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Letter: “I am not safe”

Dear Katie,

Thank you so much for answering the email I sent to you about my son’s father who keeps touching me whenever he sees me.

I meditated on what you said: “I will do whatever it takes to avoid conflict”—and I found two underlying beliefs.

  1. “My parents were fighting all the time.” (Which, of course, isn’t true, because they were also working, eating, sleeping, etc.—and, sometimes, they even had a normal conversation?)
  2. “My son’s father is a psychopath.” (Which, of course, isn’t true, because having characteristics of a narcissistic personality disorder doesn’t automatically mean someone is a psychopath.)

The most interesting thing, however, was the fact that I found a common underlying belief under those two beliefs when I did the four questions and the turnarounds on both of them: in both cases, the answer to question number three was fear: “I am not safe.”

Then, I did a One-Belief-at-a-Time Worksheet on that belief and I discovered I can’t imagine who I would be without the thought: I have had this belief for as long as I can remember (i.e., as long as I have memories); when my memories started, I already had this belief.

By the way, I also discovered where my addiction to sugar (which I, too, have had for as long as I can remember!) probably comes from: sugar calms me down and, thus, makes me feel (more) safe.

Luckily, I could easily find three genuine examples of “I am safe”: I have a house, I have a job, and I have family and friends who support me.

But I felt I wasn’t finished, so I looked through the fear and anxiety archives on your web site, where I found this statement: “Fear is always the result of an unquestioned past imagined as a future.”

And, then, it suddenly became clear to me: in the past, I got afraid when my parents were fighting (because, as a child, I couldn’t see it for what it was: two confused people trying to reach each other) so, I took the belief “I am not safe” with me to the future, where I imagine my son’s father to do something terrible to me and/or my son if I tell him frankly I don’t want him to touch me in certain ways and places.

Moreover, his inappropriate touching may “just” be his confused way to try to reach me, and I don’t want him to reach me because, deep down inside, I’m afraid of him (perhaps even terrified).

What doesn’t really help here, is the fact that one of my two sisters (who were identical twins) was murdered almost twenty years ago by a “psychopath” (i.e., a very confused young man).

Confused people can do terrible things to others. However, that probably can’t be prevented by being insincere; being insincere probably makes things even worse.

In my heart I know now, that, when the fear is gone, the inappropriate touching will be gone, as well.

I still don’t know how to “get rid of” the fear that feels like a hand squeezing my heart (I can feel it VERY clearly, now!) but I trust the universe will show me, somehow?.

Thank you again for your most valuable answer to my email!

Much love from the Netherlands,

* * * * *

Dearest Anneke,

I suggest that you go to your computer right now and print out a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet (free at, find a pen or pencil and with the Worksheet in front of you, get comfortable, take a deep breath, begin to relax, close your eyes and when you are comfortable, begin to focus on that situation, and then isolate just one moment when he was touching you inappropriately. Notice what time of day it was when he was touching you. Notice the place where you were. Where were you sitting or standing in that situation as he was touching you? Notice your experience and emotions in that moment when he was touching you. Become very aware of the feelings as you felt/feel them in that situation, and when you are able to identify why you were frightened, angry, or put off by him (in that moment in time), fill in statement #1 on your Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. (The situation, as I hear it from you above, is “He keeps touching me whenever he sees me”). Good, #1 is done. So you’re on your way!

Now, let’s move on to statement #2 on the Worksheet. Close your eyes, get very still and begin to identify what you wanted from him or of him in that very moment when he was touching you. Meditate on what you wanted him to do or to say. Still your mind and continue to fill in statement #2 as you witness that situation. (It doesn’t matter if it was thirty or forty years ago or five minutes ago; quiet recall and focus will show you what you were thinking and feeling in that moment.) For example, “I want him to stop touching me,” “I want him to act appropriately,” etc. Now find your own.

Now, go to statement #3, the shoulds, and identify what it is that he should or shouldn’t do in that particular situation, at that particular moment. (Give him “doable” advice. Be aware that in that moment he can’t go back in time, so don’t ask the impossible.) As you contemplate that moment, what advice would you offer him that would serve you in that moment? “He should stop taking me for granted,” “He shouldn’t be so insensitive to me,” “He should see that he is making me uncomfortable,” etc.

Now, as you continue to hold that image, remaining visually and emotionally in that moment, continue to locate the thoughts you were believing and experiencing, as you continue to meditate on statement #4, the needs. What needs were running in your head in that moment? What do you need from him in that moment to be happy? “I need him to think about what he is doing,” “I need him to ask me what I want,” “I need him to know that touching me is not okay with me,” etc.

Continue to complete the next two statements on the Worksheet with those “in that moment” unidentified thoughts and fears. Allow the image to show you what you were thinking, believing, and feeling in that moment, in that situation with your son’s father. I have discovered that the world of reality is always kinder than the world of my unquestioned mind. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and I SO understand that, and I hope that this correspondence makes such a truth clear. I was throwing my “life worth living” away to a world of suffering, though no suffering existed in reality.

Now, it’s time to question the thoughts on your Worksheet, since those thoughts were and still are the cause of your fear, impatience, lack of heart connection, and whatever separation and stress you are or were suffering. For example, “He touches you whenever he sees you”—is it true? “He touches you whenever he sees you”—can you really know that this is true? Think about it. Really? Notice how you react, and what happens, when you believe that thought. Take your time with this third question, and when you have fully seen your reactions (mental and physical) through the stillness of your own mind and heart, move to the fourth question, “Who or what would you be (in that same situation) without that thought?” In that situation, in that very moment, who would you be? Contemplate this question; be still, be open, be shown all that will set you free from fear.

You are very dear, and I hope that this serves you, as inquiry has served me. The only thing more difficult than doing The Work is not doing it.

I remain, without choice, as you are,

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