We’ve all been in that situation where we are sitting across from someone that is going through what seems like horrendous emotional turmoil yet we are at a loss for what to do about it…
We fruitlessly scramble and search for the right words that will put a bandaid over their pain… “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine…”
We throw forward suggestions and advice in an attempt to fix the situation… “You need to…” or “If you just did….”
We ask questions entailing the ‘how, what, where, why and when’ of the situation.
We even divert conversation away to something a little lighter, or draw attention to more worldly issues in an attempt to put the situation into perspective… “At least you’re ok…” or “It could be worse.”
But is this really what that person needs from us? Or are these merely actions and behaviours that make US feel better?
Now, turn the table for a minute…
When you’re sitting across from someone, holding pain in your heart, what is it that you need? Do you need empty advice? Do you need your pain compared to others? Do you need your pain dismissed or minimised? Or do you need to be heard, with your pain validated? Holding space is this. Walking alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on, without trying to fix them, without minimising them, without judging them, and without trying to impact them. It’s simply being there, as a safe space with an open our heart, to let them be in all of their vulnerability.
How do we do this?
The first step sounds simple, but is the hardest for most people. It’s recognizing that this is solely about the person needing support, NOT about the person holding space. It’s not about fulfilling your need for giving advice, or to feel important, or to fix the situation, or to have the last word. That must all fall away so that the most important need that is to be fulfilled are those of the person needing support. From there, your attentive presence is what is going to make the difference to the person. Openly listening, without interruption, pretence, comparison or judgement. Allowing that person to feel what they feel, and to experience what they’re experiencing. Giving them the time and permission to express the emotions that need to be released.
The only way to move forward from pain is to move through it. We just need someone to journey through it alongside us.
My name is Fiona Rogerson and I am an ACA accredited Gosnells womens counsellor, and Hypnobirthing (Mongan Method) Practitioner. I work with women and men to overcome emotional and psychological hurdles surrounding conception, pregnancy, postpartum, parenting and identity. I am also available to provide professional development training and workshops to various organisations. I am based south of the river in Perth and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0402 017 425 or via my contact page. Find me on Facebook and Instagram.