Can you go through all of life’s troubles alone? No, nor should you. When suffering any kind of loss, dealing with trauma, or working out any complex emotions, sometimes we just need someone to BE with us.
We need them to hold space for us.
Let’s discuss what that means and how to do it for others.
What Does “Holding Space” Mean?
Like many meditation and mindfulness techniques, the concept of holding space sounds simple, but usually isn’t. Holding space is a totally selfless act. It’s a test of your ego to let someone cry, talk through, vent, rant, or remain silent yet supported through a difficult time.
So much of us want to fix things, distract the person we hold space for, commiserate, or otherwise influence the situation. But when we hold space, we create a safe, accepting place for people to simply be.
How to Hold Space for Someone Else
People who need someone else to hold space for them also often need a good listener. A good listener is physically and mentally engaged with the person who is speaking. They are facing the speaker, making eye contact, and are attentive, making sure they understand what the person is saying.
Do not judge.
When we listen, we’re not collecting material to draw conclusions from. Holding space is, above all, creating a safe space, so it’s key to keep your personal opinions to yourself. For instance, you would not tell a person you’re holding space for what they did “wrong” in an upsetting scenario.
Keep yourself grounded first.
Don’t attempt to hold space if you’re not in a position to do so. Just as it’s difficult to meditate when you’re incredibly anxious, holding space for struggling person is hard when you are struggling, too. Mindful breathing is especially useful here,
Practice respect and compassion.
Nonjudgment is one important aspect, and in the absence of judgment, we have to cultivate respect and compassion. This is what makes others feel safe enough to share burdens they can’t carry all alone. Positive energy, thoughts, and feelings are critical here.
Always, always remember that it’s THEIR space.
There’s perhaps nothing more unifying than tough times. However, refrain from sharing your challenging experiences while holding space for someone - unless specifically asked, of course.
This is a big reason why you must ground yourself first. Emotions are contagious; hearing about someone else’s trauma can easily remind you of your own. Make sure that the space you hold can remain reasonably free of your own pain.
It’s your support that is needed, not your influence. Therefore, you should also avoid offering unsolicited advice. The need to solve other people’s problems often stems from our own desire to feel better about what they’re going through. Again, holding space is a selfless act.
Who are you holding space for this week?