Safe Spaces: A help or a hinderance?

by The Rag Picker

“A culture that allows the concept of “safety” to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy.” The previous quote is taken from The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, a book I highly recommend. The context is a response to the need for safe spaces on college campuses. Safe Spaces. Just hearing those words can cause a range of emotions. What exactly are we talking about in regards to a culture of safety and the need for safe spaces?

According to Wikipedia, "the term safe space refers to places created for individuals who feel marginalized to come together to communicate regarding their experiences with marginalization, most commonly located on university campuses in the western world,2 but also at workplaces, as in the case of Nokia.3 The terms safe space (or safe-space), safer space, and positive space may also indicate that a teacher, educational institution or student body does not tolerate violence, harassment, or hate speech, thereby creating a safe place for marginalized people.4" According to, "On college campuses, a 'safe space' is usually one of two things. Classrooms can be designated as academic safe spaces, meaning that students are encouraged to take risks and engage in intellectual discussions about topics that may feel uncomfortable. In this type of safe space, free speech is the goal. The term “safe space” is also used to describe groups on college campuses that seek to provide respect and emotional security, often for individuals from historically marginalized groups." There is still a third definition that educators sometimes use. In that context safe spaces according to an article on safe spaces are "designated areas where kids can choose to go to calm down, take time to process, or just be alone." Putting this together then a culture of safety seems to be the actualization of a belief that we need to protect people from emotional harm whether it is because they are feeling marginalized or they fear their ideas will be laughed at and ridiculed.

In the case of trying to encourage free speech, the goal appears to be wanting to be sure people don't fear their ideas will be put down, ridiculed, or in some form or another be demeaned - in the eyes of the person who shares the idea. In the case of the marginalized individual, the implied goal is to have a space where their "uniqueness" will be embraced and supported if not even empowered. In either case if the authors of the aforementioned book are to be believed, this mindset of safety and the apparent need for safe spaces does more harm because it "encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy.”

In the context of mastering your growth mindset, it becomes increasingly challenging to train a growth mindset if we are not having the experiences that allows us to put our training into practice and further develop the very mindset that is necessary for young people to develop into strong, healthy, and fulfilled adults or adults to build a mindset that allows them to meet and beat life's challenges so they can live a life of joy and fulfillment. To properly train someone, you need to train them in the skills and then give the situations where they can put those skills into practice. Mindset training is a life-long process because you constantly need to be fine-tuning and honing those skills by experiencing all the trials and tribulations life will throw at you.

Before building anything, excavation work is crucial. You need to remove all the obstacles, smooth out the land, and prepare for the laying of the foundation. In our mindset training the excavation is the Breakthrough training where the client begins to build the habits, manage their emotions, and the attitude by delving into their past to find, eliminate, or smooth their personal history. Doing this alone can lead to tremendous personal growth. With that accomplished, if the client chooses to then begin building a mindset of a champion the next step is to lay the foundation. The mindset of a champion is build on a foundation of love. When we become more loving, we are more patient, kinder, slower to anger, more trusting, trustworthy, hopeful, and perseverant to a name a few characteristics. After the foundation is laid we put up the piers for the arch. The piers are faith and faithfulness. When training faith, we are mostly focused on digging into deeply held beliefs to help you discover if you really believe that what you believe is really real. In the western world today, especially in America, I am discovering that many people are incongruent because what they think they believe and what they really believe are not always in alignment. The worst case scenarios are the hypocrites of the world. Like love, faithfulness has particular traits we focus on further developing in a person. After that triumvirate training is complete there are some options for the arch. The full arch includes training of the mind, body, our relationship skills - family and friendships, and then his then held together by the keystone - the spirit of a champion. The roadbed of this arch bridge represents training a millionaire's mindset. Most training are really not trainings but are courses that focus on knowledge and never address the cleaning up of one's past - the excavation work.

I used to have a difficult time managing my temper and my competitiveness. The first step in learning to control my temper was to let go of the anger in my past. Cleaning up my past was the most important step I took. My temper still will pop up from time to time, but I would never have gotten to the point I have in that emotional management skill if 1) I was not taught tools and techniques to properly and healthily manage my emotions including the my past memories and 2) was not given real life situations in which I could put my training into practice.

Parents, educators, and or individuals who desire the best for themselves and those they care most about should begin to insist not on the creation of safe spaces but should insist on formal training in this area. Simply relying on these habits, emotional management skills, and attitudes to be developed by modeling it in our early years in our families, schools, or communities is a recipe for a perpetuation of the mindset that led to the creation of the derogatory term snowflake. While much of my professional focus has been on teenagers, I do work with and encourage entire families and individual adults to first, invest in a breakthrough training that will prepare the mind for the second step which is a thorough and complete mindset training curriculum. With that training in place, safe spaces will be a hinderance to your development as you want life's challenges to come up so you can enhance your mindset of a champion.

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