In our fast-paced world, genuine human connections can sometimes feel scarce. Many conversations are transactional or filled with the cacophony of unsolicited advice. But amidst this hustle and bustle, a concept stands out in its profound simplicity and depth: holding space.
What is ‘Holding Space'?
At its core, holding space means to be present, both physically and emotionally, for someone else without judgment, interruption, or the compulsion to offer solutions. It's a practice of listening deeply, of allowing the other person to express their feelings and emotions in a safe environment.
For survivors of trauma, especially, this simple act can be extraordinarily healing. Unlike typical conversations where each party might be waiting for their turn to speak, when someone holds space, they commit wholly to understanding the speaker's perspective
Why is it Essential, Especially for Survivors?
Traumatic experiences often leave indelible marks on a person's psyche. These experiences, like sexual violence, can create feelings of isolation, shame, or guilt. One of the fundamental human needs in the aftermath of trauma is the need to be heard and validated.
By holding space, one provides survivors with:
- Validation: Acknowledging their feelings and experiences.
- Safety: Offering a non-judgmental environment where they can express without fear of backlash or trivialization.
- Empowerment: Letting them take control of their narrative.
The Delicate Art of Holding Space
Holding space isn't just about keeping quiet while someone else speaks. It's an intentional act of compassion and empathy. Key elements include:
- Active Listening: This involves not just hearing words but understanding the emotion and intent behind them.
- Empathy: Putting oneself in the other person's shoes and trying to feel what they feel.
- Avoiding Unsolicited Advice: Often, people aren't seeking solutions but just need a safe space to share their feelings.
Holding Space in a Professional Setting: The ReConnected Life Model
ReConnected Life offers “Holding Space” sessions lasting up to an hour. These aren't coaching or counselling sessions but are dedicated moments where survivors can be heard, validated, and supported.
Emily Jacob, the force behind ReConnected Life, understands the nuances of trauma and the value of simply being there for someone. By offering this service, she underscores the healing power inherent in human connection and the act of listening.
The Ripple Effects of Holding Space
When survivors feel heard, it sets off a chain of positive events. They begin to process their trauma, feel less isolated, and take steps toward recovery. Holding space not only benefits the individual but also strengthens the community as a whole.
Furthermore, when people outside the survivor community understand and practice holding space, it helps dispel myths and stigmas associated with trauma. It fosters a more inclusive, understanding society, where survivors feel less alienated.
The Complex Dynamics with Loved Ones
For many, the first instinct when a loved one confides in them is to comfort, solve, or even rescue. This is natural; seeing someone we care about in pain triggers a primal urge to alleviate their suffering. But with trauma, especially as intense and deeply personal as that stemming from sexual violence, the waters become murkier.
Why We Try to ‘Solve' Trauma
Our brains are hardwired to problem-solve. When faced with challenges, we seek resolutions, a way to bring back the equilibrium. The same instinct kicks in when we hear about the harrowing experiences of our loved ones. This is particularly amplified when the trauma involves sexual violence—a violation that feels so fundamentally wrong that our first impulse is to ‘right' it in any way we can.
However, trauma from sexual violence is not a puzzle to be solved. It's a wound, both mental and sometimes physical, that needs time, space, and the right environment to heal.
The Limitations of Our Intentions
No matter how well-intentioned, loved ones may inadvertently diminish the survivor's experience. Comments like “You'll get over it” or “Time heals all wounds” may be meant as encouragement but can sometimes feel dismissive. Offering solutions or advice, even if done out of deep care, can inadvertently convey a message that the survivor's pain is a problem to be quickly fixed.
Furthermore, the very nature of the trauma might make it challenging for survivors to open up fully to their loved ones. Fear of judgment, shame, or the desire to protect their loved ones from the painful details can become barriers to authentic communication
The Role of Professionals in Holding Space
While loved ones might grapple with their own emotions and find it challenging to merely ‘be' without offering solutions, professionals trained in supporting trauma survivors offer a different kind of refuge. They have cultivated the ability to listen without judgment, to hold space without the instinct to rescue or solve, and to validate the survivor's experiences.
Seeing a professional like Emily offers a sanctuary for survivors—a place where they can openly express their feelings, fears, and hopes, without the concern of burdening the listener. Such professionals understand the intricacies of trauma and the importance of being truly heard. Their expertise ensures that the survivor feels safe, validated, and empowered.
By seeking support from professionals who specialise in trauma recovery, survivors can find a compassionate and understanding ear, unclouded by personal relationships and biases. This is not to diminish the role of loved ones, but sometimes the path to healing is best navigated with someone equipped with the right tools and understanding.
In an age of digital connectivity, true human connection seems more valuable than ever. Holding space might seem like a simple act, but its repercussions are profound. For trauma survivors, especially, it can be a beacon of hope, a testament to the power of empathy and understanding.