The Importance of “Holding Space”

holding space

I wanted to share with you an experience I had that is honestly one of the best moments of my life. This was an incredible example of a very important topic. ‘Holding Space’ for another human being.

What does it mean to “Hold Space” for someone? This is a topic that has profound impact on our relationships. As men, we have a tendency to want to jump in and ‘fix’ things for those we care about. Holding Space is pretty much the opposite of that.

Simply put “Holding Space” means to be entirely present, supportive and non judgemental to another’s current emotional state while being fully immersed in your own experience. We need to practice awareness and empathy for another while simultaneously being attuned to our own judgements, emotions and desired outcomes.

The Chopra Centre defines holding space as

“embodying the principle of surrounding the environment with your awareness in a way that provides comfort and compassion for all.”

For our purposes we are really talking about being present, aware and supportive of each other in the current moment without intervening to try and ‘fix’ whatever experience another person is having. Holding Space is about creating a safe environment for a person to lean into whatever they are feeling without fear of judgement.

My Story
On the weekend I ended up taking my 16 year old daughter to get her winter tires swapped out for summer ones. We ended up having about an hour to kill while the tire shop worked on her vehicle. We went out to a quaint little coffee shop and ordered iced mochas. They were delicious. 

We chatted a little about her work schedule and I remarked on how proud she must feel given how hard she had been working and how much money she had saved up. Eventually, she came around and asked me what was new. I shared with her my excitement about the men’s group I was leading and shared some of the impacts it was having on the men. She beamed and said that I must be very proud as well. This really touched me. I told her I was and I went on to explain to her why this was important work.

You see several years ago my girlfriend had been killed by an ex-boyfriend who had also taken his own life. So as I spoke the words “This is important because emotionally connected men do not kill people” I absolutely fell apart and started sobbing. We were in the middle of a crowded coffee shop. She just held my gaze with a look of compassion and as I started trying to compose myself she reminded me of what I had just spent the last 10 minutes telling her. That it was OK for men to feel. She didn’t offer me condolences, she did not try to assuage my pain. She simply held space for me. It was truly one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

Where have you ‘held space’ for another or when has someone ‘held space’ for you? Maybe more importantly do you ‘hold space’ for yourself?

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