“I need my space!!” It’s a phrase I’ve heard more times than I can count in the past few weeks. From clients who are struggling with everyone home, and not having quiet time to focus on their work. From friends who are sick of the constant arguments and lunches and negativity in the house.

And from my own four children, three of whom are home from college, and desperate to go back to their dorms.

I relate to it from the depths of my soul. I really do! I long for the days when my daughter would leave for school, and I would have our little apartment to myself. I sigh when I think how long it’ll be before I don’t have to share my bedroom with two adolescent children.

But last night, after a particularly emotional fight amongst my kids, I realized that our human need for alone time gets desperate when our interactions with others are negative, or worse, cynical and hurtful.

That’s because the two feed off of each other. When one person off loads their emotions onto others as criticism and blame, they feel attacked. With their own emotional tolerance running low, they react with their own snarkiness. And both long for their habitual comforts to cushion themselves against the hard fact that they each play a role in the state of their relationship.

And because it’s too hard to fix, running away is a far more attractive option.

Maybe you too long for some space right now too. Maybe you too are going crazy with everyone in your hair all the time. Give yourself a hug my friend, because it’s so hard! And when you feel the warmth of your own compassion, extend it to the people around you.

When there’s little we can do to create space in our homes, we can find relief by creating space in our hearts. Because it creates upward spirals; when we let go of judgment, we see the humanity in the other person. This in turn inspires them to rise to it and be kind and forgiving. Which of course makes us feel loved and accepted — and less desperate to run away!

Easier said than done of course. But here’s a brilliant concept I read ages ago (and have sadly forgotten the author), that can be really helpful. It’s called having “I to I” relationships where we value the other person as a whole individual just like ourselves. With emotions, dreams, aspirations and struggles.

You’ll be surprised how often we don’t do that, even with the people closest to us. Think about it in your own life. Have you had conversations with your children about their hopes and dreams without jumping in to say what’s practical and what’s not? Do you listen to them when they’re emotionally upset? And I mean really listen. Or do you tell them to “grow up” or “be strong” or be “more grateful?”

I to I relationships are about listening with our hearts. And not our heads. Because you cannot hear anyone when the voice in your head has a running commentary about them: “ungrateful, inconsiderate, lazy, idealistic, uncaring, incompetent, fat, old…”

I can’t help but think that in this current crisis, nature is reminding of us this very same thing. When we become disconnected from the inner world of the people we live and work with, we end up in miserable bubbles with no one but ourselves for company.

But when we open our hearts, we see the beauty and the magic in others. Helping each other rise to it is the role we’ve all been given, whether we like it or not.

So what will you do today to spread love and light, and not fear and darkness?  Because it really IS an either or.