Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Jeff Foster on the Healing Power of “Holding Space”

I deeply appreciate the following words by author Jeff Foster. They are just what I needed to hear at this time as I grapple with how to best be with (and not be with) a friend who is undergoing a “healing crisis.”

As I wrote just today to another friend about this situation: “I’m at the point where I just have to trust that God is somehow working in [my struggling friend’s] life, and relinquish any thoughts I might have of being his ‘savior’ or ‘fixer.’ It’s hard though.” . . . Indeed. But it’s also essential.


When you try to fix me, when you play the infallible “expert” or “guru,” you unconsciously send a signal to me, to my nervous system, that there’s something wrong with me, that I’m broken and do not have the inner resources I need. That I can’t hold what I’m holding, can’t bear what I am bearing. That I am smaller than you, weaker, needier. That I know less. You play the expert to my beginner, the guru to my disciple. Even if you have the best of intentions, which I know you often do, when you try to fix me, and give me your answers, you treat me like a child. You don’t listen. You don’t trust. And that’s scary. I feel more alone than ever when you try to fix me. You split us in two.

Yes, when you try to fix me, you don’t trust me. But I am stronger than you know. I can bear more than you realise. I am more capable, more wise, more courageous than you give me credit for. I am shocked by my own courage!

When you stop trying to fix me you give me the space to grow. You give me the space to feel, to hurt, to tolerate and to process that hurt, to move through my pain into a deeper healing.

When you simply hold space for me, I can relax to fill that warm space. I can breathe more freely, held in your safe and loving arms. I can touch into my deepest trauma, find my courage, push myself a little bit into the scary places, start to tolerate the seemingly intolerable, bear the seemingly unbearable, and survive the intensity of the moment. I can start to prove to myself how strong I actually am.

When you simply stay present with me, I can move through my healing crisis, I can fall and be caught, break and be held, and I can learn to hold myself too.

When you simply listen, I can better hear myself. I can learn to trust my deepest intuition, my authentic feelings, my own body – and fill even the scary places within me with loving awareness.

My words are not drowned out by yours. My feelings are not replaced by yours. My dreams become clearer. My gut learns to speak up for itself. When you drop all your clever concepts, philosophies, answers, advice, fixes, and you just love me, I can learn to love myself, and trust myself, and hold myself as you hold me.

When you stop trying to fix me, I actually start to feel less broken! Here is the paradox of love, and the paradox of healing – two sides of the very same mystery.

So stop trying to fix me, and please, love me instead, be present with me as I heal.

For more of Jeff Foster at The Wild Reed, see:
A Sacred Pause
Spring . . . Within and Beyond

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

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