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Know Your Exits to Ease Your System

When you’re being 'trauma informed', whether towards your own or someone else's, it’s important to clearly and regularly identify exits.

Think about the flight element of our fight & flight system: people psychically need to somewhere to 'flight' towards. It is a hard wired nervous system response. Sometimes we need to get out of a situation quickly.

When faced with a potentially difficult place or situation, our bodies are asking ‘if it gets bad here, how can I get out and keep myself safe?’.

What is a safe place for one person might be a real stretch for someone else. Don't assume everyone will feel as safe as you do (or don't!).

If we can’t perceive a clear exit, it stifles our ability to relax into the situation.

Having a firmer awareness of the available escape routes can sooth and ground us, thereby potentially lowering the likelihood of needing to use them.

There are many situations where exiting is socially and practically difficult. To list a few: school, work, appointments, workshops, bars/restaurants, classes, family commitments, transport. Even if it's not easy to actually leave, just being aware of the physical route you might take is helpful.

Next time your in a situation that you find difficult, play close attention to your exit potentials. Notice if having a stronger awareness of your escape routes increases your calmness.

For people who work with people in any capacity: I believe we have a responsibility to keep the practical and psychological exits well and truly open, because this adds to a person’s sense of psychological as well as physical safety. This often doesn’t just take practical forms, it takes the form of permission: permission to exit. Some people didn’t always get that message in life, so it’s an important one to receive. You are free to go whenever you like.


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