Many people are unfamiliar with the idea of holding space for someone in emotional distress, but they have all experienced it to some level. When someone is grieving, dealing with unresolved trauma, or suffering from depression, holding space, or creating a container, may be particularly beneficial. We’ve all seen the clarity and purity of unconditional positive regard’s consideration, or the emptiness of its absence, in a time of great need.

So, what does it mean to “hold space” for someone? If needed, how does a person actually do this? The answers to these questions are quite simple in theory but complex in practice.

Everyone in our lives can need a caring, non-judgmental, and empathetic room at some point in their lives. When the time comes, the relationship you already have will serve as a basis for constructing this “container” in which you keep space for the other individual. If you accept the challenge, your desire to be of service to the other person will be the first building block for holding that sacred space.

Here are the basic elements you’ll need to keep someone’s space:

1.     Having unconditional positive regard

Unconditional positive regard, like loving-kindness, is a Carl Rogers-described practice in which one individual holds another in absolute regard. All healing therapeutic partnerships are built on this basis. This practice is based on the understanding that the listener holds the individual with deep respect, sympathy, and positive regard.

2.     Practice loving kindness

Loving-kindness is a Buddhist concept that can be used in other religious and secular practices as well. It refers to the reverent cultivation of compassion and love for another living being, the world, or oneself in the present moment.

3.     Use deep listening

While practicing deep listening, we listen to understand, not just to hear. This activity extends beyond any form of hearing that can be accomplished with the ears. It’s a kind of heart-to-heart listening.

4.     Allow

Allow the other person to experience whatever emotions they are experiencing. If they need you to hold them while they cry, do so.

5.     Sit with what is

For those in Western culture, this is arguably the most difficult of the essential elements. Simply being with the person with whom you’re keeping space is what it means to sit with what is. Do not attempt to change something and fight the temptation to act. You’re simply providing a comfortable environment for the other person to share and experience their emotions. Sit with them in the difficult situations.

6.     Ground

If you lose your ground when keeping room for someone who needs it, they might have trouble trusting the space and you. When you’re keeping room for someone, do whatever it takes to ground yourself.

7.     Breathe

Remember to take a few deep breaths. It’s a good idea to check in with your breath to make sure you’re staying grounded. It will also assist you in maintaining your bond to your own body, which is the most important tool you have for determining your relationship with the other individual and with yourself.

8.     Be present with yourself

You must be able and willing to be present with and with yourself in order to do all of the items mentioned above. If you can’t be present with yourself, it’ll be difficult to be transparent and frank with another person.

9.     Practice non-judgement

This goes for yourself and the one for whom you’re holding the safe container: Do not judge.

10.  Don’t take over their pain

Holding space for someone who is in a lot of pain will make you feel worse. Keeping room for someone else requires a firm intention that, though you’re in the trenches with them, you’re just holding their hand and not utilising their suffering to make it your own.

11.  Don’t try to fix it

When someone is in distress, we always want to alleviate it for them. Although this may make us feel better, it may make the other person feel much more alone in their suffering. Be there with and for the other person first and foremost. Don’t try to alter them or their emotions. They don’t need to be fixed. The only way to get rid of their suffering is to go through it.

By practicing these basic elements, you will ensure that you are providing a useful and kind environment for the other individual. We don’t give each other enough room these days, so the fact that you’re trying can absolve you of any unintentional errors you create.

If you find yourself in need of the pure and direct attention of unconditional positive regard and your support system isn’t able to provide it, it might be time to seek help from a therapist.

The Author: Micole Beneke

“Make peace with your broken pieces” – r.h. Sin

 Hi, My name is Micole. I completed my undergraduate degree in Industrial and Organisational Psychology in 2019 and thereafter my honours in Psychology in 2020.

I have always been fascinated and obsessed with the human mind and behaviour. Why do people think and behave the way they do? These questions have always challenged me in a sense that how can we change these behaviours and thoughts? Reflecting on my own experiences in life I realise how incredibly important it is to overcome these obstacles in life.

As your counsellor, I want to hold the space for you and be there to listen and to understand. I want to meet you in your journey wherever you are. I want to journey with you and help you overcome any struggles.

It would be my honour and privilege to walk this path with you, to be there and listen and create a safe space for you.