Safely Held Spaces believes that the mental and emotional distress that we experience is a natural, though painful, part of our ongoing journey towards a fuller, deeper life.
Based on our own experiences, and through conversations with experiencers and holders, we have developed a five-stage roadmap to help us explore the inner territories we might encounter along the way.
To return or emerge?
From everyday life, into the territories of testing times, on the threshold and really extreme times, the roadmap aims to help us to navigate our way through confusing, and at times frightening, inner experiences, and to begin to understand the different kinds of support we might need at each stage.
The last stage of the roadmap, which Safely Held Spaces calls 'returning or emerging', points to how an experience of crisis can also bring with it an opportunity for growth.
While our mental and emotional distress can ultimately lead to transformation, the process of emerging takes time, and it can be extremely painful.
It may require us to open up to feelings of terror, grief and shame, and associated traumatic memories and felt sensations in our bodies that we may sense will overwhelm us. So we might need to return to our old ways of being for a time, before we're ready or able to emerge.
All journeys start in the first stage on the roadmap called Everyday Life. The reasons why we embark on the journey may come in many forms. Loss of a loved one; changes in our health, job or faith; the breakdown of a relationship; stress and burnout; moving through key life stages; intense spiritual practice; and all the stresses, traumas and power imbalances that impact on our lives.
Our sense of readiness for inner change and transformation - whether it be conscious or unconscious - is also important in determining if we return or emerge.
Why our worldviews matter
The roadmap also aims to help holders understand that their worldviews - the lenses through which they understand experiences of extreme mental and emotional distress - can impact on the way experiences unfold and on whether the experiencer emerges or returns.
For example, if we get the right kind of support, or if our experiences are met through a more expanded worldview we may be able to step back from the threshold, rather than plunging into extreme times. The direction our journey takes is not inevitable.
The roadmap describes three worldviews - limited, ordinary and expanded.
When we hold tightly to our limited worldview, we resist the change a crisis brings and want things to return to exactly how they were before. This leads us into tighter and tighter places of denial, and causes us to resist how things really are.
An ordinary worldview considers the meaning of our experiences in the context of our past and of the society in which we live. It sees that some things may need to change, but sees these changes as adjustments to the existing paradigms of the families, communities and societies in which we live, rather than being open to completely rethinking them.
An expanded worldview represents a more open position, a willingness to change what needs to change and to look for new meaning. A willingness to consider a range of possible options outside of existing paradigms, embracing uncertainty and being willing to step into not knowing; trusting in ourselves and in what is emerging, and being prepared to move towards what may feel difficult or frightening.