmic Guide To Captivate Each Zodiac Sign

How To Keep Them Interested? Your Guide To Enchant Signs

Does the chemistry between you and your partner fizzle out too soon? If you’re wondering how to keep them interested, astrology can help you out!

Are you tired of your love life resembling a never-ending carousel of “Unmatchables”? Do you wish your dates didn’t fade away faster than a Snapchat message?

Fear not, dear reader, for the stars have aligned to provide you with a dazzling guide on how to keep each zodiac sign interested in you. Buckle up, because we’re about to dive into the cosmos of love, attraction, interest, and attention!