I’ve recently realized that I am actually getting quite good at holding space for myself these days. It’s a pretty big revelation as I have always depended on others to do so for me, regardless of there capacity or interest. What do I mean by this?
For me, holding space for someone is allowing them the opportunity to be vulnerable in a time of need. Whether that is through an act of physical touch, listening to them ramble through an anxiety, allowing them to feel seen or heard or otherwise by simply being available, holding space can be one of the best gifts to receive. What I didn’t realize is that it is one of the most fickle gifts to give.
The more I know myself, the more aware I become of my limitations. The more aware of my own limitations, the more aware I have become that guess what, other people have them too! I am very guilty of having an overwhelming feeling and not knowing how to deal with it on my own. Before I’ve even tried, I am reaching for the phone and unloading on an unsuspecting friend or loved one. Sometimes I am left feeling lighter as the person I chose was able to hold space, but more often than not I am left feeling even more lonely and disappointed that the sharing experience didn’t leave me feeling better. I’ve been prone to feel let down by the person I chose to hold space for me. Misunderstood even. Sometimes angry.
Were they even listening to me? How come they changed the topic to something trivial, couldn’t they see I needed to keep going? Why weren’t they as upset for me as I was for myself? Do they even see me?
All kinds of questions like this have plagued my mind after a share that someone wasn’t quite prepared for, or was unwelcome. And why was that? Oh, duh, because they weren’t prepared, or it was unwelcome!
The impulsiveness I have been guilty of could be easily describes as a squirrel with his mouth full of acorns. He is just bursting to spit them out. If he doesn’t take the time to think before he does it, if there is no intention behind the share, then he is just going to let them fly everywhere (and very likely be disappointed by the outcome). By taking the time to stop, breathe, evaluate and ask: “Do I need someone to hold space for me on this?” it can set the whole path in a new motion. This is crucial for me, because if the answer is yes I then have to ask: Is there someone appropriate available to hold space for me on this? It truly is a bigger ask than I had previously thought. Everyone is having there own life and own experiences and struggles in the day-to-day. Even when they are trivial it can sometimes hinder there ability to be there for you in the way that you might need.
For example, if you are upset about something and decide to call your mom and unload about it, she might have just walked in the house from a chaotic trip from the grocery store and is thinking about the ten things she has to do that night. Instead of jumping into the story, it could probably save a lot of frustration on both ends if you begin by saying: “I had a bad day today, I’d like to talk about it, are you available to hold space for me?” That gives her the opportunity to pause and be honest about where she is at in that moment. Can she be present? It also provides you the opportunity not be disappointed by a possible distracted conversation.
If no one is available to hold space for you, there are many, many ways to hold space for yourself. Some that currently work for me in the healthy category are journaling, bathing, walking, and music. In the unhealthy category, the one where I am not really available to hold space for myself (or take time to chew and swallow the acorns), there is always junk food. I don’t beat up on myself when this happens, learning to hold space for myself is a process. How do you hold space for yourself?
Being able to hold space for another is such a beautiful gift, and being able to ask someone to hold space for you is a true act of self-care. Sometimes, you need a bit more space held than usual, but my experiences have shown me to always be mindful of who you ask, what there capacities are and if those meet your expectations before asking. Understand that not everyone is always in the right frame of mind to hold space, just as you accept that of yourself . Accept limitations, and respect them. For me, as less people were able to hold space for me, it has created a ying-yang effect of allowing me to learn more ways to hold space for myself.
Who holds space for you? Are you conscious about who you choose? Are you in tune with what you need from them before you ask? How do you hold space for yourself in healthy, nurturing ways? When you do turn to unhealthy ways, are you gentle with yourself about it? Life can be stressful, and it is unbelievable what having someone else (who is available and safe) hold space can heal when you know what you need. Don’t be afraid to ask, and when you are rejected, as you will be from time to time, welcome the opportunity you have been given to learn more about how to provide it for yourself.