“Holding the Space” For Others – True Support
Advice giving, although maybe meant well, is focused on fixing and tends to take away the person’s power, implying the person doesn’t know or can’t fix his/her life. Too much information through problem-solving may feel overwhelming, uninvited and doesn’t help the person feel supported or validated, nor does the person feel validated when there is an implication that he/she should know better. That tends to be shaming.
- Give people permission to trust their own intuition and wisdom.
- Give people only as much information as they can handle.
- Don’t take their power away. (Don’t take over the decision-making.)
- Keep your own ego out of it. (Don’t get caught in the trap of believing that someone else’ success is dependent upon our intervention).
- Make them feel safe enough to fail.
- Give guidance and help with humility and thoughtfulness.
- Create a container for emotions. (Make it safe enough for someone to share their emotions without feeling broken or shamed.)
- Allow them to make different decisions and to have different experiences than you would. (Release control and honor the differences.) (Plett, 2015)
Although it may seem that “holding the space” for someone is a rather passive role, it is actually the opposite. You have to be strong, grounded and centered as you sit with a person who is struggling and raw. You have to be secure enough in yourself and your own emotions so that you can allow the other person to be secure in his own space. You have to be able to let him lead his own life, make his own decisions and pick himself up when he make mistakes and you help brush him off. The gift is that you support the person in his time of struggle as you sit with that person. You witness his journey, lovingly holding the space as he feels the support and care you extend to him as he tries to find and regain his footing from a very difficult time. The gift to you is that you are able to extend support to someone you care about in a very healing way. When we give, we are also the receiver. But we want to be giving in a way that is a gift for the other person.
Tags: Holding the space for others, how to sit with those in pain, sitting with others in raw pain
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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