Through my studies of people and counselling, one of the concepts that had the biggest impact on my day-to-day life was ‘containment’. My instinct is to rush to solve problems for myself and for others, so the idea that not every problem needed to be fixed straight away and could instead be something to sit with for a while, seemed incredible to me.
In therapy, we are looking for someone or some place to contain our thoughts and emotions. Somewhere that we can feel held together so we can safely allow ourselves to let it all out and fall apart. We can then sit with those pieces, and in our own time, fit them back together in a way that makes more sense, knowing that nothing has been lost.
Realising that reason, logic and instant solutions are not always helpful, has also changed my role as a parent. When children are upset, and everything is ‘so unfair’ they usually already know the answer to their conflicts and dilemmas and are enraged when practical advice is offered. Instead, they are seeking an opportunity to vent, to be heard, to be understood and to feel like their feelings are ok. To empathise rather than strategise can diffuse the anger they feel. Give them your time, put the kettle on and open a packet of chocolate digestives and allow them the space to let it out and be heard.
Creating a space for someone to feel their feelings without judgement and without questions, is more effective than finding a solution for them. Listen and really hear what is being said. You may have a different take on the problem, but it is not your problem, it is theirs, so their take is the one that matters most.
I am working on being more containing for myself and my people. I am taking time to listen to my children and make them feel heard (even when the story seems really long!). I am listening to my partner after difficult day at work, with the knowledge that he is an intelligent man who will have covered all the practical solutions I could possibly come up with and just needs to let off steam in a safe space without consequence or judgement. I am taking time to reflect before responding to emails or messages that may have previously provoked a knee-jerk regrettable reply. When I need to contain myself, I am also asking others to wait and give me the space to do so. Containment was a revelation and is bringing calm to my household and me.