Container and Safe Place

Last year, I completed training in Eye Movement Reprocessing and Desensitization (E.M.D.R.) and was introduced to the skills of 'container/containment' and 'safe/calm place'. Other therapy modalities also use these skills. I love them! Especially safe place. Both involve visualization and can help decrease anxiety. Give them a try!

So, container/containment. Close your eyes for a moment. Think of some sort of container that is strong and sturdy. Something that you can put things into that you know won't be able to get out. When I close my eyes and do this, I see a treasure chest box. Black/grey-ish, with rusted metal trim on its seams. There's a latch with a key hole to keep it locked. It's a special kind of chest in that it is a bottomless container... sort of like Hermione's bag (for all you Harry Potter fans) that contains endless amount of things. When I'm feeling distressed, or have too many thoughts roaming around in my head that keep me from falling asleep or focusing at the task at hand, I put them in this container. I visualize every worry and painful feeling I can't attend to in this moment flying into this container. I shut the lid *thud* and slide it to the back corner in the basement, where it's dark and dingy... cobwebs in the corners and ceiling. It sits there until I allow myself to pull it out.

The concept of the container isn't meant for you to be in denial of the painful things you put in there... it's not meant to be locked up forever (because we all know that doesn't work!). But, it gives yourself permission to take a break from it for a bit. Then, perhaps when you are in your  next therapy appointment, or with a trusted support person, you allow yourself to take it out again and work on it. 

Next is calm/safe place. If you prefer the word calmness over safety, that is okay. It is not important which word you choose to reference this place, as long as it is a place where calmness and peace resides. 

Similarly to container, visualize a place that is filled with everything calm and safe. It can be real, or imaginary. Are you alone or with someone? Any animals there? What is in your surroundings? Can you hear anything? Are you inside or outside? Any smells or tastes? What can you feel? 

My calm place has changed over the years. It used to be a remote shoreline of a lake up North, near White Otter Castle, that awaited me after completing a portage. There was a pebble beach with various trees (oak, maple, birch, pine) defining the shoreline. It was summer time, blue sky, warm and no bugs. There is a sense of awe and wonder here, as well as relief. There is no wind, the water is calm, although I can hear it lap up against the pebbles. In reality, there were more people there, but in my calm place, it is just me. It is a first person view. I don’t have a physical picture of this place… but it is so clear in my mind.

I can go there whenever I want. I can go there when I’m alone or in a crowd.  And, if for whatever reason, this place somehow becomes ‘tainted’ and is no longer calm or safe, I can let it go and think up a new place. Same with the container… if when pulling it up in your mind you feel as though it won’t do the job you need it to, think up something new or different. Add things to it or start fresh. So, next time you are needing some ‘calmness’ in your life, try putting your distress in a container and then visually going to your calm place!