Holding a point of tension
Holding a point of tension involves sitting with whatever is, or is emerging, and not acting until things become clear. Although the word tension sounds tight and uncomfortable the idea is to find a sense of acceptance of conflicting internal wants, needs or ideas. This could definitely involve sitting in the discomfort of the unknown and feeling all sorts of emotions. Ideally we want to find a certain level of comfort in doing this, without resisting how we are feeling and without forcing anything to happen.
Ideally, by sitting with a part of us that wants one thing and another part that wants something else our true inner wisdom can have the space and ease to emerge. Holding a point of tension might also involve a reflection on what the underlying needs or wants are.
I'll give you an example.
Recently I applied for a counselling role in the addiction field. I had worked in this capacity before and the job sounded challenging and rewarding, and the company has a good reputation.
When I applied I knew that if I were to get the job I would need to make some sacrifices and changes, especially when it came to my son who is four years old. I knew my time with him would be greatly reduced and that I would need to find him alternative care. But I also knew that I would be much better off financially and that I would thrive in the role.
I applied for the job and got an interview. The interview went well and I waited to hear the result.
During that time I was holding a point of tension between wanting to be offered the job and not wanting it. I was holding that point of tension but the ball was in their court which made things easier. I'd offered references for them to call but had left out my current employer (at the Women's centre) because I didn't want to put her forward as a reference unless I was almost guaranteed to get a job and one that I knew I wanted. I can see now, in hindsight, that I didn't really want the job but at the time I was holding a point of tension, weighing up the pros and cons and how I was feeling as the process evolved. I was eager to see how I would feel if I was offered the job.
Often when I go for an interview and they are interested in hiring me I get told this before the references are called but in this case the interviewer called me after she had contacted my two references. Once she told me that she'd contacted my references I had a feeling that I was close to getting the job. She then asked me if she could contact my current employer as the other referees hadn't worked with me in the last 5 years. I was surprised and slightly alarmed at this request because I knew in that moment that I would need to make a decision. I told her that I would get back to her and spent the next few hours holding a more profound point of tension around whether I was going to accept the job or not. I sat with my feelings, and the list of pros and cons that had become embedded in my core and the full realisation that I couldn't give myself fully to this role emerged. It wasn't that I decided that I definitely didn't want the job but I felt like she had given me an opportunity to really reflect on how to move forward, as I hadn't yet been offered the job. I decided I didn't want it enough and so I rang her and let her know the truth which was that I needed to withdraw my application as I had realised that I didn't yet want to work full-time.
I realise now that it was a gift. I didn't have to wait until I was offered the job to turn it down which would have been harder. I had to really decide how much I wanted the job before it was given to me. In hindsight, I didn't really want the job enough anyway and my son was only part of the picture. But this process involved holding points of tension and allowing wisdom to emerge.
I'll give you another example that was more uncomfortable and might be more familiar to people.
A year ago I was living with my partner at the time. He was and still is a very caring and loving man. There were many aspects of our relationship that felt great, and right. He is committed to personal growth, and to addressing issues in our relationship. He is loyal and generous and has a warm and empathetic relationship with my son. He has a passion for the environment that I love, and he is a home body which I also love. He contributed to my mortgage and helped me parent my son, who I had on my own. But there were also things that I wasn't happy about and I won't disclose all of those but needless to say that I was struggling to feel fully committed and accepting of our relationship. I loved him but didn't feel inspired or completely comfortable about our relationship. I held a point of tension between wanting to stay and wanting to leave the relationship for quite sometime and it was very uncomfortable at times but I really tried to commit to staying aware of what emerged within that tension. I tried not to allow myself to just be staying with the status quo and rather I committed to tuning in to my inner wisdom so that I could act congruently.
I think what feels most empowering about holding a point of tension is that wisdom emerges in its own time if we allow it to by focusing on acceptance and releasing resistance. The gentler we are with ourselves and the more accepting we are of our different wants and needs the more likely the answers will come in time. I also really appreciate that the concept encourages us to feel like we don't have to rush anything or feel somehow a failure for being 'indecisive' or 'unclear.
If you'd like help to work with points of tension in your life please be in touch.