Khulisa Deep Dive Series: Holding Space

In the first part of this blog series, we looked broadly at what dramatherapy is, both as a discipline and in practical terms. Over the next few months, we’ll be taking a deeper look at some of the core principles of Dramatherapy, using non-technical terms as far as possible, and exploring how these contribute to empowering and guiding Khulisa’s participants.

Part 2: Holding Space

How many times a day, on the phone or face to face, do people ask, “How are you?” And how many times do we reply, usually without thinking at all “Yeah, good, thanks”, or “Not bad, how are you?” It’s the standard conversational opener, and one that is used so often as a precursor to the reason for the call or the meeting, that 99% of the time we never connect to asking it as a valid question, or to take in the response. We’re often so busy, with so much on our minds, that there isn’t time or inclination to actually stop and think about how we are when we’re asked.

In a dramatherapy session, indeed, in any therapy environment, the question “How are you?” isn’t a quickly issued precursor to the real conversation. Your therapist is extending an invitation for you to really consider, in this present moment, how you are. Have you “arrived” mentally yet in the therapy room? Chances are that your mind is still buzzing around the nightmare tube journey in this morning, or the fact that the kids didn’t eat their breakfast again, or the stressful meeting you have this afternoon with a difficult client/boss.

As you’re reading this, just pause, take a moment to actually feel how you are, right now. Give yourself 30 seconds to consider your emotions – are you anxious, happy, sad, fed up, bored? Use the other 30 seconds to drop your thoughts into your body – are you maybe tense in your shoulders, or is your back aching? Maybe think about how your stomach feels right now? In this modern world with constant communication and background noise around us, and a culture that seems to glorify and worship “busyness” – give yourself the gift of a little space to check in with yourself on how you are, in this present moment. Don’t then judge yourself with any thoughts that flow on from this, eg  “I feel bloated, I shouldn’t have….” or “I need to get moving/lose weight” (whatever your habitual thought might be). Just acknowledge how you feel, with no judgement attached to it. That’s it – you’ve just “held space” for yourself.

In prisons and schools, the morning routine is frequently highly stressful, and can be a hotspot for violent episodes, so the young people sat in our room at 8.30am will likely already be hyper vigilant and on high alert. Khulisa’s therapists hold a safe physical and emotional space so our participants can acknowledge how they are, without judgement – however that person feels, we are with them, supporting them. From here, we can work together to identify how they might like to feel instead.

This is the invitation that dramatherapy offers before anything else happens – creating some space aside from the usual daily grind for you to just see how you’re feeling, without judgement. It’s so simple, but it can be a profound experience.

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