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Holding Space

holding space mindfulness self compassion Jan 19, 2022
Young girl screaming with her eyes closed

Right now I'm sitting with an uncomfortable feeling. I've got a few balls up in the air work-wise, trying to do my best for all the people affected by the movements and all of a sudden I'm confronted with someone who is not happy with the state of things. So my uncomfortable feeling of already feeling somewhat overwhelmed has now been amplified as my cloud of emotion collides with that of another.

I'll be the first to admit, I'm not holding the space very well right now. All the feelings I had simmering away under the surface as I tried to juggle things rapidly bubbled over. What was manageable now all of a sudden becomes unmanageable. The space within me feels crowded and choppy.


I reach for my phone. My natural inclination to try and discharge this uncomfortable feeling for myself is to try and find someone to help me diffuse it.

There's no one to help me, my usual supports are busy.

Time marches on.

The feeling continues to unfold.

I get the kids dinner.

The feeling rises within me, tears running down my face as I stand in the kitchen.

I ruminate on the event that precipitated this sudden moment of overwhelm, replaying the conversation in my head. Yep, it still has the same effect- I'm still upset.

I have a drink of water and come back to sit at my desk. I notice that my chest feels slightly lighter but still twisted in knots.


So here I am. Sitting here at my desk trying madly to hold this feeling. It feels like a handful of mud that I just want to throw to someone or somewhere else. I don't want it in my hands anymore. I can recognise this secondary feeling arising within me that tells me "I don't care where you throw this, just get it out of here". I'm trying not to judge myself for feeling like this.


Self compassion is hard when all I want to do is make myself feel better, even if it means hurting someone else in the process.


But all that would do is to shift my uncomfortable feeling onto someone else, just as the person I spoke to earlier did to me. They had their own cloud of emotion they were at the mercy of, I just happened to walk into that storm.


That's the thing about holding space- it's about understanding that any emotion we don't allow ourselves to feel, unfold within us or process, will often end up being discharged onto someone else in the form of anger, passive aggression or something else.

I breathe.

And again.

Time is the only balm I need.

The feeling begins to dissipate. I can see more compassionately the person who's emotional cloud I collided with earlier. They're struggling too- emotions simmering away just under the surface and my news for them was the catalyst for them to reach boiling point too.


Holding space is hard when we are constantly feeling like a simmering pot, just one moment away from boiling point.


More time passes. The knots in my chest and stomach begin to loosen.

I take a deep breath. The window of time and space between that insult that happened to me earlier and this point now where I am sitting and reflecting has opened up a window of tolerance for me. The emotion could unfold within me without causing any collateral damage.

And here I am.


I know how hard holding space for uncomfortable emotions is, because I am sitting here right now trying to do it. Writing for me is cathartic. In some ways it's become my new crutch to deal with my own uncomfortable feelings where before I more commonly scrolled on my phone or mindlessly ate food to distract myself as these uncomfortable feelings we all have, carved their path through me. Eventually, they all move on and make space for the next feeling. 


The time it takes for an uncomfortable feeling or thought to move through us and pass is well, uncomfortable. Holding that discomfort is hard. Hard things are hard.

I get it. I don't like it either.

But it is also normal, and very, very human. 

So, here's to our common humanity... and holding space 🌊




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