'I like to think of myself as a “fixer-upper.” I like to fix people. Or at least their problems.When I got into coaching and doing healing work, I learned I could not fix others. Instead I was taught how to “hold space” for them instead of trying to solve all of their problems.
At first the term “holding space” was foreign to me. What the heck did holding space mean? A Shaman I once studied under said,
“It means that we are willing to walk 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 judgement and control.”
Damn, it’s some hard sh*t.
I hold space daily for people, but recently I found myself challenged by one particular situation.
Two friends came to me separately to just listen and be a friend. They are a married couple and one of them had an affair.
This is a huge trigger for me. But I realized that this was certainly no coincidence and the universe was giving me an opportunity to continue my own healing process around the issue of infidelity by bringing these two friends back into my life to help them process their own separate emotions.
Every part of me wanted to judge him.
Every part of me wanted to support her.
But I love him and I love her. And I know the character of both of them. They are both good, big hearted, loving people. So instead, I withheld judgement and just listened.
Listening and holding space was hard. I wanted to scream at him, “Why? Do you know what this is going to do to her for the rest of her life? Do you know she will never trust anyone she loves again? Do you know she will never feel she is ever enough for any man because of what you did? How could you be so selfish?”
But I didn’t say that. Because I would be projecting my own feelings and insecurities onto him. Instead I listened to his feelings and emotions and found I actually had compassion and understanding for what he was going through.
To her I wanted to scream, “How can you be so compassionate toward him? How can you forgive what he’s done! Why are you so understanding?”
But I didn’t say that. Because I realized I was projecting my own guilt and shame onto her - I’m not as forgiving and compassionate as she is.
So all I can do as a friend is hold space for the both of them. I can allow them to have their own feelings about their situation. And make their own choices regarding how they want to move forward in their marriage.
Every day we are asked to hold space in our relationships with other people. It can be challenging to not try to offer advice and try to fix the situation. But I’ve learned some really valuable lessons in how to do it in a more loving and supportive way:
1) Guide them without giving them the answers. A great space holder knows when to withhold guidance and when to offer it gently. I typically ask permission first before giving my opinion or advice. Try to withhold from telling people what will work for them or how to fix their problem. Allow them to talk it through until they uncover their own truths. It’s way more meaningful and powerful for them when they can discover what is authentic for them on their own instead of being told what to do.
2) Create a safe container for them to make mistakes. We don’t learn unless we make mistakes. And we want the people in our life to feel that it’s safe for them to f**k up. We don’t have all the answers. We get there when we fall, have to pick ourselves up and try something all over again. It’s important that we make people feel that failing is a part of their journey and this is how they learn.
3) Allow them to feel whatever they feel, without judgement. When I was struggling with my own situation, my friends allowed me to have all of the emotions I was feeling without making me feel they were wrong. Some days I felt angry, other days I felt devastated and some days I felt hopeful. Everybody’s process is different so allow people to have their own feelings so they can move through them and gain clarity on how to move forward.
4) Don’t be attached to the outcome. This can be really challenging, especially when we are “fixers.” But when we are not emotionally attached to the decisions other people make or how they decide to deal with their particular situation, we can continue to support them without getting frustrated. If we are attached to someone doing things the way we think they should be, we’re bound to start feeling resentment at some point and therefore won’t be able to support them fully.
I’ve thought a lot about my two friends and worry some days about what will happen to the both of them. But I have learned to let go of what is not in my control.
I don’t need to fix this. I don’t need to fix them.
I don’t need to try to stop the pain that one or both of them may feel down the road if they decide to go in a certain direction.
My ego needs to accept that I do not have all the answers to their problems or their situation. All of the answers lie within the two of them.
So although I may have my opinions, I accept today that these two dear friends have given me a gift… by trusting me to be a part of their process and by allowing me to heal the wounds that are still fresh from my own experience. For now, I just need to hold space for two people I truly love.'