You may have heard the term 'holding space' for someone, but what does that actually mean?
We live in an instant gratification world. We are an action-oriented society full of doers. When we encounter our own struggles, or the struggles of others, our natural instinct is usually to jump into action and "help" or "fix". This isn't inherently a bad response (there are no 'bad' responses, really), but sometimes action isn't what's needed. Sometimes what we need is a compassionate shoulder to lean on, a listening ear, and the warmth of companionship. Sometimes what we really need is someone to just be with us.
Holding space for someone means we are willing to walk alongside another person on whatever journey they’re on without trying to fix them, judge them, make them feel inadequate, or try to impact or control the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.
Sounds straightforward, right? It's simple, but it's not easy.
Why We Hide Our True Feelings
How many of us have been in some form of emotional pain but when someone asks how we're doing we say "fine"? How often do we plaster a smile on our faces to mask our struggles, instead of allowing our emotions and thoughts to bubble to the surface? in some instances, of course, it's appropriate not to share. But why do we do this even with loved ones or friends who genuinely care? Maybe it is because we don't want to feel like a burden. Perhaps we don't feel emotionally safe being vulnerable. We often justify being closed-up by thinking someone couldn't possibly understand, but most often it's because we're afraid. Afraid that if we open up and don't get a compassionate or understanding response, we will feel hurt and/or rejected. So we play it safe, and keep our true emotions safely under guard.
Part of the reason for this fear is that often well-intentioned people don't allow us to simply experience emotions. They minimize in an effort to make things seem okay, even when they're not. They offer solutions or try to fix us, which can only serve to make us feel more broken. They switch the topic to themselves in an effort to identify - whether they are on-point or not - which makes us feel less-than or like we're 'complaining'. Perhaps they offer platitudes, or tell us it will all be okay, which makes us feel unheard.
Think of holding space for someone as becoming a safe container for them, where they can feel what they feel in whatever form that takes. We spend so much of our lives performing in some respect. At work, home, with friends and acquaintances, so much of our life requires us to be on.
6 Ways to Hold Space for Someone
So how does one actually do this? How can you hold space for someone? It can be very difficult to do, especially when you love someone and it hurts your heart to see them in pain.