One of the great challenges for empaths and all sensitive people is how to help others without burning out. As a psychiatrist, I’ve observed that my patients get most exhausted when they try too hard to fix or help their spouses, children, or friends. The art of holding space is a skill that empaths must learn. Holding space means that we are present for people we love by radiating caring, nonjudgmental, and calm energy—but we don’t try to fix them or absorb their distress.
People can only heal themselves. You can support their healing, but they must make the necessary changes to free themselves from suffering. To help you from absorbing their distress, practice my shielding technique. Begin by taking a few, deep, long breaths. Then visualize a beautiful shield of white or pink light completely surrounding your body and extending a few inches beyond it. This shield protects you from anything negative, stressful, toxic, or intrusive. Within the protection of this shield, feel centered, happy, and energized. This shield blocks out negativity, but at the same time, you can still feel what’s positive and loving.
Holding space is a loving-kindness practice that you can use when you are supporting others. It’s more about “being” than “doing.” Your energy and attitude can make all the difference. Here is an excerpt from my book on self-care practices to guide you. The more you practice radiating this heart-centered awareness, the easier holding space will become.
A Holding Space Practice
When you’re with someone you care about who is going through a hard time or is expressing joy, it is a beautiful skill to hold space for them. This means that you choose to be totally present with that person. (Holding space is not something you offer everyone in need.) Your mind is still: You’re not overly involved. You’re not thinking about how to change or fix them. You’re not focused on your own emotions, which may be getting triggered. Instead, you look at them with love, listen with your heart, and hold a positive, nonjudgmental space for this person to just Be.
Holding space is a gift that you have to offer. I often do this for my patients and with friends. You’re creating an aura of love that extends from you to them. Never underestimate the power of holding space for someone. It can be a vehicle for deep healing.
Set your intention. I will hold a loving space for someone today. I will be completely present for them.