By Eric Beach
Since learning this concept, it has become my mantra. Holding the space has become the root grounding me in my new sobriety. The more I hold the space, the more I come to understand it, the more I believe it may be the single most important thing we can do for our veterans. It may well be the most important thing we do in any relationship.
In truth, holding the space is the hardest, easy thing you can do. Being and staying present is the foundation. Our hearing is the muscle we flex to hold that space. Space is heavy. It’s a muscle we need to actively work.
Understand this. Veterans have looked behind the curtain. We've seen the dirt and grime in the cogs of government. We've seen the best and worst of society and culture. We have been manipulated and when our guards were down, when we were most vulnerable, people have died. Then, we were asked to stuff down the embers of grief. When we couldn't swallow it, it was forced down our throats, "Suck it up and drive on." When that didn't work, we tried to washing down the bitter pill with alcohol. Once swallowed, we self-medicated, desperately trying to counteract the effects of feeling. But, the only way to heal is to first feel, then speak.
We can’t speak it unless we trust someone to hold the space with their whole heart and their whole being. For us to feel safe, to trust again, we are risking death.
We have been fed a lie that it is other than honorable to share our burdens carried home from war. The fallacy “A real combat veteran doesn’t share their combat experiences. Those that do are phonies. They’ve probably never seen combat, because had they, they wouldn’t talk about it.” Has driven many to the dark, lonely caves of depression and isolation.
The veterans that don’t share, that don’t have a safe held place, that live with a false sense of “honor” laid out by a pseudo-initiated warrior tradition, are the unhealthy ones. They are the lost ones.
We don’t need to share the graphic details. We don’t need to be understood. We don’t need to talk about it all the time. We need a safe, held space. We need it so when the feelings creep in, and they will, we have a place to purge the poison we’ve allowed to sit deep in our soul.
Hold the space. If you’re a veteran, or someone with PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) hold the space and get rid of anything that keeps you from doing so. For me, that means no smoke, no alcohol period.
If you know someone with PTS, hold the space. Don’t “fix” anything. Don’t force anything. Love them and be present. If they don’t share their burden, love them and stay present. Accept the reality you may never be the person they share with. In time they may share with you, but what I’m suggesting is your motivation to hold the space can not be that someday, they’ll bare their whole soul to you. We need to know we are supported, loved. We need to feel this way until and after we are able to receive those truths.
The path to healing is built on the foundation of holding the space.
Hold the space.