When I first heard the term "holding space" for someone, I think I rolled my eyes. As much as I'm a big fan of self-help aka personal development, I just didn't know if I bought into it.
I wonder, though, if I was just resisting the concept because it was so foreign to me.
I like to talk. A lot. And solve problems. I'm the one raising her hand in the meeting. Ooh! Ooh! I know what would work. Friend with a problem? Let me break down what she should do.
We often operate at such a break-neck pace that there doesn't seem to be any time to "hold space for" someone. But really, this is precisely what is needed -- for a person to express themselves, feel their feelings, and encouragement as they solve problems. To hold space.
In her piece "What It Really Means To Hold Space For Someone," Healther Plett writes:
"It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.
Sometimes we find ourselves holding space for people while they hold space for others ... It’s virtually impossible to be a strong space holder unless we have others who will hold space for us. Even the strongest leaders, coaches, nurses, etc., need to know that there are some people with whom they can be vulnerable and weak without fear of being judged."
Plett goes on to give eight excellent tips for holding space for others, like "Give people permission to trust their own intuition and wisdom," and "Keep your own ego out of it." Plett writes her own experience when a palliative care nurse held space for her during her mother's death. And she points out that it's something we all can do.
I thought of this today, when someone poured their heart out in a safe space I was a part of. How brave it is to share the worst of our wounds, to voice words we've never said to another human being, or to put them down on paper.
When I heard this story, one of suffering and violence, I had nothing to say except to offer a hug and say, "You are so brave. You are not alone."
I can hold space because of the many people who do this for me. In the past year I've sent texts, had phone conversations, and cried in front of a handful of people who said, "There there." They also said at times, "I can't tell you what to do, but I'm here for you whatever happens." And when I make mistakes? They support me in getting back up.
This is Day 7 of 90 Stories in 90 Days.