Talking Shop

Every industry uses its own special lingo to describe certain processes/functions.  Some examples you might be familiar with:

Real Estate: Curb appeal
Medical: Event
Culinary: Flavor profile
Entertainment: Callback
Financial: Cash flow

In the therapeutic world, we have a few of our own: transference, projection, shadow, and, everyone’s favorite: “How does that make you feel?”.  Even therapists can poke fun at ourselves (at least, this one can!).  The latter isn’t really special or even lingo, per se, but it is most definitely therapy-speak.  There’s one therapy term that seems to be as trendy as “how does that make you feel?”, but I’m not sure its meaning is as clearly understood.  The term is: holding space.  If you’re someone who’s first instinct is to move into problem solving mode in the face of your own or someone else’s struggle, this message is especially for you.    

It so happens that I was on the receiving end of close friends holding space for me recently.  Nothing was solved, fixed, or even different about the issue when we finished talking.  What was different, though, was that I’d been witnessed.  My feelings were heard without being questioned and my particular circumstance was acknowledged for what it is…not what they needed it to be to feel more comfortable or what they thought I needed to hear to make me more comfortable.  I was supported in being, feeling, and thinking as I was/am.  Period.  I didn’t need them to have a solution and they didn’t need me to be something other than I was.  The outcome: I felt better.  Hopeful.  

“What does it mean to hold space for another person?
It means that we are willing to work alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome.  When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgment and control” 
(Heather Plett)

Suffice to say, there’s no doing in holding space.  It’s about being still in your own or someone else’s experience and showing up with nothing more than your loving presence.  The meaning of this particular concept and its application supersedes industry, crosses cultural lines, and has the power to transform lives.  

What is your experience with holding space?  If you’re drawing a blank, why might that be?