The ‘Container’ is a common tool used across many different types of counselling modalities. To some, the concept of the container might not sound very useful, but when practiced and developed, it does wonders for helping set emotions, upsetting thoughts, or memories aside when it is not a good time to be aware of them. You may have to get to work or be in the middle of a store. These are not good times to be feeling a lot of intense negative emotion or to be noticing a disturbing memory.
The container is about using imagery, or the power of you imagination (your mind) to help you when you need it. Our minds are pretty powerful so I encourage you to really give this try. When I first heard of this exercise, I also did not think it would be helpful. I was wrong. I’ve even had a member of a group I had run come up to me on the street and tell me how helpful the container is and expressed, “Its just great.”
The container is about imagining some sort of container that is big enough, and strong enough, to hold whatever you might ever need to put in it. One stipulation is that it shouldn’t be something that you see all the time in your day as you may be getting a constant reminder of what you are trying to forget (for the time-being). It can be made of any material and can be any colour. It can be helpful to have some sort of door or lid to keep what ever you put in there safe inside. It may need a lock of some sort. Examples could be a warehouse, a safe or vault, a big box, or plastic container.
To use, or access, your container when you need it, it is helpful to have a really clear picture of it first (drawing it can help). You might picture the items you would like to go into your container individually being placed inside. You might just get a felt sense of it being set aside and placed into the container. Some people like to have some sort of animation to help take the items into the container such as a pack man motion or some sort of suction.
Now, an important idea pertaining to the Container is that you are not trying to make the things you place into it disappear or say that they are not important. It is about setting things aside and coming back to them at a later time when you can better deal with them such as in talking to your counsellor, talking to a friend, or journalling about it at home.
Sometimes it is helpful to have some sort of nozzle or valve on the container so that you can more easily be in control of what comes out when it is time to take something out.
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