Mar 27, 2017

Posted by in My Viewpoints | 2 Comments

Safe Space: Things I learned in School

One of the classes I am required to take while in school for massage therapy is called Wellness. This class is dedicated to understanding how to communicate, set boundaries, and understand enough about the human condition to appreciate what our role is in the life of another as a Licensed Massage Therapist. As an LMT we are not going to be able to diagnose, prescribe meds, give a prognosis, nor act as a mental health counselor. These are all outside of our scope, but we are still caregivers and must act accordingly. Wellness is the class that will help us navigate that, while also making sure that we take care of ourselves.

Of the topics we have covered so far in this class, one of them was the idea of creating a safe space, and what that is. If you’re at all conservative-minded, this has probably made you groan or roll your eyes. I know, because for a while that was me. I don’t think it’s an incorrect action, either, because I think the idea of the safe space has been muddled from its original intent.

Right now, the safe space is regarded as this place students in college can go to escape from the real world. A place where they don’t have to accept the consequences of reality because their feelings were hurt, or a bad event happened and they don’t want to hear about it anymore. It’s seen as this way to avoid learning coping skills, and to just generally be a soft human being that cannot withstand anything because they’re an emotional trainwreck of being triggered and the like. Safe spaces are seen as a place where people who don’t like your opinion can run to in order to not have to be confronted with it, and similar. And I think in many cases, this is how safe spaces are currently being used.

After a Wellness class the dealt specifically with the idea of a safe space, and why we must create one though, I’d like to say that I don’t think this was the original intent behind the safe space. I think that somewhere along the line the whole idea became massively distorted, and now it has become something that it wasn’t supposed to be. Of course, this isn’t true 100% of the time, but I think it’s true more than it’s not which is sad.

Originally, I believe safe spaces were meant to be just what we’re aiming to create in our space as LMTs; a space where one enters and will not be judged. It’s a space where you’re free to say what’s on your mind without fear of being chastised or bullied. A place where you can be open about who you are without worrying that someone will put you down for it. These actions, of course, must not put down another in the process. Safe spaces were meant to be places where communication could be open and free so that people could come to an understanding. I’m sure the original idea of the safe space was to provide a place where those who felt like they needed to get something off their mind could go without having to worry about being judged. Lets face it, we face a lot of judgment in this world, and social media has only made it worse.

As an LMT, it’s going to be very important that I set up a safe space, because people can have emotional releases on the table. We hold a lot in our muscles, and if someone suddenly has one of these releases, they need to feel safe to experience it without feeling like I am going to judge them for it. I also will need their honesty so that I can work with them to give them the best massage I can, instead of trying to guess and possibly causing them discomfort, which is the exact opposite of my job.

Knowing this now, it has changed my idea of safe spaces and people being triggered. I now understand that what I’ve known to be a safe space, is not what a safe space was intended to be. That’s a good feeling, to have learned that, because it lets me view them in a different light. As I said though, I still think many are being used for the wrong purpose, but at least now I understand what I presume is the original intent. I’d love to see a world where we can all communicate kindly and freely with each other without worrying what the other thinks of us, but I know that’s not possible. The world is too diverse with too many differing opinions for that to happen, and that’s fine. Perhaps safe spaces will provide a way where we can then work on how we can better respect these differing opinions, instead of getting into fights and arguments.

Unless an opinion is actually harmful to another after all, there’s really no reason to argue over it. If a safe space facilitates being able to bring about that kind of respect, then I am 100% for it. If it ends up being a way to escape a reality you don’t want to accept (like our current President Trump) and essentially burying your head in the sand, then I think you need to revisit your reasons for the safe space. There are always going to be things we don’t like happening in life, and we are going to have to rise to meet them sometimes. But it’s also true that being heard and respected is a confidence booster. So safe spaces walk a fine line.

I think they can be very beneficial if used properly, and very detrimental if abused. Much like anything else. But I urge you to think again on what a safe space should be, and could be, if like I once was you are very prejudiced against them.

  1. Kay Solo says:

    I’m glad you got to learn about stuff like that. I’m currently attending a very liberal college in a very liberal part of the country, and I think the criticisms have been massively overblown. It’s definitely not how conservative media would like to portray it. Not that abuse isn’t possible, but after multiple years on multiple campuses I’ve only ever seen it used the way it was intended, which benefits everyone imo. But yeah for professionals and patients and students alike it’s a good thing when done correctly and I can’t see how anyone would be opposed to it haha.

    • Honestly, it’s probably more here on the east coast that the abuse happens than on the west coast. I feel like the west coast is more liberal in general, and has been, so you guys know what you’re doing. The east coast typically can’t figure it out, and I feel like we end up with a lot of merging of demographics once college hits which changes the dynamic significantly. But I am glad the safe spaces are being used appropriately and beneficially in the college campuses you have been on. C:

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