The Difference Between Holding and Hosting a Feeling

How Can We Host a Feeling and Not Let It Ruin Our Day?

It was early morning, the night after the fight, and still a restlessness was there.  It was hard to imagine all the details of the fight, how it started, who said what.  But, oh, that feeling was still there.  Fresh. Raw. Tugging at the bedsheets to start afresh and dive back into the conflict.  Anger. Hurt. Resentment.

Do you know that feeling?  

It is a feeling that can make or break communication in a relationship.  Wake up fighting. Hold on and fume all morning.

We can hold on to a feeling for a very long time.  The feminine brain is wired to have the memory storage capacity to do so...for days and for years.

Holding on to a feeling, clasping it in righteous indignation, going over the argument in your mind about all the ways that you are justified to have this feeling. Whether it is anger, hurt, sadness, fear...these can all be permanent or temporary states of being.

So what is hosting a feeling?

When I first learned this concept it was difficult to grasp my way around it.  My feelings were still like big elephants in the room, intense, taking up space.  They were not to be ignored.  I often reacted and truth be told, overreacted.  I failed to get curious with them, to do some deeper digging around them. 

When you look up "hosting" of course you get articles on how to host a guest and make them feel welcome.  It is interesting that the step-by-step process that we use to host a guest, is basically the same formula for hosting a feeling.

1.  Prep work...when a guest is coming to dinner, you prepare the food ahead of time so you can enjoy their company and you clean up a bit.  With our feelings, waiting for them to just arrive and not doing some work during the calm before the storm moments, is like bustling about as the guest walks up to your front door.  Hosting a feeling takes preparation and intention to understand and manage our feelings.  You have to want to do it.  See the benefits it might add to your life.  Validate that all of your feelings are okay to have, not just the pretty ones...but the good, the bad, the down right ugly ones too!

2.  Let them know you care...I love when I show up to a friend's home and she has some special little gift for me or my favorite wine poured already.  It is the attention to details that make hosting a guest feel warm and welcome.  We can let our feelings know they are welcome here by honoring their presence.  Getting to know our bodies and how feelings sit in them, each person is different.  "Hello old friend anger, I see you and honor you."

3.  Anticipate their needs....on the morning after a fight with a loved one, I need space and nature.  My previous reactions would be to pursue, to chase, to "let's talk now"...while still feeling the intensity of anger, knowing my intention of the conversation would be to list all the ways that I am right and justified, my listening and desire to connect fully shut off for the next round at the ring of the bell.  My new reaction is compassionate self-talk, "we can get through this", "you only have to know your next best step here, not the next 10", "there are two sides, I can only see one right now".  If I am still going over the details of the event, determining who was right and when, I am not ready to talk and so I walk.  I sit.  I get curious with my feelings and I ask myself these four questions:

  • What am I feeling now?  "anger", "yes, and....", "hurt", "yes, and...", "scared and invalidated"
  • What do I need and want right now?  "I want to feel heard and not contradicted, space to talk and get close again."
  • What from my past is also showing up in the present?  "I know I have a fear of abandonment, then I get protective and independent as my survival skill, what part of that is really real in this current situation? not much"
  • What is my self-care plan today and my next best step?

Leading with curiosity and compassion for ourselves is so important with this step.  This is the essence of hosting a feeling.  Allowing, opening to it and letting it be there without judgment or the need to react to it right this minute.

4.  Be considerate and would not make fun of a guest, be rude or ignore them.  Our feelings need that same consideration.  Stuffers and avoiders beware!  Ignoring a feeling is like pushing down a bubble in the waterbed, it pops right up somewhere else...our health, later with greater intensity at our loved one, another person, road is still living there and will stomp up and be seen, one way or another.

When I started Hosting Feelings versus Holding Feelings, it made an immediate impact on how I communicate things.  I am sure it annoyed some people in my life, "your not real", "you can't possibly be that calm about things", "aren't you going to respond?"- the truth is I do feel, incredibly intense some times.  I have special and trusted people that love me to spew that intensity to when I need.  They have earned the right to my vulnerability, they do not judge me.  They know ME.  The benefits to my working relationships, my personal relationships and my overall health are way too precious to not continue this work.  

Did I say work?

Yes, it takes work to host feelings...inner work first, and then outer work.  And practice. And intention.  

"Feelings are like waves, we can't stop them from coming, but we can choose which ones to surf."  ~Jonathan Martensson

Author:  Christie Gause-Bemis of Hot Pink YOUniversity and author of Ignite Your Life:  Reignite Passion, Purpose and Play.

Christie Gause-Bemis