Okay, before you write this off as all ‘woo-woo’ hear me out…
You may already have an idea of what ‘holding space’ means, but just so we’re on the same page, I describe holding space as:
- Listening without judgment, no matter what is being said
- Staying ‘out of the pool’ – not agreeing with the person’s story, not feeling sorry for them or justifying their emotions – just listening quietly, and with compassion
- Being patiently and giving them all the time they need to get their words and emotions out
Maybe you’ve already done this for a friend, a loved one, or even a customer or an employee.
But have you ever done it for yourself?
Have you ever help space for YOU? Have you ever listened to your own feelings and needs, from a neutral space, without judgment, and with compassion?
I recently made the difficult decision to end a romantic relationship, even though I did (and still do) care very much for this person.
We separated on good terms, but shortly afterwards I found that I kept returning to a feeling of anger towards them. The thoughts coming up for me were that they weren’t who I needed them to be, or who I thought they should be, and if they had been, then none of this would have happened.
Now I know that this person wasn’t truly making me angry, it was my thoughts about them that were causing my own feelings of anger (‘they should be different’, “the circumstances shouldn’t have been be so challenging”).
It took me a few days – and many thought downloads – to understand my real problem.
I was sad.
Even though I’m the one that decided to end that part of our relationship, I was still very sad about it, and I was mourning the loss.
The problem was, I didn’t want to feel sad. That emotion was WAY too uncomfortable, so I was trying my best to avoid it. For me it was much easier to feel anger, because I could at least project that onto someone else, and not have to own it (spoiler alert, that actually doesn’t work 😬).
When I finally decided to let go of my ‘false’ anger and get curious about my sadness, it allowed me to discovered another underlying thought that I was trying to avoid…the thought that somehow I “didn’t have the right to be sad because I’m the one that caused all the pain to both of us in the first place”.
(Can you believe the way we talk to ourselves sometimes??)
Once I discovered that these thoughts were the actual cause of my pain, I decided allow them, explore them, and to hold space for myself.
I gave myself permission to be sad. To allow it. To feel the feelings, without judgment, without reacting, and process them when I was ready.
It was difficult for sure, and brought up some issues that I wasn’t aware I had been avoiding. But finally understanding the thoughts that were causing my pain felt so much better than projecting anger at someone I loved.
And that’s the same option I’d like to offer for you…to hold space for yourself. Just like you would for a loved one, your best friend, or a child.
Whatever you’re going through, whatever feelings you’re trying to work out, make sure to have compassion for you. Have your own back. Don’t judge. Identify your thoughts that are causing your feelings, allow them, and process them.
And always remember to love yourself through that process.
You’re 100% worth it.