The Container and the Special Place
These therapeutic tools are amazing to help you be able to feel like you are in control of your emotions instead of your emotions controlling you.
It is very helpful to know some ways to ‘ground’ or set the disturbance aside and come back to it later when it is a more appropriate time.
Knowing both The Container and The Special Place can really help you feel like you are back in control of your life.
These two strategies often work well together, especially at night when you may be having difficulty sleeping, but also throughout the day.
First use your Container and then use your Special Place.
Learning some other tools from the other Grounding Strategies article on the website will give you knowledge about several ways to keep your emotions in check and you feeling more in control. Self Care strategies
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 ournaling, talking to a friend, or ournaling 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.
The Special Place
The Special Place is a very common therapeutic strategy and is a useful tool for many. I originally learned of the ‘special place’ in relation to working with sexual abuse survivors. However, as the years have progressed, I have found that this tool is very useful for anyone. Again, this strategy utilizes our minds by using imagery to help calm the body and the mind.
The special place works by closing your eyes and imagining yourself in a place (which can be real or imaginary). When you imagine yourself in this place, you feel better. It can be any place at all that you find soothing and comforting. Some people call this place a relaxation place or a happy place. It is helpful if there are not people who are currently a part of your life in your special place because if that relationship were to ever go sour for a time, it would affect your special place.
The special place can be somewhere you have been, a place that you liked when you were a kid, a place you have always dreamed of going, or maybe its an imaginary place such as somewhere in outer space. It is helpful to notice all the colours that are there, the sounds, the smells, the objects. The clearer the image is for you, it will easier it will be for you to access it and to use it when you need it.
Imagine yourself in this place and notice how it makes you feel. Do you feel calm, more relaxed, at peace? Whatever the feeling is, notice also where you can feel it in your body. Allow yourself to stay there as long as you need to calm yourself.
Please let me know if you have any questions about either of these tools. I hope they can help you feel better as you go about your days.