One of the core tensions of human life is that our greatest needs and desires are also our greatest fears.
Our Greatest Need
We have a fundamental need, as human beings, to feel seen, heard, and fully-expressed. These are needs of the spirit and soul, to be witnessed by others in our truth, to feel heard and understood without judgment, and to feel a sense of safety to let down the masks and express who we are.
These days, we have many tools to help us meet these needs. Social platforms, blogs, self-publishing all offer space to say what you need to say. Sometimes, we just need to unload, to share our experience, to tell our stories. Everyone has a story to tell and wants an audience to receive it.
So crucial is this need to the human spirit and soul that the most pure act of love we can offer another human being is the gift of holding space for their experience.
Simply witnessing and acknowledging — I see you, I hear you — without trying to fix what may be wrong, analyze the situation, or prompt a commitment for what’s next, is a profound gift for the speaker and listener.
When we hold space for others, we give and receive reinforcement that we are not alone.
I believe that if we did this more often with each other — with friends, family, strangers — we would go a long way to healing the chaos and divisiveness that is plaguing the world.
Our Greatest Fear
As deep as this need is, the longing to be seen, heard, and fully-expressed is offset by a need of equal weight: the need for safety and security. This need for safety translates to a fear of being seen. Visibility causes us to stand out. It puts us at risk of rejection. Maybe people will hear your story and judge you unfit for the job you want, or they might fear you’re too much or not enough.
The consequence is that we often end up walking around masking our truth, pretending things are “fine,” refusing to even witness ourselves. This leaves us feeling alone in our experience and deprives us of what we need: community, witnesses, support.
How to Bridge the Gap
It takes courage to be visible in your flaws and fears. But in various settings, I have discovered that summoning the courage to share truth is met with love and support, and gives permission to others to unmask. I have experienced this for myself and witnessed it with others.
Courage is contagious.
In whatever you are going through, you are not alone. To find the support you seek, you only need a willingness to speak your truth.