The transformative power of holding space, by Matt Kahn (a summary by Pat Evert)
While many believe our evolution as a species has placed us at the brink of despair, I see this as a golden opportunity to awaken our consciousness on the largest scale possible. Maybe it’s the wake-up call this world never knew it needed. Of course, with any opportunity for growth comes the need for a skill set to help us navigate that trajectory.
In her UPLIFT article “What It Means to Hold Space for Someone,” author and teacher Heather Plett says that holding space “means we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.” The importance of space holding begins with an awareness that all human beings are on journey of existential growth and emotional maturity.
- Being Helpful Begins with Listening
There is a more engaging level of listening that I often refer to as encouragement. Encouragement is a form of dynamic listening. You take an active role in honoring the journey they’re on. This allows you to authentically support others without needing common ground. Your dynamic listening will help expand their awareness just by supporting their path. This frees you from believing that your role is to correct the course of others who, in your opinion, appear to be misguided. Other people’s choices and opinions are just as valid for their evolution. No matter how we behave, each of us is always being guided along our own path into higher levels of awareness and maturity. Transformation can naturally arise for everyone involved since the benefit of healing relies on the simple act of being heard. You may ask yourself, What must this person be feeling or have endured to act this way? Why can’t people meet you as you are? Because they’re hurting. Why can’t you always be the idealized version of yourself? Because you are hurting as well. Life encourages you to step outside your comfort zone. Along the way, you will have successes, resets, and a few hall-of-fame-worthy blunders just to keep your feet firmly grounded on Earth. Slowly but surely, you will become such an ally for your own evolving journey. You will see the disappointing actions of humanity as the unconscionable results of unprocessed pain begging for acceptance. We don’t actually need to find common ground. All that is required is for me to be open. I allow my encouragement to be agenda free, as an offering of compassionate support for the healing of all. This will remind others of their true worth and let them know they’re never alone despite how isolated, or heartbroken they may feel. You can offer this kind of encouragement just by suggesting,
“I would love to hear more about the events that led to your feelings.”
Your inner child needs to know it’s allowed to share any feeling without being corrected, shamed, or rejected. No matter how resistant it may feel, the gift of your encouragement is all it ever needs. You can hold them in your arms or even in your thoughts, allowing them to feel greater support. You can use your supportive statement of encouragement to open the doorway of safety. Embodied love is the very compassion and patience required to transform this planet through a depth of healing that holding space provides. Being helpful always begins with listening.
Encouragement as a daily practice:
- Turn on the news and mindfully use each report as a deliberate practice to encourage the livelihood of the people on the screen.
- The next time you meet someone, allow your primary objective to be encouraging their journey by asking engaging questions about their life. Only share the details of your own life when others ask specific questions.
- Go through the contact list on your cell phone and send someone you know an encouraging text message, just to remind them that they’re seen and supported.
- It’s Not a Matter of What We Don’t Know
The adjective that best describes my parents’ behavior was invalidating. I knew, the answer was validation. I began challenging myself to be a space of validation for other people’s experiences. It was no longer a matter of what anyone didn’t know or needed to figure out, but rather the space I could so lovingly hold to allow their deepest truths to be realized. This was the moment I felt I was being of true healing service, no matter how much rescuing anyone wanted from me.
Validation offers the gift of acceptance of someone’s personal struggle. To support and value them and their journey without rescuing them. Admittedly, it can be difficult to surrender the tendency to rescue since the alternative feels like watching people suffer. Just as a butterfly won’t survive the cocooning process without mustering the strength to break free on its own. True compassion allows healing to take place at its own pace. You are supporting their growth by confirming the experience they’re having. Even when the other person begs to be rescued, you are much better off holding space for the healing already underway than helping them avoid their process. Through the attribute of validation, you bring a sense of acceptance to the experiences people often judge as punishments. When validation replaces the unconscious tendency to rescue, you are able to help others remember that their experiences haven’t occurred by chance. They can open to unexpected change with renewed faith, greater courage, and a deeper sense of interconnection. To validate their experience instead of agreeing with their opinion some people may place all their power in your hands as their most preferred rescuer. Remember, you aren’t supporting others as a way to control the outcome of their experiences. You are validating the feelings they share.
I intend to hold space through the attribute of validation for myself and others without playing the role of a rescuer. The Supportive Statement of Validation is:
“You Have a Right to Be Heard.”
This invites everyone’s innocence to come out of hiding. Despite the past, it is now safe to step forward and let a testimony of survival be acknowledged. The more often each person is invited to sound their experience, the deeper the sharing can go. It’s never a matter of what anyone does or doesn’t know. For all that you or anyone in life has endured, a true depth of healing deserves a gentle pace. If you overlook the importance of allowing others to be heard and lead with rescuing, your attempts to fast-track their process keeps them just as silenced as when their wounds were created. Realize that you are helping perpetuate the silence of victimhood by speaking when this might be the other person’s golden opportunity to share. Remind others of their inherent right and freedom to express the voice they have been given. Everyone has a right to be heard. If you have it in your heart to offer someone the grace of your most thoughtful attentive presence, then let it also be their gift to receive or deny in any way they choose. Validation leads with empowering others to openly share as opposed to leading with the conceptual advice a rescuer desperately needs to convey. What if simply by suggesting “You have a right to be heard,” you are helping to support someone on the brink of collapse.
Validation as a daily practice. Take a moment to breathe, listen on a deeper level, and validate the uniqueness of the other person’s reality. Notice how your experience with hurtful feelings and even pain transforms when you validate how you feel.
- You Can’t Rush What has been Buried for So Long
Through the attribute of reverence, you honor each person’s will and determination to face the intensity of their pain. No one actually needs different circumstances, they only need greater support for the experiences they’re having. You are providing incredible doses of emotional support without needing the other person to change and even without knowing the benefit you’re providing. I know these difficult experiences are bringing out more of my best, even if I can’t sense it now. The key to reverence is recognizing that you always have a choice in how you view any moment. Moment by moment you increase the likelihood that life will bring out your best to support the best in others. It’s possible that someone won’t appreciate your support. You certainly don’t have to convince anyone that what you see is true. You might just offer a loving smile.
I intend to hold space through the attribute of reverence for myself and others. I release all tendencies of righteousness, no matter how well-intended my ego insists them to be. The Supportive Statement of Reverence is:
“I Am Here with You.”
The statement “I am here with you,” can help ease tension when they show up as their least capable selves. You formulate long-lasting bonds of allegiance with the Universe through your willingness to support others. When “I am here with you” replaces “I am here to save you” or the self-righteousness of “Here’s what I would do if I were you,” you help others discover the worthiness of being seen and heard. Even if you are at your wit’s end and are unsure of how much more you can endure, you can always call upon the Universe for greater support. You will recognize the true value of others by bringing greater attention to the strength, character, and determination it takes for them to endure and survive each moment. The intensity of helplessness transforms into moments of inspiration, especially if you remember that no one actually needs different circumstances, they only need greater support for the experiences they are having.
Since you may not always know who needs greater support or who is suffering in silence, aspire to use your new statement, “I am here with you,” as the signature of each email or your parting words on a phone call.
- Anger is a Reenactment of Someone Else’s Trauma
The more I became aware of their healing journey the less personally I took their actions. The more I held space, the less personal other people’s actions felt. The less personal each encounter seemed, the more merciful I was able to be. When mercy is present, we are keenly aware of the pain other people endure. Through the attribute of mercy, you can depersonalize what may feel like tidal waves of blame. When ego remains active as a force of unconsciousness, we tend to interpret other people’s actions by how they affect us personally. Anger represents the words someone never spoke to those who hurt them the most. If you feel pressured into giving someone time and energy you don’t have, conforming to their demands will put you in a position you may be unable to handle emotionally. Knowing what is best for you is equally beneficial for the evolution of all. The more you are able to listen openly, the less the frenzy of their debate will trigger opposition in you. Holding space gives you the opportunity to share feelings freely without assigning blame. It celebrates your willingness to be true to yourself. The purpose of holding space is to create an environment of mutual safety, so everyone may be seen and heard.
I allow myself the sacred space to be with my feelings and offer the gift of mercy to any part of me. Whether given to myself or another as an active blessing to humanity.
“I Now See How You’ve Been Mistreated”
It’s one of the most merciful statements you can make. A person’s unconscious tendency is to blame or mistreat the one they feel the safest around. You are acting as an objective observer of their experience instead of joining them in their blame. You bring more truthful perspectives to the surface. For example, you encounter a homeless person, why not also donate a moment of your time to let them know they’re seen, heard, and valued? What if a person’s negative attitude becomes your moment of merciful respect for the hardships they must have endured or continue to face in order to replay trauma.
- Whenever you judge or criticize someone, take a moment to replace any label you project onto them with a greater awareness of their unhealed pain, recognizing that they’re a suffering person.
- Visualize the other and say to their image, “Based on how you’ve mistreated me, I now see how you’ve been mistreated.”
- Try the practice that’s affectionately known as “the barf bucket.” Allow a person to dump on you in order to move the energy erupting inside.
- When Someone Fights their Pain, You Get Pushed Away
Behind the persona of a psychic superhero initially driven to rescue others from their despair, there existed a disappointed heart that had accepted the role of service as a way of not letting anyone in deeply enough to cause devastation again. Thankfully, this wasn’t my ultimate resting place, but it would be where I would remain while processing the sadness of my friend’s pain pushing me away. I began holding space for even deeper shifts of healing by outgrowing some of my rescuer tendencies. He had become so dependent on my help—just as I had become dependent on helping him—that I had overlooked the chance to teach him how to serve himself. The more you’re able to see other people’s behavior as more about the pain they are going through than your actions, the more your self-worth remains intact without you becoming an emotional doormat for them to walk on. You will notice the natural rhythm of life, anything gained is sure to be lost. This may help you see moments of rejection as subconscious requests for space without feeding the belief that you are less than, unworthy, or inferior.
Authentic space holding doesn’t blossom from codependency—as if you have to stay the course in every relationship and wear it as a badge of honor no matter how painful the dynamic may be. Many in this world grew up with the model of codependency as a misguided example of loyalty and dedication. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen in relationships—especially for those steeped in a spiritual journey—occurs when people use acceptance, forgiveness, and unconditional love as excuses to stay in toxic relationships when it’s really their wound of unworthiness that prevents them from leaving. When you express unconditional love through the attribute of worthiness, healing occurs and you break the cycles of abuse by daring to be more honorable than the egregious actions of people who have done harm. If unconditional love is your highest value, then please remember you can’t show loving support to another person when you remain complacent and complicit in toxic patterning. Through the attribute of worthiness, when you refuse to compromise the integrity of your own worth and value, you will manifest connections that no heart can deny. The space people need when pushed away, rejected, or abandoned by the pain another person processes. I allow myself the sacred space and offer the gift of worthiness to any unworthy part of me. I allow the attribute of worthiness to support my decision-making with more courage instead of complacency from this moment forward.
“Thank You for Helping Me Understand the Space You (or I) Need”
Through the attribute of worthiness, you neither turn other people’s reactions into a disempowering story about yourself nor tolerate how they lash out when the heat of adversity is turned up in their lives. This is why giving space is always as important as holding space. It’s also the space I need. You’re willing to step out of their way if that’s what it takes for them to move toward greater happiness. Through the attribute of worthiness, you embody love from a standpoint of empowerment, instead of being an emotional punching bag for others. Maybe you can interpret the rejection of a lover as the best-case scenario for what life has prepared both of you to receive? May the simplest actions of inspired empowerment allow you to step forward into greater self-worth every day.
- Diversity is the Guiding Light of Compassion
Reminiscent of the Los Angeles riots in 1992, officers took the life of George Floyd in a misuse of power that occurred in broad daylight. Cities were set ablaze. I distinctly remember the prayer I kept reciting: May all that is occurring unfold for the well-being of all. Instead of trying to oppose expressions of violence already underway, I set an intention for greater harmony, well-being, and equality to rise from the ashes of all that was crumbling. No matter the flurry of questions, the answer that always came was “love.” Love for humanity. Love for the families torn apart by racial violence. Love for the beauty I see in each culture that should be praised instead of persecuted. Love for the light of unity connecting all beings as one. I thought of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s beautiful words, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” So much repressed pain and anger erupting in the ethers of the collective. We also saw a collective unconsciousness use this moment to instigate violence, loot storefronts, and burn down communities as if these acts were a justification that had waited for the perfect time to erupt within people hungry for something to destroy. You’ve never felt your life threatened, had a loved one killed, or been roughed up by a police officer just because your race matches a profile. Your experience isn’t like what other races feel or have lived through. This is you getting an empathic glimpse into a fraction of the pain that has been buried under society’s skin for generations. Please help me better understand what I’ve never faced and may never encounter. I will never know the pain of a woman losing the child she was birthing. I will never know the unfairness of working twice as hard for half as much. I will never know the confusion of being born in what feels like the wrong body or the intensity of fearing that my inner truth could cost me a place in my family. I will never know the uncertainty of wondering if a friend who’s absent from school was hurt or killed in the latest bomb attack. No matter how I try to rationalize reality by thinking I understand, the heartbreaking truth is I don’t. May I be a space that hears the testimony of others, from a depth of understanding my lack of direct experiences.
It can be quite subtle to distinguish between listening to your understanding of another person’s journey and allowing them to relive harrowing moments in your presence. Patience is often the key. The deeper connection of oneness occurs when we appreciate the incredible differences that exist among all of us. The ego interprets a lack of similarity as a threat rather than an opportunity. In the new spiritual paradigm, oneness is not about looking, talking, or acting like any other person. It’s a direct view into the infinite tapestry of diversity, where beings emanating from one eternal source experience the endless ways spirit expresses itself through the uniqueness of all. This is why patience is the guiding light of compassion. The more you admit to only truly knowing your view of life, the more open you can be to learning how different life is for others. Our journey of ever-growing patience. The more skillful you become at holding greater space for yourself, the better you’ll be at noticing the defense mechanisms of ego as reminders calling you inward for greater rejuvenation. I offer the gift of patience to any exhausted part of me. Whether given to myself or another person or as an active blessing to humanity, I welcome the attribute of patience to widen the parameters of my perception, acknowledging through the eyes of oneness how differently we all grow together.
“We Are in No Rush—Please Take Your Time”
The fewer expectations you have, the less likely you’ll be to define fulfillment by needing life to go in one way instead of another. Through the attribute of patience, you are able to honor the individual journeys of all people as unique expressions of divinity in human form.
- During moments of annoyance, remember to take mini breathing breaks.
- Aspire to meet each person as a soul in physical form? May you always respect the beauty of diversity by not defining others in any particular way.
- Boundaries are an Act of Self-Love
As an empathic being, it’s natural to overgive due to how deeply you sense the feelings of others and how much you wish for the world to be happy. It is their common subconscious motivation to help others feel good, so they themselves can have a better experience. How exhausting it is. The actions I once interpreted as rejection or abandonment actually gave me extraordinary periods of alone time. This helped me get to know the visceral nature of my own experiences without confusing them with the feelings of others. It gave me tremendous relief from the constant need to seek approval by trying to cheer everyone up. In holding space respect is, “A due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others.” Relationships blossom from a fertile ground of mutual respect—a respect that allows everyone the right to their own perceptions and decisions. Simply put, you will never offend people who really love you with requests of personal space. With the attribute of respect as your guide, you’ll create and maintain boundaries as an act of self-love without needing to explain yourself in any way. You create a sustainably loving connection in which two hearts unite in the mutual desire to support the well-being and fulfillment of each other. May the value of respect be of equal importance to the desire to love and be loved.
The true need for space is not a punishment or “time out,” but a golden opportunity to recharge before further engagement. A person conditioned in this way ends up feeling dismissed when someone around them needs their space. This causes their ego to identify itself as a problem in the life of the person who needs distance for their own recharging. The ego often wonders how to get back in their good graces, to be less of a problem and more of a benefit to the one they interpret as having judged, rejected, or abandoned them. In the pattern of codependency one works so hard to keep others happy, since their sense of safety, acceptance, and normalcy lives and dies based on the temperament of the people they are afraid of being separated from. When obsession occurs, you may feel more like an object that person possesses and controls than a person being valued and respected in true intimate partnership. I allow respect to be offered from such a depth of discernment, where I am able to notice the difference between unconditional love and obsession by how I or others respond to the implementation of personal boundaries. I allow all patterns of codependency to be cleared out of my energy field, returned to the Source of its origin. I allow myself the sacred space to be with my feelings and offer the gift of respect to any disgruntled part of me. This helps me communicate my personal needs without requiring the permission of others, in order to do what is right for me.
“I Wish I Could Give More, but My Time Has Come”
This helps you empathize with the pain stirring in them without making their issue a problem for you to fix. Each of us would love to be the exact versions of ourselves other people desire us to be. You either choose self-care from a space of self-respect or cater to the insatiable whims of other people’s obsessions. It’s your ability to stand tall in the face of loneliness that will open greater space for more respectful people to enter your reality. Perhaps you are the one fearing rejection or abandonment by not knowing how to respect someone else’s boundaries. If this is the case, can their need for space become an opportunity to hold loving space for yourself?
- If you find yourself obsessing about a past lover, take a breathing break, saying “I love you” to your heart, getting some fresh air, or even engaging in exercise. Every empowered choice helps break up the stagnant energy of compulsive patterning. Exchange compulsion for choices of self-empowerment.
- Gratitude is Always Appropriate
Celebrating who human beings are underneath it all, you take a deeper dive into your own divinity from the inside out. The ego is initially fueled by the conditioning of unresolved pain within you. It operates from a level of reactivity, as if anything it dislikes should be blamed for taking up space. The attribute of appreciation liberates you from this exhausting cycle of judgment. But through appreciation, you have no one to impress, absolutely nothing to prove, and no expectations to tiptoe around. The more you cultivate a loving relationship with your most fearful and judgmental parts, the less often you will imagine your negative self-talk as accurate. While the ego may try to personify itself as your fear-based protector, it is you who serves the role of being its liberator by how lovingly you engage with it. As the ego grows weary, it inevitably lets go of fear and denial, along with a world of like versus dislike. Through appreciation, you can bow in the presence of their divinity, even when they are dressed up as a cruel character. Your tendency to criticize often reflects how much unprocessed pain and unresolved fear you have yet to address. Ego believes it must push back against the inconveniences of reality until what it judges changes to suit its expectations. From a space-holding perspective, you are simply offering the gifts of compassionate support. When you can appreciate the nature of divinity without being a servant to anyone’s ego, you will be better able to ebb and flow with the mysterious journey of life you incarnated to master. When happiness is determined more by how you respond and less by circumstances that come and go, you will begin to taste the ecstasy of emotional freedom where you are able to be yourself. I allow appreciation to be offered in celebration of my true divine essence, while respecting the journey any person takes to become aware of this eternal truth. Step beyond the facades of judgment and fear to offer the appreciation that can help a person evolve.
“I Appreciate You Sharing This; I’m So Glad You Are Getting It Out Now”
By leading with the attribute of appreciation, you will be so strongly rooted in your essence, you will find great fulfillment in allowing others the space to be exactly as they are without overlooking your own needs. The Universe only provides you with the versions of reality that help you evolve to your highest and greatest good. Such a statement allows you to hold the emotional barf bucket for everything you’re ready to release. Each time you convey appreciation, the truth of divinity meets itself in physical form, helping to break individual and collective cycles of abuse and trauma for the well-being of all. Gratitude is always appropriate in offering the gift of divine recognition, it helps you remain rooted in spirit and aligned in truth as you move through each evolutionary milestone.
- Whenever judgment arises, pause for a moment to find something worth appreciating about the person you’re criticizing. Take the time to say, May the person I am judging be blessed with the gift of appreciation for the greater good of all.
- In your journal, make a list of what you appreciate, adding ten to twenty entries each day without repeating.
- Approach someone you perceive as rude to let them know how much you appreciate them. A moment of gratefulness sent from your essence to their divine nature.
- Facing ‘What Is’ Can Be Uncomfortable, and That’s Okay
I became clear on how much I needed an uncompromising dose of pain to help shake off my fixation of trying to avoid it. Instead of fearing its wrath, I respected how it helped me face incredible surges of suffering. Inevitable encounters with pain help you unravel your fear of it, you will be better able to hold unwavering space for yourself. You are gathering key pieces of evidence to remind you of how strong, capable, and ready you are to face pain and fear. It’s important to recognize that healing occurs as a ratio of time versus intensity. For the journey to be easier, it would require more time. Discovering how less frightening each moment can be when you face “what is” instead of imagining “what if.” Your ability to hold space compassionately releases the ego from its belief in control. It sees control as nothing more than an idea it once believed in. Even if the ego constantly got its way, it would be no happier than before. All that is required is a willingness to be brave. It is the facing of these uncomfortable experiences, no matter how fearful we may be, that brings our deepest bravery to life.
I allow bravery to be offered in honor of integrating ego that cannot prevent me from facing “what is” with the control it only imagines having. I allow the wisdom of courage to always reveal my next evolutionary step forward. I allow myself the sacred space to be with my feelings and offer the gift of bravery to any frightened part of me.
“No Matter How You Feel, You Can Do This”
In this statement you remind someone how ready they are to venture into unknown territory or even confront their deepest fears only to come out on the other side—renewed and reborn. Your gift of space holding allows them to remember the bravery that’s always inside them. The most unexpected blessings can arrive at the doorstep of your experience just by daring to remember “No matter how you feel, you can do this.” Are you ready to make peace with the mystery of life that always gets its way solely for the advancement of your highest evolutionary benefit?
- Send at least one text message a day to someone in your contact list, telling them, “I believe in you.”
- Time is the Wisest Healer
We are all on the same side, each having been hurt by the patterns of unprocessed pain that we came to Earth to resolve. My mom’s antics used to bother me at nearly every turn, but that was when I was only viewing them from the perspective of my own pain. Once I recognized how much conflict she was in and how deeply it was buried within her, literally nothing she could have said or done would have upset me. Once you become aware of how much suffering a person carries, forgiveness is an instinct that comes over you, not a choice you need to make. Years before I had chosen to forgive.
Through the attribute of forgiveness, you allow any grudge or judgment toward someone who hurt you to dissolve as you become more aware of the pain they carry. This experience can’t be rushed, which is why time is the wisest healer. All the pain you find in yourself is the same imprinting of pain that others who hurt you carry in their bodies. Heaven’s mission is to cultivate its highest attributes in physical form through your unique expression. If there is pain, it’s only furthering a journey that leads to joy. If there is abandonment, it’s only to lead you in the direction of greater inclusion. If there is suffering, it’s only to shape perspectives, so an awareness of liberation may dawn. No matter which character you encounter, how despicably they act, or how separate the Earth realm feels from your Heavenly home, please know, it is I who dwell in all characters, including you. When you understand that you can’t coerce yourself to forgive, it’s equally true that you can’t move someone else closer to it, no matter how much more connected you would feel if only the other person could “get there” faster. You become more aware of the pain that exists in those who hurt you. It’s one of the most incredible gifts each person is destined to spontaneously receive. No matter how often my ego tries to be in charge of forgiveness, I accept it’s a process that cannot be manipulated, or fast-tracked.
“No Matter What Has Happened, Everything Is Made Right in the End”
Allow everyone the right to their process. Perhaps instead of judging the cruelty of others, you will find a moment of reflection, imagining how much they must have endured to treat themselves or another human being so poorly. Maybe it’s okay that people hold grudges until they don’t. Maybe it’s okay that everything happened exactly as it did. Evolution unfolds with perfection—no matter what you like or dislike along the way. You can simply let everything that is meant to happen occur within its own unique time frame.
- For each person who disturbs, or frustrates you, take a moment to contemplate how much loss, and despair they must have endured to be who they are.
- If you find yourself out of harmony with the dimension of time, try declaring one of life’s timeless truths: I may or may not always get what I want, but I always have everything I need.