Writing in a cafe used to be the underpinning of my life when I lived in Seattle a few decades ago. Cafes were plentiful (cafes with personality and individuality, not just Starbucks on every corner). My morning routine sat firmly atop writing, with the cafe environment a holding space for me.
A holding space — a space where you are safe and can get to know yourself more deeply — is essential for writing. It’s a container for the self, a place of safety and freedom to experiment. The British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott (who is famous for the concept of the transitional object), described how a mother creates a holding space for her child as she bathes, holds, and cares for her child in daily routines. Through this physical and emotional holding environment, the child can explore and develop, both externally and internally, without being overwhelmed by the frightening and infinite possibilities of the unknown world.
We all need holding. We all need safe containers within, where we can reflect, question, explore, play. I forget this sometimes when I flail around in unbounded space and emotional turmoil. To remember, I just need to do what I did this morning: come to a cafe, open up my notebook, and settle into the space where I am held.
Questions for Reflection: Where do you like to write, read, or reflect? What does the concept of a holding space mean to you? Where do you find your best holding space?
Writing Prompts: “I feel safest in exploring myself when I ______” (then keep writing); “When I think of a holding space, I immediately think of ______” (then keep writing); “I’d really love it if I could create a holding space for ______” (then keep writing); “This post makes me want to begin writing ______” (then keep writing).