I had a session with Marge yesterday, and top of the list was to discuss strategies for dealing with anxiety, should it ever reach the extreme again like the other day (see When Anxiety Strikes).
There’s so much information on grounding yourself, relaxation techniques etc on the internet and comments from my lovely readers, and they’re all smashing, but none of them would meet the need in my most extreme anxious example. This is what I wanted to discuss with Marge.
My worst case scenario, is being in a situation where (for whatever reasons) I am stuck indoors, cannot be alone, it’s not quiet or peaceful, and I have more things to do than I have time. So, a time when all the techniques I know of, won’t work in calming me down.
Marge didn’t have any new answers unfortunately, and I suspected that would be the case. This is a good thing, believe it or not, because the most extreme scenario of anxiety is pretty much the only one left (that I know of) that I haven’t learnt a way to overcome myself.
I still experience anxiety day to day, but at much lower levels. Because as I find the courage to do the things that made me anxious, I am learning that for the most part there never was a reason to be anxious in the first place, or more rarely, there was indeed cause to be anxious and so there is an issue to resolve or remove (which sadly, can mean temporarily or permanently parting ways with those that don’t want to, or aren’t ready for me to change).
Traumatic events early on in life started the anxious thinking, as a way to be prepared and protect myself from emotional or physical harm. This has dented the development of my emotional intelligence, making for an insecure and vulnerable adulthood, in turn attracting more harmful characters and damaging relationships. So I have continued to need anxiety in some cases, but for the most part, it’s just a bad habit, there is no threat, or it’s a threat I can overcome.
Anxiety has served me well, but as I become more self aware and increase my emotional intelligence and feeling of self worth, anxiety is able to think about reducing its hours. Part time, hopefully with a view to retire. Anxiety is that loyal team member that’s been around for the last 30 years and knows how all the old systems work, you don’t just let that kind of knowledge go because you have a new shiny system. You run old and new alongside for a time, in order to build trust and knowledge in the new system.
Marge didn’t have a technique for my worst case scenario, so instead we talked about the ultimate goal, the new shiny system called ‘container-contained’. It’s a concept introduced by a psychoanalyst chap by the name of Wilfred Bion. An article about Holding, Containing and Boundaries explains it well:
The concepts of holding and containing evoke the image of a mother caring for a child. In therapy, it is through the relationship with our clients that they feel held and safe. The holding may or may not involve actual physical holding; otherwise, with emotional holding the client’s anxiety, alarm, confusion, distress, and pain are all managed safely by the therapist. In such a holding (and appropriately safe and boundaried) environment, the therapist is consistently there as an attuned, solid, reliable, trustworthy presence.
My basic understanding is this…I get to offload my life’s shit to Marge, and she sort of holds it for me whilst we talk about it and work it through until slowly but surely, I can take it back from her as I get stronger and learn how to contain (and resolve) it myself, one piece of shit at a time.
As a therapist, Marge has to contain her own shit as well as mine, ‘cos we’re not paying to talk through her stuff ha! She has thoughts and feelings running in the background like any other human being, but she keeps them contained in order to help and support me. This is very much so like me as a mother with my children. My boys cannot contain various types of shit they experience each day whilst they are growing, because they don’t know how to yet. So I hold it for them now in various ways and I [should] slowly hand it back, piece by piece, as and when their maturity allows it. But if one does not know how to contain and resolve their own shit, trying to be the container for someone else’s, is too big a burden.
So with each day that passes, I challenge anxiety head on, I self nurture, my self esteem and emotional intelligence grows, as does my capability to contain.
It all makes so much sense. Where has psychology been all my life??
I’m off to work out Anxiety’s retirement plan, and contain my shit.
Comments always welcome 😊