By John Diamond, M.D.
Let’s talk about the word safety. It comes from the Latin salvus and it means to be healthy, whole, uninjured therefore without fear, without stress. Because when you feel safe you have no fear and therefore no stress. And somebody once remarked that the purpose of meditation, the feeling of meditation was like the feeling of going home – or to a home where there is no stress, no fear, where you believe your mother loves you. So it is going to a safe place, to a sanctuary.
There is a paper I believe should be required reading for anyone in the healing arts by a psychiatrist who tragically died young in a car accident. This was Louis Cholden:
“There is a vital force within each patient that desires fulfillment, maturation and development … to the maximum utilization of his potential… All of nature points to the fact that there is a drive toward integration in each living organism, an inherent force which strives toward the organization of the being. It might be called an integration factor. It is the drive in the organism to attain its highest potentiality. It says that human nature contains a drive towards health.
“The therapist must constantly keep in mind – medicus curat, natura sanat, the doctor looks after, nature heals – that he is not curing a disease. Rather he is creating an environment of safety, trust in people and faith in living, which allows the natural forces of health within his patient to flourish. He is allowing hope to rise for future relationships, by comfort in the therapeutic relationship. The silent hour may accomplish this better than one filled with brilliant interpretations.”1
Cholden’s paper changed my life in many ways and what he said is that there is a power within everyone, an integration factor which I would call the healing power within or the Life Energy. And he said what is important is to give, in my words, this safe space in the treatment situation that enables this integrative factor to work. And he said just being silent, and in my words kindly disposed, whatever words you like to use, towards the patient can do more good then hours of incredibly accurate and sophisticated interpretations and goodness knows what?
And so the whole point is that he said you need to create a safe place, a sanctuary if you like. It’s got to be a place where there is no fear, if only for that short period of time the person can feel at least less fearful and get a better inkling of what the deep unconscious is like. And you know that safe place will always be a place where you feel that your mother loves you.
“Observations on Psychotherapy of Schizophrenia” in Progress in Psychotherapy 1956, ed. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann and J.L. Moreno. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1956, pp. 245-6.