Regardless of what relationship we’re talking about (spiritual, familial, friendship, and romantic), creating and fostering a sense of safety and security is a process rather than a set of behavioral techniques. This process centers around these three ways of relating: accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement. A simple way to remember this is the acronym and phrase: “A.R.E. you there?”.
Accessibility is primarily about attention and openness. It’s not enough to just be around each other or spend time together. We must also send crystal clear signals that those we care for can reach us. Body language, tone, and behavior all play a role so putting away distractions and focusing on your loved one can help.
Responsiveness involves providing emotional comfort and support on a regular basis. This is what helps calm the nervous system during times of distress. Since we are wired for relationship, knowing that someone has our back is very reassuring. Demonstrating empathy by sharing how their pain or joy touches you can help. Speaking softly and staying with them is also very helpful to signal safety to the brain.
Engagement is actively taking an interest in our loved one’s inner world. Taking time to give them the message that they are valued and matter. This can involve sharing hopes, dreams, interests, and anything else that says, “I want to know you and appreciate you”.
If we are to become a safe haven and a secure base for one another, for our children, and for those around us, we must focus on how we’re relating to others. Remembering this acronym can be a helpful guide as we all work on “undoing aloneness” in our world.
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* The information provided is for self-enrichment and not intended to replace any necessary mental health treatment.
Jonathan Dixon, LMFT
Alpha Omega Team