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5 Ways to 'Hold Space' When Someone You Care About is Struggling

How to Support a Struggling Loved One by Holding Space

Holding space refers to being present with someone when they need you most, without judging or trying to fix their problems. It's a beautiful practice of empathy and compassion that can make a troubled person feel safe and open to self-reflection. Here are five ways you can hold space for someone you love.

Be present. When a person comes to you vulnerably with raw emotion, psychological pain or even seemingly small concerns, do not underestimate the impact of your presence. These days, it's easy to get over-connected and distracted by emails, text notifications and calendar reminders. Unfortunately, this can cause us to become disconnected in a human sense. To hold space for someone in need, you have to put aside distractions and be wholly present in the moment. It helps to maintain eye contact and provide verbal affirmations while listening to hear instead of merely listening to respond.

Sit with what is. This refers to simply being present amid the existing circumstances with the individual for whom you are holding space. It also means resisting the urge to change anything or try to fix the problem. Remember you are only trying to create a safe space for the other person to feel and express their thoughts and emotions. Although it can be difficult to resist offering input, you want to sit with them and listen without making judgments about their actions or offering your perspective on a solution.

Be present with yourself. To hold space for someone else, you have to be willing and able to be present in the moment with yourself. If you have difficulty with this, you are going to have a natural resistance to being honestly and lovingly present with someone else. It's also important to approach the situation with a clear intention. When you hold space for someone in pain, it can bring out your own pain. Try to remember that while you are holding space for someone going through a hardship, you are merely holding their hand and not making their hardship your own.

Don't judge. This may be the most difficult part of holding space, especially if you're trying to support a friend or family member who always seems to be in a crisis. It can help to remember that there are two key aspects to cultivating a judgment-free space: external and internal. Internally, you need to adopt a mindset of empathizing what it may be like to have another person's experiences without judging their decisions, desires, emotions or motivations. Externally, you want to respond warmly and compassionately while avoiding any sort of critical language.

Encourage personal growth. When we hold space for someone, we can support personal growth by making the person feel more comfortable engaging in deep self-reflection. When people know they will not be judged, they feel safe enough to lower their defenses and stop putting up a strong facade. On the other hand, if you are pious, dismissive or too focused on solutions, the person often becomes stubborn and inflexible. By holding space now, you develop credibility that will allow you to make some practical suggestions at an appropriate time in the future.

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