By Eric Beach
Since my friend shared this concept with me, it has become one of my mantras. Holding the space has become the root grounding me in my sobriety. The more I hold the space the more I come to understand it and 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 key. Our hearing is the muscle we flex to "hold that space". Space is heavy, so holding it requires strengthen a muscle we need to actively work often.
Understand this... Veterans have seen behind the curtain. We've seen the dirt and grime in the wheels and 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 died while others took advantage of us. 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 wash down the bitter pill with alcohol. Once swallowed, we self-medicated, desperately trying to counteract the uncomfortable effects of "feeling." But, the only way to heal is to first feel... Once we feel, we must then speak out loud, in a safe environment, our deepest pains and darkness.
We can’t give voice to the our deep dark secrets 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 in a sense risking death.
We have been fed a lie that it is other than honorable to share our burdens carried home from war, or the ones put in our ruck sack before our military service. The fallacy “A real combat veteran doesn’t share their combat experiences. Those that do are imposters. 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, shame, and secrecy.
The veterans that don’t share, the ones that don’t have a safe held space, 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. We need a training ground where we can "sit with the emotion" where we can feel it, process it, and FINALLY grieve it.
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 alcohol.
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 and loved. We need to feel this way until, and after we are able to receive those truth that we are supported and loved.
The path to healing is built on the foundation of holding the space.
Hold the space.
By Eric Beach
This morning I'm following some advice. I'm sitting silent. Feeling the emotions. I'm assigning no value to them. No labels of good or bad, just feeling where they rest in my body.
My eyes are tired. There is a slight burning sensation. There is a slight tightness in my chest that comes and goes. It feels likes anxiousness or excitement. I can't tell which. I feel impatience in my legs. There is a feeling of uncertainty sitting in my stomach. A touch of sadness/hopelessness is present in my brain. A feeling of desperation is in my eyes.
I have assigned no value to these feelings. Simply acknowledged their presence. It's a strange feeling just letting your emotions be. It's strange to not question their existence but to instead feel where they are. In doing so, I found I was able to let my body FEEL the emotion! This was a breakthrough! For all my healing, for all my progress, I've not felt emotion like this. I thought I had, but now I see just how much I intellectualized my emotion. I've called them out... I'm angry, which means I have an unmet expectation... I'm afraid, which means my body is preparing itself to run away from the danger or fight it... But thats just part of emotional intellegence.
It's important to understand the origins of emotion, but emotions are meant to be felt. I underestimated how our body experiences emotion. This morning I felt emotions in a way I've never done and I am so much better for it. Today is a good day.
We never stop learning. We never stop growing. The fallacy is that we do. Wisdom can only come through continued life experience and introspection. Stop learning, stop growing, and their will come a day where the world will deal its final blow. I for one, unashamedly admit I don't know it all and I never will. But, what I promise and hope for you is we never stop moving forward and we never stop learning. We stop being so certain about uncertain things and can be open to the idea that maybe we are wrong. When we are open, we can think critically. When we think critically we can grow. Lets grow.
- By Eric Beach -
Last night I raged in a way I haven't raged in a long time. I thought I was going to lose control. Part of my commitment to you and to this project is to share the good and the bad in my healing from PTSD and TBI. Last night was bad.
As a man, realizing you're scaring your family is a terrible reality. I'm thankful my family knows I'm committed to healing. I'm thankful they are able to allow me the space needed to process and calm. It's what I, and many other veterans need.
I know I'm growing, because I reached out when my mind told me to isolate. I have a group of brothers gained through my experience at the "Save a Warrior" program. They have been a source of constant strength, encouragement, and support since October 2015. They were my first "Echelon".
I said in our Facebook group, I'm not doing well. Then I balled my eyes out... They called, they texted, They left voicemails, and they left me an open door. Once I poured out my emotions, I walked through that door.
Its a game changer to have a group who understands you and your struggles. Its crucial. They carried me last night and I've been there for them in the same way and that won't change. Thats the Echelon.
This morning, I reflected on the events of last night and was so happy I was able to see the heart of Project Echelon in action. We exercise, we train, we compete, but above all, we are a family. To navigate the crosswinds of life, we need an echelon of people who understand you, who have been where you are, and who need you more than you need them.
Fly with us to find purpose. Fly with us to find family. Fly with us to tell YOUR family you love them and will fight for them. Fly with us because we need you.
This morning as I wrote this, my girls wanted to be with me. I'm thankful for that. They need their daddy and they will have him.