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Holding space: How to help someone process their emotions

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Danny Raede

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Holding space is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do to help someone with Asperger’s emotionally process the day. Simply put, holding space is acceptance without judgement. It often, but not always, involves sitting with someone, practicing Deep Listening, and being a mirror to help them become aware of themselves (their feelings, emotions, and physical sensations).

Holding space helps people with Asperger’s (or really anyone) process their emotions, feel safe, and be able to settle and center themselves.

Holding space DOES NOT involve fixing, judging, offering advice, manipulation or any act of change. It simply allows what is already there to have the space to be.

A lot of people have trouble when practicing holding space for someone else because they feel overwhelmed by the conversation, or the person stores all of anxiety and throw it all out there at once. If this is the case in your household, remember once people feel that they are heard and what is going on with them matters, they become more comfortable and feel more safe. If you are finding that you are having a tough time with this skill (it takes practice and time to master) you may want to practice the process we call being with it.

When you hold the space be prepared for the space to be held, it will be used. So make sure your tanks are full (are you hungry, thirsty, tired, frustrated, or irritated?). If so, let the other person know, and communicate your plan to be in a space where you can be there for them in a non-judgemental way. Keeping your resiliency up will allow others to process and will keep you grounded.

When holding space, it is NOT the time to fix, correct or offer advice, without first asking. Once the person you are holding space for seems done, you can ask them if they’d like some advice. If they say yes, feel free to offer your observations and advice. If they say no, respect that decision and then bring up the conversation again at a later time.

The best thing about holding the space is that it is iterative and you can do with anyone. It is like throwing a lifeline to anyone who is needing to process the stressors in their life.

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