One of the hardest things to do, but also the best thing we can do for someone who is confused, distressed, upset, sad … is to sit back (or lean forward) and just listen.
Yoga and the yoga community have taught me what it means to “hold the space” for someone. It means that when someone is crying, upset, needing to express themselves, we just sit and listen. No more, no less. No telling the person not to cry, not to be upset, or not to worry about something. This is also called “active listening” in wellness coaching.
It´s not easy, mind you, especially when you love the person who is in pain. I know firsthand because I’ve had this experience often with my kids. I want to take away their pain when they’re hurting. I long for them to stop crying or feeling bad. But I also I know that they have every right to figure out their own journey and build their own coping mechanisms. All I have to do is be there and listen. When I do, they open up in all kinds of ways that wouldn’t happen if I said “I told you so,” or “it´s not worth crying over this.”
Why is it that we feel the need to make someone stop feeling like crap? Why is it so difficult to just sit with them and allow them to feel however they need to feel? Why do we need them to stop crying? Possibly because it stirs emotions in us that we don’t know how to handle. We want to “fix” things, and fix them fast so we don’t have to worry about those we love. But emotional healing doesn’t know of time limits.
I’ve always been very expressive, and a crier for sure. Those who know me well are aware that I can be a blubbering mess one minute and, when I’m done expressing my feelings, will move on and be my bubbly self again. Or maybe it takes me a couple of days of feeling like crap to get through it. And it´s ok.
I am learning to do that for others. To just sit and listen without giving feedback, without passing judgement. I just listen. Unexpected breakthroughs and even laughter can ensue. Thank you yoga!
Do you find it hard to “hold the space” or to practice “active listening”?