44) Holding Space

This week in the Brain BS™ Blog and Podcast we are going to explore the concept of holding space. In a world where we are more likely to react than respond, learning how to hold space is a skill we want to bring to every interaction we have. We will discuss how to resist the temptation to make other people’s behavior about us and why it is so important to refrain from criticism and judgment. Then we will examine how accepting the people in our lives and ourselves exactly as we are, creates a safe space where we can all flourish and grow. I will illustrate these points by sharing some examples of how holding space serves us well and how different the trajectory of our lives might be if we do not do that.

Let’s begin by defining what I mean by holding space for the purpose of this post. I am referring to the ability to create a safe, judgement free space, where we can respond instead of reacting, and operate from a kind, loving, and authentic place. Imagine how different our interactions would be on a daily basis, if we approached our lives from this frame of reference. Instead of getting overtaken by emotions, we would get clear on how we are thinking and create thoughtful and meaningful responses in every situation.

For example, instead of getting pissed off at the clerk at the store who appears to be preoccupied on the phone, we could hold space for him and not make his behavior mean anything about us. We could avoid experiencing frustration, indignation, and/or self-righteousness when he did that, if we gave him the benefit of a doubt and refrained from judging him. It could be that he is on the phone finding out that a loved one is having an emergency and needs his help. Or maybe he forgot to do something for his employer and if he does not get it taken care of ASAP, he will lose his job. We don’t really know what is going on unless he actually tells us, so any stories we create in our heads are all Brain BS! Since we know that thoughts are optional, why not think thoughts that promote love and kindness toward our fellow humans, rather than hate and disdain? Why not feel good instead of bad? The only answer I have for you is that our egos like a little drama and will not be satisfied if we are at peace all the time. Oh they will get used to it eventually, but they are not going to like it at first. Nope, not at all.

So let’s talk a little bit about how our brains like to take things personally. This stems from our brain filters that I have mentioned in a previous post. Brain filters are our subconscious frame of reference for how we look at life. We acquire them in childhood through our interactions with our parent and siblings, and the average human is not even aware that they are there. They are the lens through which we view everything, and no two filters are the same. This explains why multiple people can look at the same thing and perceive it totally different. Some of my personal filters that I have uncovered are not being good enough, always thinking I have done something wrong, and my personal favorite is that I have been wronged.

Now let’s take those filters and I will show you how they can apply to various situations and cause needless suffering and drama. Okay, say I have a close friend who out of the blue stops interacting with me. She is not totally ghosting me, but she is for sure disconnecting with me, but I have no idea why. I try to engage her in a conversation about it and invite her to get together to talk so we can discuss it, but she is not interested in that. Where does that leave me? I assure you it leaves me in a totally different space than it would if I was unaware of my brain filters. Let’s look at how each of them could contribute to the way I view her behavior. If I was looking through the lens of not enough, I might have thought I was not a good enough friend. I would look at all of our interactions and try to figure out where I could have done a little bit more or how I could have done something differently and possibly feel regret. If I was looking at the situation from being afraid I did something wrong, that might lead to an analysis of all my interactions with her. I might become obsessive in terms of trying to figure out what I could have possibly done something wrong which could lead to fear, doubt and even shame. Now looking at the situation from my third filter, totally changes the flavor and kind of takes me out of the perpetrator and into victim mode. When we feel wronged, we tend to get angry and intolerant of the person we feel is treating us unfairly and unjustly. If I was feeling that way, I could be judging her and finding all the reasons why I should have never been friends with her in the first place. This feels more empowering than the feeling of being hurt. Mind you it is all Brain BS because we don’t know what is going on in her mind because she has not shared that.

We have explored how I might react if I was unaware of my brain filters, now let’s look at how holding space might look in this situation. It always begins by being aware of our brain filters and not buying into them. That means I have eliminated that I am not enough, that I did anything wrong, or that she has wronged me in any way. It does not mean she might not think that I did something wrong, but it is sort of like innocent until proven guilty. I also want to point out that just because she thinks I did something wrong does not mean I did. She has her own filters! The next step is to refrain from judging her or criticizing her, which basically means giving her some space and the benefit of a doubt. It is worth noting here that the only way that is possible for us to do that with another human, is if we do it for ourselves. If we do not have a kind and loving relationship with ourselves where we have our own back, then we cannot extend that to others. When we can do that, we create a safe space that is free of judgment and conducive to giving both parties the opportunity for personal growth. In this case, she might need the time to figure out how to communicate what is going on with her and maybe get the courage to share that. She might also feel like it is time to move on and not participate in the relationship anymore, which is an option that is totally available to her and completely her choice. For my part, I might need to cultivate patience and tap into love and empathy for her and send only positive energy her way. I also might need to let go of her gracefully and understand that everything in the human experience is temporary. See how it works? The ego would turn it into a big drama, but our higher selves hold space and stay in a loving place.

Okay, let’s look at another scenario where the outcome could be different if I was unaware of my brain filters and unwilling to hold space. Let’s say I am in my car at an intersection, the light changes, and the guy in the car ahead of me does not move forward. I look and it appears that he is on his phone and not paying attention to the light. Well, as you might guess, there is a lot of Brain BS that can come up in this situation, LOL! In this case, I would not be thinking that I did anything wrong or that I am not good enough, but I sure could be thinking that about him! I could also be feeling wronged due to the fact that he is keeping me waiting or possibly because I believe he is endangering my safety by using a handheld device while behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle. Whether he is using his phone or forgets to turn on his blinker, if I am not aware, I am going to take it personally and make his behavior about me. This could most likely result in pushing hard on the car horn or maybe even flipping somebody off! In this day and age, it is not a good idea to spark road rage in another driver and it could even be deadly.

Let’s look at it from a holding space point of view now. If I am behind a driver who is preoccupied with his phone at an intersection, the first thing I could do is give him some grace that he is at least not moving which makes it safer. The next thing I might want to contemplate is why he might be on his phone. Could it be an emergency? Could it be a romantic interest who finally returned his call? Could it be that he cannot afford a car with blue tooth, and he is waiting for a call from his doctor about a scary test result? Maybe he is lost and needs directions? We can’t possibly know so why not give the guy a benefit of a doubt. It feels so much better than getting really mad and frustrated. The other thing I might want to consider is do I ever get on my phone when I am behind the wheel? Is there ever a scenario where I justify doing that and other people have gotten annoyed with me? Usually if it is really triggering something in us, it is because we are guilty of the same behavior. Holding space might look more like a tap on the horn to give them a heads up to start moving and possibly maintaining a certain distance from them to ensure safety. In the event that the person is really endangering the safety of everybody on the road, we can call 411 and report them from a kind and loving space, free of judgment and without taking it personally and feeling self-righteous.

Alright, let’s take a look at one more situation to illustrate how holding space would be the best option for everybody involved. In this scenario let’s make it a little bit less personal. Say we are walking down a street with beautiful homes and then nestled in between them, is a home that looks rundown and neglected. There are old beat up cars littering the driveway and the grass is over grown, and there are weeds everywhere. Our first instinct might be to think, geez, what the heck is wrong with the homeowners to let their house get that way. We might feel a little superior about the upkeep of our own home and wonder how somebody can let their house fall into such disarray. The truth is there might be multiple reasons why the house is in its current state that do not include laziness, lack of motivation, or indifference. They could be financially strapped and unable to afford the upkeep of their property. They could be physically or mentally ill and unaware of just how much their home has declined. They could be living on their own without adequate support and barely keeping it together. Again, how we choose to think about them is optional so why not give them the benefit of a doubt? This is always available to us and permits us to stay in a higher vibration and just feel better in general, so it is really a no-brainer!

In conclusion, we owe it to ourselves and our fellow humans to hold space and learn how to respond, rather than react. We must resist the temptation to make other people’s behavior mean anything about us. We also need to refrain from criticism and judgment and give people the benefit of a doubt. This makes us feel better and creates a space where all of us can flourish and grow. Join me in the Brain BS™ Podcast to discuss this further!