Holding space for both
Brought to you by: Mental Gear Closet
This morning I overslept, completely missing my first client session! Ugh! This hasn’t happened in … well I can’t even remember when. I immediately called my client and of course apologized profusely to which I received the most lighthearted and gracious response.
Hanging up the phone I felt, without fully realizing it in the moment, two very opposite emotions at the same time. I therefore did what most humans do: I felt the one that made the most sense (relief at how well the conversation went), got confused by an uncomfortable nagging feel (guilt and disappointment; "Buy why? The conversation went so well!") and so tried to suppress them. I was inadvertently “yeah butting” myself. (I guess you can take the therapist out of the human, but you can’t take the humanness out of the therapist.) This is what “yeah butting” sounds like:
“Yeah, but … [insert complete invalidation of the very normal reaction and feeling you’re having because it is confusing and uncomfortable to experience two opposing emotions at the same time].”
My experience was a great reminder of two things. First, we all do this, we do it often, and it happens almost instantly. Second, one of the most useful if not pervasive if not powerful tools that we can learn is:
How to be brave enough to acknowledge, then skilled enough to hold space for, two contrary emotions at the same time.
WHY should we bother?
Take my situation for example. Was it normal to feel relieved? (Yes.) The issue was directly addressed and my client’s positive response felt genuine. In addition, accidentally oversleeping once in a blue moon is going to happen and is therefore not something to feel shameful or terrible about for days on end. That would be a sign of “toxic”, unhealthy guilt.
However, was it equally normal for me to feel “healthy” guilt for inconveniencing my client? (Yes!) Healthy guilt is what gently reminds and motivates us to do better next time. Therefore, both emotions (relief + healthy guilt) were very natural and important to feel in the same moment without discounting one or the other.
HOW can we make space for both?
Here are a few steps I use myself:
Notice … Nagging feelings, urges to distract yourself, and thoughts such as “But why do I feel …? That doesn’t make sense. Let’s ignore that.”
Breathe … Most mental tools are more successful when pairing them with the physically calming effects of a few intentional breaths.
Yes + And … Put words on what you’re feeling. One of my favorite prompts is: “I feel … because …” But here’s the hardest part. Hold space for BOTH. This will sound like: “I feel … AND I also feel … and that is ok.”
To learn more about these strategies, how to tailor them to your own experiences, or how to overcome the normal barriers that arise when doing so please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can schedule a session or free consultation call on my website or by contacting me directly.