Each of our relationships is different because each one has a distinct mix of energies, qualities, histories, and feelings. What’s more, every human being has something that only they can offer in any given interaction.
But there are certain central aspects of relationships that will allow your loved ones to feel truly seen, heard, and loved. At the top of that list, I would argue, is holding space.
Holding space means accepting exactly who and where your loved one is.
When you hold space for others, you acknowledge your loved one’s experience. When your friends or family members struggle, you understand that in the moment, they may not need conclusive answers. Instead, all your loved one needs is for you to see them exactly as they are and not pressure them to change.
Many of us add a layer of judgment to both our own feelings and others’. This judgment often pushes us to cheer up our friends when they feel sad, which may seem like the best solution. However, holding space for our loved ones means that we allow them to feel the full spectrum of emotion. Instead of forcing someone to smile when they feel sad, we can let our friends and family know that their feelings are valid and we respect their thoughts and opinions.
When we hold space for the people we love, they learn that they can trust us with their feelings. Rather than minimizing or sugar-coating their pain, we provide our friends and family with everything they truly seek in the moment: the space to sit with their emotions.
Holding space allows us to hold onto our loved ones’ humanity, even when they can’t see it.
We hold space to acknowledge that it’s OK to be human, show our flaws, and experience pain. Holding space for friends and family is important because it shows them that their insecurities don’t define them.
To hold space for others, use affirmations that give your loved ones permission to feel. Some examples of affirmations include:
- “You are allowed.”
- “You are safe to feel what you feel.”
- “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”
- “I hear you.”
- “I’m listening to you.”
- “I believe you.”
- “I’ll stay until you feel safe.”
There is no one-size-fits-all in our complex relationships.
However, we can simply be there for the people we love. When we set aside our advice, cliches, and societal expectations, we can hold space for friends, family, and strangers and ultimately allow feelings to exist a new light.