The Safety Net

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk

Loss of the Comfort Zone


From infancy to adulthood, our greatest comfort is our mother.  The woman who protects us from all possible evil, who heals our wounds, who tells us she loves us unconditionally come what may.  We feel both protected and accepted by her and when in pain can share our anxieties, our feelings with her, and know she will understand and exude a healing atmosphere around our very being.  We are a part of her and feel protected and accepted .  We can be ourselves.  Our successes are adulated  and our failures are minimized.  When the infant takes his/her first steps, the joy that the Mom exudes is indescribable; if he falls, he is picked up, kissed and held.  In short, he can do no wrong. 

As the child grows, there are expectations.  He must earn his love.  He must reciprocate.  He must respond.  He must do the “right thing,” whatever that may be.  He must please his parents, his surroundings. He begins to see their flaws, their shortcomings.  Regardless, he must honor them and he must go “den graden Derach” (the straight and honest path).  This is where the ten commandments come into play.  The ten commandments teach what is important.  If we love and honor our parents we are rewarded with a long life.   As time passes, the grown child chooses, either consciously or otherwise, his life’s work, which includes his education.  In a healthy Jewish or religious home he still has his Mom or Dad to consult, to emulate, or not, but Mom especially is always there to listen, to advise if called upon, to encourage.

The life cycle continues and parents grow old.  The dependence, mostly psychological, continues.  It is the love, the understanding, the innermost familiarity, the memories, experiences that are there.  Often the child wants to be the parent.  If she/ he has wisdom and love, he will value Mom and Dad’s need for independence.  She will do when the need is essential and allow the parents' dignity to remain. She will value their wisdom, their abilities, their strengths.

The most traumatic experience that the adult son or daughter encounters is the death of the beloved parent.  The safety net disappears.  There will never be another which resembles the relationship.  The creation of the human body and “Neshome” (soul) from pre-birth to the end of life.  The parent will never leave the consciousness of the offspring in one way or another. We can observe that in the very old person who will ask to see her mother when she is allegedly waiting for her.  The actuality is not there but in the mind of the person thus pleading to be loved and protected, it very much exists.  It feels very frightening to be unprotected and rejected.  The comfort that the child experienced has vanished, leaving the distressed older adult needy and wanting. The loving adult “child” will hug their loved one and let her know that she understands and misses her mother, but verbalizes that he or she is there and loves her.  Men too miss their parent but have somewhat other ways of expressing their loneliness and needs.

The orthodox person gets their comfort zone from their strong belief that “hashem” will give solace.  In all religious people, G’d is very much present in their psyche in the way in which they respond.

It is a great “Mitzwah” (good deed / blessing) to enable others to find their comfort zone. As we have experienced in our lives, it often feels better to give and to share rather than receive.  Comfort zones can be given without cost to the “Nadven.”  Let us respect and honor our fellow Jews, our family, our neighbors, and all those who need solace and a comfort zone.


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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