“Ow Ow Ow”, my 8 year old cried out. He had just hustled over to the other side of the of a stool to block his 6 year old brother from easily climbing up to the counter. It was a desperate ploy to get the attention of his too often distracted dad. The 6 year old, feeling like he did something wrong, aided by quick poorly thought out actions of the same dad, was flooded in an instant. The scream crying and frustration was palpable and jarring. It was such an easy thing. I asked such a simple question. “Why were you pushing against your brother?” He couldn’t answer, his prefrontal cortex was fully taken over by his amygdala and the sympathetic nervous system. He was in full on melt down mode. If you are a parent, you know this mode. You’ve seen it, felt it, known the absolute helplessness of the situation, and maybe, like me, felt the guilt of causing it. utterly painful, and frankly, hard to deal with. So what can you do when this happens? How do you handle it when one of your beloved children is completely out of control and throwing a fit?
Hold space. Simple. Not easy. It is a way of living that allows one to give another the freedom to feel and experience a moment without any interference, in a safe space, without judgement, only love. Psychology Today said it this way “At the end of the day, it means to not make it about you. That’s it. Holding space means to make it about someone else. Plain and simple.” To hold space for someone requires you to fully set aside ego. Not ego as in pride or arrogance, but all of you. That is why it is so hard. It seems like we carry a disconnect with just how narcissistic we can all be. Part of our basest survival instinct I would guess. But that really isn’t the purpose of this post. I submit to you this gut wrenching video of a beautiful example of holding space:
Brutal. Absolutely brutal. I don’t know who this guy is, or what the battle was about. What I know is that at this moment, no amount of correction, rebuking, or discipline will bring peace. The kid simply needs to let it out. feel all the emotions of the moment, and not lose connection to her dad. she needs the space to allow normalizing of the crazy chemical reaction in her body. same thing with my six year old. He was distraught, feeling flooded, unable to grab onto a logical thought. I’d love to tell you that I handled it like an expert parent, but, well, I’m human. I did my best, we worked through it together, and at the end I believe he knows that I love him, and that he can feel all of his feelings without judgement or fear. That is not to say that he can be abusive, or that there will be no consequences for actions. Which is what makes parenting so hard I think.
After I watched that video and bawled my eyes out, I had a few minutes to reflect and had two very distinct thoughts.
1. How much did we all deserve this when we were kids? I mean truly, How many of us actually had parents that had enough humility to hold this kind of space for us? I love my parents deeply, but, no. In fact strong emotions good and bad were essentially forbidden in my house. Especially if they resulted in anything loud. Physical needs were met, emotional ones, not as much. And I had what I would label a good childhood. I cannot imagine what you may have experienced.
2. How many of us have been the kid? Be honest. You throw fits sometimes. Maybe not in the kicking screaming toddler way, but in your well rehearsed deeply entrenched way. You make poor financial choices or relational ones. You become closed off or overly dramatic. You express your trauma and pain in unhealthy ways. You become disconnected from your logic centers and act solely on emotions. What you need in those moments is the space and freedom to be in the moment.
Who do you know in your life that holds space for you? If the answer is no one, I encourage you to find someone. Preferably several someones. These people are truly your tribe. That word has been thrown around a lot, but for good reasons. You MUST find them. Your health and well being are counting on it. On the other side, who do you have in your circle that you can hold space for? Whose tribe are you in? Can you rest in a moment with someone, setting aside yourself and showing empathy and love while they emote, cry, scream, whatever? Find them too. There have only been a few of those moments in my life, I hope that I will find many more, and that you will too!