Holding Space

I had never heard of this concept before my cancer diagnosis and I must confess, I SUCK at holding space.  I have a hard time sitting still and so much of the time I spend listening to people, I’m thinking of how I can help them, how I can meet their needs.  Just sitting in silence or just listening to “hold space” for a person is a skill that I’m still working on.  Turning off my brain and my instincts to “DO” something about whatever is being discussed is really hard.

When I first heard of this term, I thought it sounded weird.  I’m such a literal, grounded person, that anything more subjective is often difficult to grasp at first.  As I’ve spent more time in yoga and thinking about holding space, I think it’s more helpful to me to think about what it’s not.

Holding Space is NOT ….

  1. Thinking about a witty response while half-listening to the other person.
  2. Jumping in with a story about yourself or your dog or brother or friend or whoever.
  3. Telling the other person what to do with the information they are sharing.
  4. Interrupting the other person at any point.
  5. Checking your watch and wondering when the tirade or the venting or kvetching, etc. will end.
  6. Any combination of the above five (5) no-nos.

I read in an article that I cannot find now to give proper credit that in order to hold space for someone else, you have to be able to hold space for yourself.  This view of holding space for yourself, this author suggested, was linked to the concept of self-compassion.  In other words, in order to have empathy and compassion for others, you must be able to apply that to yourself.  Being gentle with yourself, being kind in your “self-talk” and accepting that you are who you are, faults and all is a major first step before you can do the same for others.

Maybe that’s part of why I’ve had to get to a different place in my life to be able to hold space for others.  Or maybe my own life choices meant that I was never the person that others went to for holding space. As a litigator, my job was to tell people what to do and then fight for whatever it was that I was hired to do.  I was always doing.  I was always asked to be doing.

Now, not so much.

I do help as much as I can when I’m asked (and sometimes when I’m not asked!), but that part of my life has changed significantly.  Because of the people in my life who hold space for me, I can see the value in this practice, in this skill.  I see how powerful and impactful holding space can be because it has been modeled to me.

So, today, I recommit myself to practicing holding space.  Holding space for myself, for my husband, for my children, for my family, for my friends, for my fellow metsters.  I’m so much more comfortable doing something, but until then, I will hold space.

17 thoughts on “Holding Space

  1. I LOVE this post! I’ve been spending A LOT of time recently in complete silence. As a talker and usually always on the go, this is a drastic change but a needed one. It’s through the silence I was able to cut through all the clutter of my thoughts. I used to be scared of silence, but now see it’s beneficial at times.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am so proud of you, my friend, for prioritizing yourself, your health, and your own self care. I’m praying that these next two months will revolutionize your life and I can’t wait to see what you make of it. Love and light to you!! 😘

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting for that author to use the phrase “holding space” Heck, pretty much all my books are based on selflove which is selfcare. Can’t do it for anyone if you don’t do it for yourself.

    Anyhow, I like self-love more than holding space. 😁✊🙏

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Self love has different connotations, I think; at the same time, I can see how that might be more descriptive than holding space. The idea is clearly the same, just like the expression — “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” I see this more often in discussions about motherhood. All in all, the idea that we must be kind/love/fill up ourselves before we can offer that same care to others is consistent. Thank you for reading and commenting!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Woah.. this blew my mind! I have never heard of this concept, yet it is one that I have gradually had to learn. Haha, still struggle with it. I am always so amazed by the things you write. The passion and dedication in which you blog with, make me a better person every time I read it. Keep on going! You are amazing 🤗❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Writing is how I work through so many of my feelings and responses to my own illness. It’s difficult for me to express myself verbally so this is my cathartic outlet. I’m happy that my efforts have affected you positively! Love and light to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is definitely something I learned recently and I need to work on immensely! I agree that we are programmed to “act, to “do,” to make it not seem so bad when it is. So naturally, I am always wanting to offer advice, send inspirational quote, or share a similar story. Sharing stories is meant to empathize with people, but I have started to understand that I can easily come across as trying to compete with them, or making them feel like their situation isn’t valuable because I went through it, or something similar, too.

    Thank you for the reminder of how much I need to work on this. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks for the reminder to hold space, Abigail – my natural instinct (and that of my hubby) is also to DO something, to help. Sometimes help is needed – but often the person doesn’t need help, they just need to be able to say what’s going through their mind so they can figure out the solution themselves. That’s the hard part, I find!! Having worked as a Life Coach for a few years, I got much better at holding space – but I feel that I’m up to my old tricks again, so it’s been helpful to have this reminder. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi Abigail,
    I love the concept of holding space for others and for ourselves too. Without a doubt, the impact can be profound. Might this be the article you mentioned? It’s the one in which I first read about holding space. I love it. https://upliftconnect.com/hold-space/ Thank you for reminding me to think about this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. YES! This is the article that made a big impression on me. Thank you soooooo much for finding it! I used to be much better at recalling where I read something. Chemo brain is the gift that keeps on giving.


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