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Trying to Feel Safe but Old Fears Keep Assaulting Me
Elayne Savage. Ph.D. -- The Rejection Expert Elayne Savage. Ph.D. -- The Rejection Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: San Francisco, CA
Sunday, April 30, 2023


By Elayne Savage, PhD

#200 © Can Stock Photo : hmzphotostory

   © Can Stock Photo / hmzphotostory

After many decades living in this house on a hill, I decided to move away from the slippery winding brick steps leading from the street to my front door. As I get older, they just don’t seem so safe anymore.

So now that I’m a full-fledged elder, I’ve been exploring various senior living choices in the Bay Area. There is a residence I love because it’s only 1/2 block away from one of my favorite shopping and restaurant streets. This really appeals to me. 

Lately though, along this vibrant street where I have spent so many enjoyable hours over the years something has changed. These days there are almost daily reports of smash-and-grabs to parked cars and recently have been sidewalk assaults  –– phones and purses stolen mostly by teens with guns. I know I cannot move nearby.

Maybe you, too, are becoming aware of danger lurking around where you live or shop. I recently read in the US there have been160 mass shootings so far this year and only 120 days have gone by! 

After over 50 shots were fired early this morning outside a Capitol Hill night club Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz observed: “People are too quick to pick up a gun!”

In the past when I begin to feel uneasy about goings-on around me, I blog and put my feelings out there.

I like to think of myself as generally brave and fearless and gutsy. However lately something has changed in me just as it has changed for the shopping street I love so much. 

Just thinking about about these incidences my skin crawls and tentacles of fear spread through my body. Why?

Oh, I get it.  I began to realize this PTSD-like visceral response comes from experiencing old fears from all those many years ago when I was a Child Protective Social Worker in San Francisco. 

I’d be holding my breath walking through some of those neighborhoods. Too often when I entered housing projects I had to climb stairs because someone jammed the elevators. I can’t even count the number of drug deals I interrupted on those landings.

 I had to be ultra-vigilant. “Whistling  a happy tune” just didn’t work.

I learned ways to try to feel a little safer. Whenever I found myself walking along a poorly lit sidewalk past dark doorways, I learned to walk out into the street in the open alongside the parked cars. This usually helped a little.

One day a co-worker was in the car with me. As we slowed and stopped for a stop sign someone in a nearby building shot through the window of my car - just behind my head. My colleague and I never ever talked about what happened even between ourselves – it all was so frightening.

One client was always worrying about me having to walk along a row of housing units to get to hers. So she showed me how to hold my set of keys between my fingers so they become a weapon if I needed to defend myself. Sometimes these days when I’m feeling scared, I find myself doing the key thing.

I had hoped those days of fear were over.  But lately I’m finding that all those scary memories I had tried so hard to submerge are assaultively bursting out.

I just re-read something I blogged way back in August 2009

“These surely are scary times. Many of us are leery of all the unknowns…. this uneasiness breeds fear.” 

I’m also remembering blogs from 15 years ago where I reflected on Fear, Anger, Outrage and Change.  I wrote “Little did I dream how relevant these musings would be today. Little did I imagine the Town Hall meetings would disintegrate into such chaos.  I had no clue how these uprisings could possibly instill so much fear. Or how the media would pounce and inflate.” ?

And even back then I observed “Little did I dream how out of control and hysterical folks would become. The flames of fear were fanned and populist rage exploded.” ?

I wrote: “This nation has become so fragmented and polarized. What has become of the idea of  one indivisible Nation ‘with liberty and justice for all?’

“F.E.A.R. is often described as 'False Exaggerations Appearing Real.' In other words, all too often fear arises through the prism of our misperceptions.” 

And now here we are 15 years later.


And I’m too scared to move into a neighborhood I love. 

Feeling Safe and Being Safe

Amanda Mull in The Atlantic writes about the difference between feeling safe and being safe:

?“Safety is among the most powerful motivators of human behavior, which also makes the drive to feel safe a potent accelerant for confusion, disinformation, and panic. Staying safe requires an accurate, mutually agreed-upon understanding of reality on which to assess threats and base decisions.”?

?She goes on to explain: “To understand how humans think about safety, you have to understand how they think about fear. To be safe, people need to be free from the threat of physical or mental harm. But to feel safe, people need to be free from the perception of potential harm, confident that they understand what the likeliest threats are and that they are capable of avoiding them. Whether their perception is accurate is often incidental, at best, to the feeling itself.”

Yet, when we are feeling unsafe it's difficult to think clearly or act decisively. And to complicate matters, it's hard to escape the hourly fueling and fanning of fear by the media and politicians.

Yes, fear is in the air and there is something else in the air as well - helplessness and uncertainty. When these powerful, responses are rooted in early experiences, a child-like fright can take over. 

We start re-experiencing those times when we were young and terrified and helpless. Like waking up from a bad nightmare.

And a small voice asks, "What's going to happen to me?"

Fight, Flight, Freeze and Fawn

You are most likely aware how fear elicits primitive fight-flight-freeze-fawn responses. 

So many of us grew up where our feeling of  safety, security and trust were tarnished and compromised. 

It’s hard to remember that in the face of danger we do have choices. We can be pro-active in our thinking and actions to deal in the best possible way for us to feel safe.

So I keep checking in with myself: ‘What do I need to feel safe? And what do I need to be safe?’

This helps me put this overwhelm in perspective:

To ask myself: How am I affected by outside events?

Why am I debilitated to this degree?

What Options do I have here?

What steps can I take to overcome the fear?

I’ve blogged about Fear 43 times over the years –– here are a few:

What’s Going to Happen to Me? (Tips for Coping with Fear)

Traumatizing Experiences Can Bring On PTSD

The Scariness of Unpredictability

Needing to Feel Safe Amid Hate-filled/Fear-driven/Revenge-generated Horrors

and here is the link to all if my Fear-Themed Blogs. 

© Elayne Savage, PhD

And what is your experience with all these goings on?

Do you,too,  have a story to tell?

Until next month, 


Elayne Savage is the author of ground-breaking relationship books published in 9 languages.
Both books are now available on Kindle!



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Title: The Queen of Rejection
Group: Relationship Coach, Professional Speaker, Practicing Psychotherapist, Author
Dateline: San Francisco Bay Area, CA United States
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