ASK ABDI: HOW DO I GET MY FRIENDS TO HOLD SPACE FOR ME?

QUESTION: I am barely hanging in there - I am so exhausted emotionally as well as physically. I was forced to move out of my New York City apartment due to a bad breakup with my lover, amidst this crazy holiday energy. I have been needing to couch-surf and be at the mercy of other people’s kindness. I am not a young man. It has been a rough year for me, both professionally as a businessman as well as dealing with ailing parents. And now this. I am absolutely exhausted.

I know I am fortunate to have people in my life that I can stay with. I am not sentimental about the breakup, and it was time. The problem that I am having is how much my helpless state is freaking out everyone around me. I am that person: the person everyone comes to when they need something, whether emotional, financial, etc. It has been many decades of that one-sided transaction. I am, and have been, the go-to person for all my friends when they are in need. Day in, day out, year in, year out.

So now that I am in a place of need, my friends are freaking out. It is palpable and driving me batty. Everyone around me just keeps repeating to me that everything is fine, great, fabulous, that it will all work out because of my ability to "magic" my way out of anything and everything. I know that to be true. And oddly, that is not what I need to hear. So I am hanging on, but it is sheer force of will.

I am sad and frustrated, and just need someone to validate it. Yesterday, every other person in my life was so freaked out at the specter of me being "off my game", that they simply ignored it or tried to frame it as unnecessary because everything is so obviously FREAKING AWESOME in my life. How do I get my friends to hold space for me? I am finally ready for this deep-rooted pattern to change.

ANSWER: I can feel how exhausted you are with everything, my heart aches for you. This is really, really hard, especially given how much energy you seem to put out daily, and how much our home is our charge up station. Yes, it will always be fine, but it is not fine now and it will not be for a while. And you are exhausted on top of it. So do remind people how stressful this all is, and then tell them to back off with all the positivity talk, as they tell you all this while sitting in their warm apartments.

In the midst of all this, do observe what you have set up here unconsciously as a defense mechanism against vulnerability. You are a beacon of strength to those around you. Nothing wrong with that, and quite noble. On the outside. This is not an energy that is reciprocal, and that is the way you have set it up unconsciously and ensured to continue. You allow others to draw on you in their times of need with the tacit agreement, albeit unconsciously, that you will not be vulnerable. You have brilliantly pushed away your vulnerability by always projecting an aura of never being in need. This is why people around you are so freaked out by seeing you in a place of vulnerability and are doing their best to deflect seeing you in such a place. They simply do not know what to do with the shattering of the projected image of invincibility you have been building for so many decades.

The gift of this time is that you can change that agreement that started at quite a young age for you. As you are seeing, it’s quite a terrible deal for you, and as a businessman you would NEVER sign on to such a horrible proposition. The fact that your situation has to be so extreme for you to experience this is a sign of how deep your initial wounding and feeling of unsafety was. The wonderful thing here is that you are being presented with a situation where you can change this. Let people know how you are feeling: the stress of it, how exhausted you are, and how their words are just adding to your stress. From this place you can see firsthand who can hold space for you, who can be trusted to go deeper with, and who needs to be distanced from. It’s a wonderful gift to give to a safe friend: our weary bones in a time of need. 

Congratulations for the courage to finally face this dark corner of your psyche. Promise your Self that when you finally move into your new space, you leave this fortified self firmly on the street and you start a new relationship with yourself. Take a corner of your new apartment, put up a picture of yourself as a young child, a picture of a cot or baby carriage, and spend a little bit of time every day with this newborn. Mother and father this sweet soul you have abandoned as you were abandoned, and make amends to him by feeding him directly instead of this roundabout way of caretaking others in the hopes of a couple of crumbs falling in your lap. You are ready for deep nourishment, start feeding yourself.