It’s important to have friends who are a safe haven when life gets stormy. But truly supportive friendships offer more than just safety and comfort – they encourage you to grow and develop into the person you want to become, or to at least explore what that might be. They are what psychology calls a "secure base" for you.
People who are secure bases do not need you to be what they want you to be. Instead, they express caring and support for the “real” you. They encourage you to explore and pursue what matters to you. In my book, Insecure in Love, I offer exercises that can help you figure out who can truly be a safe haven and secure base for you. I have combined some of these exercises into one exercise, which I am offering here. To complete it, all you need is a sheet of paper, a pen, and your willingness to explore your relationships. Then follow these directions:
Identify and write down the names of people who are a safe haven for you. These are people who you can turn to when you are really upset and struggling. They likely have the following traits:
- Is a good listener, so you feel understood
- Expresses a desire to be there for you when you struggle
- Responds to your distress with caring, reassurance, and support
- Effectively communicates their support and caring
- Just being in their presence feels comforting
Next, circle the name of each person on that list who fits the following traits of a “secure base”:
- Shows an interest in what’s important to you
- Wants you to be the best version of yourself
- Encourages you to explore your interests
- Is consistent in their support and encouragement
- Is supportive even when you differ in opinion or interests
Place a star next to the names of those you currently reach out to when you need encouragement in exploring your interests and values – these people function as secure bases in your life. The other circled names represent potential secure bases.
Once you identify actual or potential secure bases in your life, you can begin strengthening those relationships. You can open up to supportive people, telling them about the interests you have or would like to explore. Then you might try talking with them as you pursue those interests, giving them to opportunity to emotionally support you, share in your excitement, and help you along the way. Although you could certainly engage in your values and interests without their support, people who are secure bases can bolster your inner strength and offer you a sense of connection that enhances a sense of meaning and fulfillment.