The Confusing Art of Holding Space

People often cry around me. It’s a good thing.

Alla Gonopolsky
6 min readAug 19, 2021


Photo by Cotton Bro from Pexels

Recently I realized that all throughout my life, people have been crying in my presence.

Not just close family and friends, but people I barely know. Strangers seated next to me on long flights. Tough guys who normally shove emotions down. And of course friends who are going through a tough time.

In fact, I can’t readily recall the last day when at least one person didn’t cry in front of me.

I am like a Tears Whisperer. But I don’t think I make people sad. I think I help them release whatever they’re ready to let go of.

Holding Space. It’s a fuzzy term commonly used in therapy circles. A reminder to simply be there for someone. Without judgment. Without rushing to fix or solve. Giving someone the safe, supported space to be completely themselves, utterly vulnerable, without needing them to change. Without even needing to offer advice unless explicitly asked for it.

Hold up. Is Holding Space just a hippie term for ‘listening’?

My friend D is from Israel. I asked him if there’s a direct translation equivalent to holding space in Hebrew. “No. To me it sounds like a made-up hippie word for listening. If you really, truly listen, the effect is the same.”

D makes a good point. But most people are never truly listened to. The other person is usually busy making silent judgments or mental commentary, or planning out what they will say once their friend is done speaking.

It’s partly why we needed a new term like holding space, to make up for the inadequacies of listening. When we listen, we tend to filter what we hear through our own thoughts and belief systems. I agree/disagree with that. That sounds right/wrong/confusing. I should share my own very helpful thoughts at the soonest opportunity.

Holding space is about more than simply listening with open ears and an open mind. Sometimes no one is even speaking, and you are holding space for their feelings instead of their words. Sometimes the most meaningful space you can offer is held in pure silence.



Alla Gonopolsky

Binge traveler. Book author. Yoga teacher. World's Least Annoying Millennial.