What do you get yourself when you are at the end of your tether? When the emotions are so overwhelming that they shadow your daily life? Therapy? Yes. Resources for coping? Yes. I have a lot of coping resources that I've learned over the years, and they've all helped in their way. Warm blankets, a calm and quiet space, focusing on the present with the 'five things' practice, (five things I see, hear and touch, counting down to one with each cycle) a place of my own imagining that I can visit whenever I have need.
I used to explain that in my imagination my experiences were held in big bubbles, which I could see, but the feelings were held. The problem with the bubble was that with one prick, with one trigger, the big bubble would pop and all the events and feelings would pop and overwhelm me.
This week, I learned a resource that was new to me. This new resource is called 'the container', and it can be anything that you imagine that will hold a trauma, or an event that may be a overwhelming you, in a secure and guarded way. You can open it when you're ready, and the memory/triggering event/trauma can be accessed in small bits, not all at once, so at a pace that is manageable.
When I first tried to imagine a container I really had a hard time imagining anything past a bubble, or a box (Cardboard, a house, a room) of some form, and that wasn't feeling quite right because I thought "when you open the door or the lid it's all there in a big mass that will come at you all at once" which is what had been my previous experience. Then my councelor gave me an idea; A Book.
I saw a big, leather bound book on a table located in a cozy, private room. A container within a container, then. I visualized going into the room, opening the book, which I titled, and then I turned to a page and wrote a heading of a negative emotional response I have (Shame), then listed one triggering situation that hits me square in the chest and instantly illicits shame. There it was, in print on the page (in my mind's eye), and it's going to stay there until I can deal with it in a productive way. I added something else, later, under another heading, (Rage) and now that gets to wait, too. I'm not hiding them, I'm putting them in order so that I can manage the process of healing my response one step at a time. The container has given me a place to put an event that has been a very heavy weight the last few months, and though I know it's still there, I don't feel it roiling inside me like poison.
This new idea is accompanying a new form of therapy, to me, called EMDR. I have had a lot of therapy, and received training in trauma resilience, built resources that work well for me, that bring me back from a 'flight, fight or freeze' experience, but none have helped me lessen the responses; I feel the emotion afresh, as if the event is happening at that moment, and then I have to use the resources to come back to the present moment, and they do that. But a lifetime of primal survival response has been an interferring, frustrating and tiring experience. So, if EMDR can help me re-route my responses, I am more than excited to learn a new way of thinking, and more importantly, a new way of feeling.