One of the greatest “gifts” individuals can provide to one another is “holding space” during times of pain, grief, sadness, and/or anger. Holding space is difficult to describe and define. It is surrendering deeply while walking alongside a person, and to support and love someone without judgment. “Holding space” is not fixing the problem, controlling the situation, making the other person feel inadequate, or directly impacting the outcome. Healing occurs as this space is held and individuals experience freedom to open their hearts without being judged, shamed, overwhelmed, or having their power taken away. As unconditional love and support is provided, individuals are able to make their own choices, engage in self-exploration, and create meaning and peace with personal events encountered.
In order to “hold space” and make room in your hearts for yourself and others, consider these tips:
- Empowerment: When you make a decision for someone, you reduce feelings of competence and use. By giving someone the gift of autonomy to make their own choices, it provides a sense of power and control. Certain exceptions (e.g., addiction recovery) may exist.
- Speak Simply: Our brains have a more limited capacity during stress; too much information can be overwhelming and can also lead to feelings of incompetency. Use small goals, simple instructions, visual handouts, and check-in frequently to make sure the individual is interpreting appropriately and not getting “lost” in the mix.
- Monitor your Intentions: It is common at times for individuals to feel that someone else’s happiness and success is dependent upon their help or support; don’t get caught in this trip and keep your ego separated. To support someone’s growth and strength, create space and allow the opportunity for another person to grow and experience self-improvement.
- Provide Safety: During times of stress, transition, change, and grief, people often worry about making a mistake, failing, or doing something wrong or bad. Listening provides a sense of safety. Not judging or shaming increases security. Letting others know that mistakes will happen in our life also can help individuals feel safe enough to take risks and make healthier changes in their life.
- Practice Dancing: Be attentive to the areas where someone may feel most vulnerable and scared and focus on not shaming or blaming. Recognize the difference between when a person is lost and confused versus feeling inadequate and stupid. It’s a dance of humility and care.
- Respect: We are all different people; even if we would not make the same choices or decisions, practice allowing others to make different decisions and choices, or to have different experiences, than you would make or choose. Remember that this is not an overnight process and that as we practice “holding space” we will become better and better.