There are times when I know very deeply that if a person in my life actually did what I know would help them, their problem would disappear. However, when I’ve shared my idea, it often makes it worse.
Not only does the other person not take that step, they withdraw from me for longer than I would like – Whether it was with my children, spouse, friends, or early on in my parent-coaching.
When we, instead, allow someone to express what they are experiencing, and refrain from providing solutions to fix it for them, we are creating connection, which is the most critically important underlying need that led them to voice their experience to us in the first place.
It’s so understandable that we want the other person’s pain to go away – now. We want to fix the wound, the challenge, the suffering. The other person may even say or scream that’s what they want. And we might have excellent ideas for options that would help.
Don’t accept the temptation. Timing matters!
We’ll know the time and place to create opportunities for filling skill-gaps once we’ve created the safe-harbor of feeling-feelings first. This is not the time to fill skill-gaps. The cognitive brain is off line.
Also, acting on our need to share our thoughts and ideas when another is trying to share their experience, does the opposite of help. It creates more problems.
It tells them that
they are not capable,
they are less than,
their experience is not acceptable
– in part, because it’s uncomfortable to others, and that
they are even more alone in this than ever!
– even when they thought they wanted us to solve it.
When we simply allow –
sitting with them in silence,
maybe a word or two of understanding,
feeling our heart sending them care and love –
they feel a healing sensation of not being alone.
The relationship’s deep connection creates for them the safe soft place to feel what they’re feeling.
That foundational need for connection being met, that is what opens the pathways for that person to connect to the whole of themselves, accessing their own inner resources – the whole and wholeness of themselves – integrated thoughts and feelings, mind, body, and soul.
They get out of survival mode because they’ve reached the safety of relationship, which optimizes access to their reasoning brain, and to the integration of their whole system.
And then they have the experience of taking pride in themselves for having ridden that tumultuous wave and gotten to shore.
It’s hard on the listener, feeling the other’s pain, having an answer, and not sharing it – almost feels as impossible as using our finger to stop the water, our words, from coming out of a faucet, our mouths.
Instead of being a finger against the force of water, we don’t have to resist the force.
We get to shift to a different dimension, stepping back, zooming out to see and feel the possibilities created by giving space and time to situations. It’s what has been referred to has “holding space” for someone.
It’s taken me a lifetime to even know to see the value in this, let alone in trying to practice it. The rewards are so sweet and gratifying.
This allowing, this being the safe harbor for feeling feelings, it optimizes the birth of the most flourishing outcomes. It soothes the suffering involved, even while the pain might still be there.
It applies to our being there for ourselves as well as to being there for others. This is the most powerful and rippling place to practice. When we’ve taken care of ourselves, we’re not pushing that responsibility onto others, and we give ourselves the vantage point to discern whether we need a boundary around ourselves, or whether we can be there for others, holding space, cleanly and lovingly.
If not there yet,
we have the chance to model how to be self-aware and handle our emotions:
“My body’s tensing.
I can feel the urge to dump my emotions on you.
I need to take a break
to give myself a little tlc,
see what’s up with me, and
clean out my baggage rather than dumping it on you.”
And as we take our break, we can let them witness us choosing ways of getting ourselves out of our survival mode without running away from feeling our feelings. Examples include belly breaths, cross mid-line movements, and letting in some fresh air, to name a few.
This is an iterative process. It comes in waves.
The more practice we give ourselves by being the safe-harbor for ourselves, and by practicing with others in the small less high-risk moments, the more easily we will be able to be the safe-harbor, discerning presence in the moments when a lot is at stake.
Making the effort to get back to the zoomed out view, centered in our heart, has another major benefit.
We can find our own inner peace.
Watching, and discerning our role in this time and place, moment to moment, as life unfolds, we’re helping ourselves as well as others.
It bares repeating –
There will be times and places to create opportunities for filling skill-gaps once we’ve created the safe-harbor of feeling-feelings first.
Parenting and teaching give us many opportunities to learn this life-enhancing way of being with others, and with ourselves.
When we take the lead in allowing ourselves and others to feel, allowing for the time and space necessary for tapping into internal resources in the safe-harbor of our acceptance, we are giving ourselves and others an exceptionally important life-skill that will make us, each other, and the world a better place.
From my heart, mind, and soul to yours,