Holding Space For Our Feels
In my supportive work with clients I spend a lot to my time holding space for their feelings. What does it mean to hold space for feelings? This is a term often used in counselling settings and it refers to creating an emotional environment where it is acceptable to feel and express whatever it is that is going on for that individual. There is no shame, guilt tripping or need to change the feeling when someone holds space. The feelings are simply accepted for what they are in that time without judgement or the need to fix anything.
Why is holing space so powerful? Holding space is a true acceptance of where that individual is at emotionally and it allows them to authentically experience their feelings without the need to reject them or repress them. After holding space for those feelings to be expressed, then there is potential for them to be transmuted and learned from. As adults we can benefit from learning how to have healthy temper tantrums that do not result in any serious negative consequences. If a child is having a temper tantrum and we try to interrupt their process, does that ever work? Likely not. We owe our adults selves the respect we deserve in allowing ourselves to experience the full spectrum of our relationship with this world.
For many people when big feelings come we point a metaphorical finger at ourselves saying “ no! you shouldn’t get too angry/sad/excited/loving and definitely don’t let anyone see that this is what you really feel inside. You’ll embarrass yourself! It’s no OK.” This is why I have loved journal writing for years. I always felt I could let those feelings out there safely without consequence. It is not always safe for us to share our true feelings with the people around us, but no matter how dark or crazy they are, they deserve to be released for our own benefit.
This pressure to hold back our true feelings often routes back to being shamed by our family or peers or possibly seeing others get shamed. This shame resulted is us being very careful to avoid that kind of social rejection in the future.
We learn how to “act appropriately” and tuck all our big feelings away so that we can be liked.
What’s the problem with that? It simply does not serve us! When we store our feelings away, they do not disappear. They will find a way out of us in other strange ways. Some ways that feelings try to escape are through depression, violence, nightmares, anxiety and health problems. We may then continue to try to physically keep them down through alcohol, drug and food consumption which leads to more guilt and more unenjoyable feelings that we also try to bury internally.
As humans, we are designed to feel. Not just the good happy feelings but the whole range of them. This world is a beautiful amazing place but it is also filled with a lot of hurt and sadness that we have every right to feel emotional about. We need to start creating space for ourselves to be human and express ourselves as we were born to do on this planet. Our culture has been programming us to be obedient and forget out true nature. We are now waking up to this and realizing that now is the time to speak our truth. Not through violence or harm, but through compassion, empathy and self-expression.
Holding space does not mean that if anger comes up for you, you now lose all control and freak out on the person that triggered your anger. Or if you feel turned on, you immediately throw yourself at someone without checking in with their personal experience. This is not a helpful way to allow our feelings to be expressed and it results in further emotional damage for all people involved. Holding space looks more like calling a close friend and saying “I’m feeling really mad about work right now and I need to vent. Do you have time to listen?” It can also be journaling to yourself about how you really feel, making art about it, jumping up and down yelling “it’s not fair!” until you feel exhausted, dancing, going for a run while you think about what is angering you. In this process we allow the feeling to be expressed fully in a safe environment where you aren’t impacting anyone else without their consent. During this time you should be able to let it all out without worry about offending anyone.
After you allow the energy to be released take some time to let your body come back to your normal state of being. You’ll probably notice that the intensity of your feeling is more subdued. Sometimes you may realize that there’s nothing that needs to be addressed or maybe you realize that there’s something you need to address. Because you have held space for yourself, it should be easier to communicate more mindfully about your feelings. Without the process of releasing our emotions, they will find a way out to cause us more harm. Remember, you are not your feelings; you are the one witnessing and experiencing the feelings. Be their guide instead of allowing them to pull you in any direction their please. You’ll get dizzy and confused if you always let your feelings lead.
You are valuable and you have a right to feel whatever it is you feel. It is our actions and reactions to our feelings that we must modify to have a more harmonious life. Surround yourself with people that love and accept you for who you are. In this life we are not meant to figure it all out alone. If you have been surrounded by people that have shut down your feelings, you may need to get support from others that can hold space for you so you can experience acceptance from another person.
If you are struggling with how to express your feelings is a way that serves you, I highly suggest connecting with a counsellor or coach that can support you and guide you in the process. Then you can start to honour yourself as someone that deserves to be heard. Your feelings and experience in this world matters. It is not your feelings that define you, it is how you connect with and express those feelings through your actions and creativity.
Sending you some loving energy,