Holding is Creating a Safe Haven

Have you ever wondered why nearly every baby on the planet goes through a period in which she says, in language either abundantly clear or coded in a way only an attentive parent can understand, “Hold me.” As a child grows, the daily requests usually go away, but the need may not, especially in the face of stress, pain or trauma (real or perceived). It may return at any age when one is again vulnerable, which means that the need for some version of holding (physically or metaphorically) persists. The patient may not like this idea, and we may not feel like doing it, but neither of these makes the need go away. It is still a key element of a relationship perceived as safe. As caregivers, we have the power to help another to re-experience this feeling of being held, if only by being a person upon whom he can emotionally rely. We hold when we attune, giving the other our complete presence and our focused attention. We hold when do what we said we would do. We hold when we listen with an open heart, without defense or retort. We hold when we are a sturdy and compassionate presence in troubled times.