Putting your feelings in a “container”

Clients sometimes say that they want their negative feelings to disappear. Anxiety, anger, sadness, loneliness, fear, shame….whichever is present, they simply want it gone. Unfortunately, however, it isn’t really possible to change your feelings. In Gestalt therapy, we say, “what you resist, persists.” If you resist a feeling, you are pushing it down inside you where it will settle down and set up shop. The only way to show it the door is to fully feel it and process it.

We all know, though, that sometimes, it is just not the right time to process your feelings. Maybe you are at work and want to wait until you get home; maybe you just had a new baby and you need to wait until she hits school age. Some people have no trouble distracting themselves in these situations, while for others it is near impossible.

If it is hard for you to distract yourself from your emotions, there are many therapeutic techniques that can help. A favorite of mine from EMDR therapy is the “container.”

Imagine some kind of container that appeals to you. Choices could include a pirate’s chest, a mason jar, a pink quilted jewelry box, a safe, or even a whole house. Use your imagination! Make sure that it is comfortable inside so that your feelings will be satisfied to stay there. Put a lock or seal on your container that only you can open. Now, find your negative emotion in your body. Focus on it. Try to sense what your emotion looks like–does it have a color? A shape? A texture? Sit with it and form an image. Once you have a picture of your emotion, it’s time to put it in the container. Imagine slowly moving your emotion image into the container. Lock it safely inside and leave it there until you are ready for it.

I hope this helps!

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