It’s no secret I’m an advocate of therapy. When you try to experience life to the fullest, you pull in the bad and the good, and the really really bad. You don’t give up on people and you don’t give up on hope. You need a backup though, and over the years, I’ve realized that I can wear my friends out as backups. Sometimes it’s just good practice to pay someone to be your backup.
I’ve been working with someone recently, a.k.a. paying someone to help me process and also assist me with developing some positive coping mechanisms. We’ve been talking about all sorts of abstract yet concrete things and I’ve been practicing some visualization. One practice that’s connected to a larger strategy that I’m working on is this idea of storing my distressing thoughts and experiences in a container for processing later. It’s not something that comes naturally, and I’ve kind of scoffed at similar practices in the past – for example, writing things out on paper and burning it, and even journaling is a somewhat lackluster practice for me. I just want the pain to be gone NOW. And we all know, in the day and age of mobile phones, messaging and texting, painful words and experiences can be as frequent as breathing. When I’m not feeling at my best, it just takes the wrong person to message the wrong thing, and my day can crash and become irreparable. I have to admit that I turn off my phone frequently, turn off notifications from people, or hide my phone for periods of time so as not to engage with someone when I’m hurting. Sometimes I don’t do it quick enough and I shoot off words I wish I could take back.
So back to this concept of putting distressful thoughts and emotions in a container. I’m trying to practice it on the go as things happen, or as I try to recall experiences. My container is a shipping container you’d find on a major port – maybe somewhere on the east coast on the ocean. There are lots of seagulls squawking and I can smell rotting fish in the air. I cross a wooden dock to where there is a collection of containers, and I heave open a metal lid to one of them (it’s probably more like a large dumpster, but a shipping container sounds more capable of holding my pain and distress), and shove my distress in that container. I try to pull it from my body, where I’m feeling the distress the most.
It’s interesting because different types of distress show up in different parts of my body. Distress caused by parenting and children usually shows up in my chest and sometimes up as far as my head. Friend and family distress shows up primarily in my chest and head. Romantic distress is solidly located in my stomach. Visualizing tearing the distress from my body and shoving it through the open lid of this container is gratifying but my practice isn’t quite perfected yet. As soon as I shove the distress in the container and start to walk away, it seeps out through the lid, which isn’t securely fastened, and chases me down the dock, oozing around my feet in an attempt to get me to process it – maybe just a little bit? – and ruminate over it. Instead of sending positive energy out, I’m trapped by my distress and futile attempts to process it. I feel creepy and sad and overwhelmed. Part of this practice is visualizing my safe place to go to after dumping my distress, but for some reason, that damn smelly shipping container gets a hold on me and I can’t walk away. I know not all distress is avoidable, but I do know that often I’m attracting distress into my life. And getting trapped in the vicinity of a smelly dumpster doesn’t help repel distress.