September 8, 2017

What to do When Hard Stuff happens to People we Care About.

Every day hard stuff happens.

For ourselves, for people we care about. For friends and family, our clients or colleagues, and of course, people we don’t know.

It’s the “big hard stuff” of political events (and their direct and personal impact), financial distress, serious illness, or even death, break-ups, or divorce. Losing what was important and gave us a sense of self or meaning. Or, losing something that was valuable and good in our lives.

And, it’s the smaller hard stuff. The stuff that triggers us personally. Losing our dog in the forest (so glad we found him again). Being really tired and still having to deal with my daughter’s nagging, or her complete unawareness of what needs to happen next, when it really is time for bed. Doubting what I have to offer in this life or my business (I think that happens to everyone at times).

Or, not being seen by family, or judged for what you think is right. The phone that breaks, the water pipes bursting, the unfriendly person you meet at the station topping off the emotional hurricane that has already started to build inside you.

We all have the experience of hurting. As the Buddhists say—it’s part of the human condition. How we deal with this simple fact determines a lot of how life is for us—how we experience our day-to-day existence.

And this is not about: is the glass half-empty or half-full? Our mindset has a massive impact on what we feel.

But, we lose a lot when we choose to forego the feelings we have. When we (try to) ignore them, or decide they are less than valuable.

It’s also not about getting lost in our feelings and stories. Granted, it’s a favourite pastime for a lot of people. Stewing in their feelings, getting lost in the stories they create, triggering more of the feelings…

An emotion only lasts for 90 seconds. Physically, in your body, that’s how long the chemistry takes to make us feel a specific way. But, this is also not about saying, “Whatever happens after that is caused by your choices,” as I’ve seen suggested.

No, this is about something else.

Hard stuff happens. We have emotional responses—responses of our mind, our soul, and our body. And, all of them carry vital information. All of them are part of a healthy, resourceful human being.

The magic lies in honouring all of that information—all the parts of our human experience—without being afraid of it.

We haven’t learned to ride the waves of our experience from our parents, or at school, so we have to learn to do it now. Being present to what is, noticing what is happening inside of you when it is happening, and not drawing any conclusions about it. Allowing the flow of shakti, of life force energy, of pure intelligence to move through you and bring you to healing, new beginnings, and transformation.

So, when hard stuff happens for other people, the single most valuable and helpful thing we can do for them, is to hold space for them—to offer them a safe place to express themselves, to ride that wave, and find out what is on the other side of it, without interfering.

Let me give you an example:

She attended my online workshop called “Holding Space,” and one of the things we did was a short exercise. She could speak about what was “alive” for her at that moment for three minutes. And, two of us would listen with our whole being. Fully receiving her. Nothing else.

She started by saying that just before the start of the workshop, she had received a call, “My brother isn’t well.” Tears flowed as she spoke. She didn’t explain much—she didn’t have to, this time was 100 percent for her. But, we could see how painful this was for her. And, after a while, she spoke about how it was starting to feel lighter—about how it was becoming quiet in her. About how the questions and thoughts that had been going on in her mind were subsiding.

She was feeling at peace. Still sad. But, at peace,”And now I know what to do. I didn’t before. I know what to do now—and it’s not doing anything.”

Later, she shared how huge this small exercise had been. It was a big theme, and it affected her in a big way. The shift she had experienced in just three minutes was unbelievable to her.

This is the greatest gift we can give others. The space to be 100 percent witnessed and accepted in their experience. To be trusted that we all have all the resources we need for ourselves.

It’s not easy. We are hardwired to start to think about what’s going on, or how to help them, and how to make the pain go away. Within an instant, we are not 100 percent open and receiving them, but pre-occupied with our own processing. No matter how well trained and skilled you are, your processing takes away from the depth of the space you hold.

It’s not up to us to fix and solve for others.

But, we can offer them space where healing and transforming can “just” happen. Are you ready to give this simple gift to the people in your life?

Author: Annemiek van Helsdingen 
Image: MbTrama/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Social Editor: Sara Karpanen

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Annemiek van Helsdingen