To The Strong Ones

Note: This came to me after reading a message on a Facebook post, and it comes on the heels of two great losses in the entertainment world. That said, this may be triggering for some. Please look upon yourself with compassion as you read it. You are not alone. If you need to talk to someone, please call 1-800-273-8255 (United States). They are available 24/7. 

Hi there.

Yes, you. I see you, by the way. I know you think that no one sees you, but I do. I see you.

I see you wearing multiple hats. I see you being the pillars of strength for your families, your friends, your communities, your countries. I see you wiping the tears of everyone around you, telling them to be strong and face each day with their heads high…you know, like you always do. I see you being the listening ears, the “make it all betters,” the mom and dad sometimes, the dad and mom sometimes, the compassionate daughter, the faithful son…

The Strong One.

backlit beach clouds dark
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I also see you when you’re alone. I see the tears. I see the frustration. I see the tiny spark of sadness when you don’t get a chance to voice your building anxiety, so you just swallow it and smile. I see the moments that you stare off into nothing, wishing that you could possibly just go to sleep…and sleep…and sleep…and sleep.

I see all of that.

Please know that so many do love you. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable. Even the strongest pillars need support at times, especially when they are carrying the most weight. Do not be afraid to cry, to admit that you have moments of weakness. Those who love you will understand. And most importantly…please don’t feel as if you are all alone. You are not. I see and hear you, and so will those who love you. Reach out.

For those who have a Strong One in their lives, reach back. You may save that person.

I love you all so much.

 

Sincerely,

The Divine/God/Allah/Source/Love/Spirit/Whatever you feel comfortable calling me

 

Holding Space

Over the last few months, this concept has popped up numerous times in both my professional and personal life. It’s not as straightforward as traditional psychological terms and approaches, but I wanted to speak on my view of it since most of us will be in this situation at some point.

There will be moments where you simply won’t know what to say to a person. Perhaps they just lost someone, or are ranting madly because they’ve been wronged in some way. There’s really nothing you can do to help the situation. So, what do you do?

As a therapist, I’ve had these moments. I’ve had to be the solid pillar while someone’s life was falling apart. I’ve had to break seemingly bad news to parents about their child. I’ve had to sit with a teenager while her brother lay in a hospital, dying. In all of these situations, I had to realize that nothing I say is going to make the situation go away. I can’t remove the pain. The other thing I realized was that I could not bring myself to give some kind of rote response. “You’ll be okay” or “Everything happens for a reason” won’t cut it here.

Here is where the concept of holding space comes in. You simply make that space a container. In these moments, people often just need to express. There is no pressure to think up a solution for the person. They already know that you can’t do anything about it. They sometimes already know that they’ll get through it. In that moment, though, they need to process. They need somewhere safe to vocalize their frustrations, sorrow, confusion, and occasionally socially unacceptable thoughts.

Of course, this is easier said than done. In the therapy field, we are almost programmed to think up solutions, and we may think up some right at these difficult moments. A lot of times, though, that’s not what people need. They need to feel a sense of peace, to know that at their most vulnerable moment, you are making them feel safe. I have been on the flip side of this, where I expected a place to be able to express myself, and instead was reduced to tears by someone who felt that I needed a “reality check” at that moment. No, I didn’t. I needed to process my feelings, and I was demeaned for it. After that, I never trusted that person as a confidant again, and I learned how not to be with regards to future clients.

You don’t have to be a therapist to do this. Sometimes friends and family just need to talk, and maybe sit in silence for a bit. We are often so afraid of silence, when it can be an amazing gift. Silence allows processing, and it allows Spirit to enter the picture. To me, this is holding space: creating a safe, peaceful environment to allow another to process and express…and to allow Spirit to enter and help heal.

Seeking Help

First, I’m fine. The emerging online conversation amongst black men (and men in general) about being able to admit when they need help inspired this post (See #yougoodman on Twitter).

I’m one of those stubborn people who really hates asking for help. I like figuring things out on my own, solving problems, and above all, maintaining my inner dialogue that I have *most* of my life figured out. Asking for help tends to dim that dialogue.

The truth of the matter is, we all need help at some point.

We are taught to think that asking for help is a sign of weakness, of defeat. You couldn’t handle it on your own, so clearly something’s wrong with you. It is one of the main reasons why depression and anxiety run rampant in American culture. Society is very demanding on the human psyche, but no one wants to publicly admit that.

Maybe it’s not depression. Maybe you’re just going through a hard time. That stubbornness will tell you that you can’t ask for help because it will imply that (again) something’s wrong with you, or that you clearly made some bad choices and had this coming to you. By seeking help, however, you are admitting that you want to do better. You want to be better, and you are willing to do what it takes to achieve that.

Yes, your ego may get bruised a bit at first, but by learning to actively seek help you are becoming a more complete you. Maybe you need help with a project from someone more experienced. You can now add that person’s knowledge to your own. If you had a financial hiccup, I am willing to bet that you will more than likely examine ways to not make those same choices. If you feel overwhelmed, seeking professional help will give you tools to address that stress going forward. You have everything to gain.

Those of us in the helping fields made this our life paths for a reason. There are people who live to literally see you do well. Don’t be afraid to seek us out, and don’t be afraid to seek out those right in front of you for help, either.

In the long run, you’ll be glad that you did.