“The other side of containment.”
That was the title on my mind, when I woke up today.
And I just want to warn you: it’s going to take me a while to work back to that title.
So let’s digress together, shall we?
I’ve blogged a lot about cognitive distortions, this year, including this one:
Shoulds. We have ironclad rules about the behaviors of ourselves and other people. For example, “I really should exercise. I shouldn’t be so lazy.” A more effective way to motivate ourselves is to identify positive results, rather than whipping ourselves with guilt. For example, “When I exercise, I feel better.”
I’ve seen “shoulds” do a lot of damage to people; and yet, people naturally think those thoughts.
There is a particularly nasty form of “should”-ing, related to feelings.
I shouldn’t feel this way.
I should be over this, already.
As I’ve written before, cognitive distortions are human, so I assume that you have thoughts like those. I know that I do.
So they’re human. Yet, I have never experienced a helpful “should” thought, about feelings.
And that sentence I just wrote? That fits the “duck test” for another cognitive distortion:
All-or-Nothing thinking (also known as “Black-and-White thinking”).
Things are either all good or all bad, people are either perfect or failures, something new will either fix everything or be worthless. There is no middle ground; we place people and situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray, or allowing for complexities. Watch out for absolute words like “always”, “never,” “totally,” etc. as indications of this kind of distortion.
It was the word “never” in my sentence, that tipped me off.
However, that sentence IS also the truth. I have never experienced a helpful “should” thought, about feelings.
I think it’s time for me to re-approach my topic, for today:
The other side of containment.
Why was that on my mind, this morning?
Because I have been having some difficult feelings lately. And I often hear people talk about containing difficult feelings.
What are the difficult feelings I’ve been having?
Fear, for one.
It’s time to go to my old friend, Google, for images about fear:
Speaking of fear, I fear, right now, that I won’t be able to complete this post before I need to leave today.
And why am I afraid that I won’t finish in time? Because fear wasn’t the emotion I was intending to write about.
Here’s the emotion I planned to tackle, this morning:
But it’s more difficult to write about anger. At least it is for me.
I have some fear about anger, people. And I know I’m not alone in that. Here’s some immediate evidence, from the Google Image Buffet:
Here’s a particular fear I have, about anger: I fear that I (and others) judge and disown our anger. And I think THAT can be dangerous.
When I see that fear of anger in others, sometimes I respond by saying:
Anger is just one of the basic human emotions.
Anger is the human response to not getting our needs met.
And I hope that’s helpful.
But what does this all have to do with containment, my alleged topic for the day?
When I was hospitalized as a young child, I got some messages that anger and fear were not okay. I got the sense that people did not want to see — or deal with — any anger or fear I might have about what was happening to me.
Therefore, I believed (whether or not the messages were really there) that I needed to contain those feelings.
In this blog, I have written about several containers, for feelings and thoughts (like here and here). And those containers can be useful, for sure.
However, I will say this:
When a therapist talked to me, recently, about the technique of imagining a container for difficult feelings, I replied, “Personally, I would need such a container to be open. I wouldn’t want to believe that I have to close off my feelings, no matter how difficult they are.”
Therefore, I imagined a container, like this:
but opened, like this:
And that seemed like a good idea.
Before I end, I want to mention/brag about one more thing.
I am going to Game One of the World Series, tonight!
Earlier this morning, I had this thought about that:
What’s the matter with you? You should be ecstatic!
There it is, again: another “should” thought about feelings.
Earlier this morning, I also had the urge to yell, to get some anger out. And I thought, “I can’t do that!!”
But what about this, as a solution?
I’m going to the World Series tonight! What better place to yell??!!?
Thanks* to the Boston Red Sox, the St. Louis Cardinals, to containers of all kind, to people who have fear and anger, and to you, too, for visiting today.
Also, for the images, to theguardian.com (for the “fear face” and an interesting article), chrisperruna.com (for another “fear face” and interesting article), HowStuffWorks, rozsavage.com, Rebuilding Divorce Recovery, and what-buddha-said.net.