“Holding space” is a trendy term that has caught my interest.
My first chance to try it out came this past holiday season when we had a family gathering at our home. The cousins were playing in the living room, and I overheard my youngest two boys having a little drama over the video game they were playing.
Soon, I realized my youngest son had disappeared from the gathering of kids. My youngest is a sensitive type and tends to get his feelings hurt easily—especially by his older brothers. I sat with it for a second before deciding to try something new. I went silently searching for him, knowing that he, like me, had gone off alone to lick his wounds. I found him downstairs, withdrawn from the world, in his bed.
I stood conflicted for a just a split second, as this was all new territory for us.
To preface, I’ve noticed that many of my friends and family members seem so naturally able to relate to each other—I’ve seen it time and again. I could see that there was something, an ease in their relationships, that my son and I did not have, but I could not put a finger on what it was exactly.
The revelation came one night as I watched a movie. In the movie a girl is falling apart over her personal struggles in life, so she goes into her sister’s room and climbs into bed with her. There were no words spoken between them.
Upon introspection, I realized that there is no relationship in my life that I would be comfortable enough to reenact that situation. In my family, we would more than likely ask, “What the hell are you doing here?”
It was a profound realization, as it became even more clear that rather than ask for comfort, I would seek safety in solitude when upset. While I am not actually alone or abandoned, I have often felt very much so. I was taught to be ashamed of the neediness that is being human. I taught myself to ignore or hide my feelings. The more I hurt, the more I alienated myself.
I took this knowledge and recent revelation, and chose to make changes in my life.
That very night, with my son upset, I climbed into the bed beside him and put my arm around him. We lay in silence. He adjusted closer to me, and I felt overjoyed with the significance of the moment. I was there for him as I had never been before with such a simple gesture. It was the simplest of things and a life changer for us both.
I learned that night that I do not have to fix anything in order to be of service. Presence and love are enough. Feelings of inadequacy no longer leave me paralyzed in my ability to be supportive in relationships. I have the understanding to ask for the support I need from loved ones. I don’t need to have a plan or perfect words. It’s as easy as holding a hand or placing a hand on a shoulder. I am no longer afraid to say, “I need a hug,” or “Please come sit with me.”
If you’ve suffered from a fear of inadequacy in your relationships, take my experience and extract from it a simple but powerful way of relating and supporting those you love.
No expertise required.
Author: Traci Burnam
Image: Flickr/Matt Anderson
Editor: Callie Rushton