I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of “holding space.” It was a term that was thrown around loosely in the New Age circles I grew up in. Everyone seemed to know what holding space meant, but not how to define it. The current definition seems to be “being mentally and emotionally present for someone,” generally as they are going through something difficult. But, I think there’s more to it than that.

In the past, the definition was not much clearer. I’ve heard holding space used to mean everything from managing an event, to making room on one’s agenda. I think the exact definition has always been hard to pin down because we’re talking about something quite abstract in nature, which has to do with both space and time, both of which only exist in our minds, as opposed to physical reality. 

There was also something mysterious about holding space, that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Working at a psychiatric hospital has given me a new perspectiv on it. First, working there has really contributed to my personal growth. It’s one of the most challenging environments I’ve ever worked in. I’ve seriously had to up my self-care game and learn to manage my own stress and anxiety. 

Secondly, an activity therapist, I facilitate groups using creative arts, and mindfulness techniques, like yoga and meditation, but I also lead psycho-educational groups, where we’ve discussed topics like identity, triggers, and boundaries, and after three years of my own therapy, this immersion into psychology has been a serious catalyst for my own personal growth. I’ve done a lot of work on boundaries and one thing I’m learning is how to hold space for myself. Because of this, I’m becoming stronger, more flexible, and more whole.

So, now when I show up to hold space for someone,  I am able to do so from a place of compassionate non-attachment. Whatever is happening to them, is theirs. I do not get emotionally pulled into it. (For the most part!) I can listen without judgment or need the situation to be any other way than it is. The space I am holding is between us. I am not in it. And I think that was part of the mystery. In the past, I would jump into the other person’s space, take on their problems, and try to fix it. Nobody talks about that.

Holding space is creating a neutral zone where I am able to be present without getting emotional, mostly listening, and sometimes offering suggestions or advice when appropriate. Sometimes, just being heard and seen in this respectful, caring way is healing for patients. I know it is for me. I think our world would be a better place if we all learned how to hold space for ourselves and others.





If you have thoughts on “holding space,” I’d love to hear them. Feel free to comment below.