Power of containment

My biggest struggle; personally and professionally has been planting the seed of containment within, and nurturing it so it can grow into a blossoming tree. Currently, I have a love-hate relationship with practicing containment as I can experience two powerful forces within me; one that is fast and moves forward at the speed of lightning at times, and another that sits back, takes a deep breath and slows down. A part of me loves the emerging relationship I have with containment as I can see the profound impact of slowing down and another part gets triggered to the nth degree anytime anyone, for example, my supervisor mentions me and containment in the same sentence.
I find the anger and defensiveness within myself, feeling that everyone thinks that ‘uncontained’ is my middle name. And I can bet my life that he will suggest that I sit with this defensiveness and let it find its path too. ‘Sit with it. Slow down, Zara. Let it come to you. Breathe!’ My first instinct is, damn if I will, because I am stubborn, followed by, discomfort doesn’t scare me and it is the gateway to growth so let’s slow down. Let’s see what comes my way without my running after it. And, because I love a good challenge, I will grudgingly admit that by practicing slowing down and seeing how I am finding so much space within and meeting parts of myself in stimulating and unimaginable ways, I will not shy away from experiencing the discomfort of my ambivalent feelings towards containment; a love story that is gradually evolving.
‘Containment is about sitting with it and experiencing the conflict, including confusion, and allowing something to emerge whilst knowing that, at some point, you will probably surrender to a particular position’ a wise man says.
For someone like me who has been fast all her life; impulsive and anxious with a blinding fear of missing out; these words were a tall order that I am learning to breathe into, understand and process in my life. There was always a ‘quick and uncontained’ part within me that still rears its head now and then. I talked fast, moved fast, and ate quickly, the first one to complete a deadline way before a deadline; rushing into asking questions and wanting quick answers. I would reply to a text a second after it was received and felt anxious when I wouldn’t get a response even after the recipient has read my text. Some of this fastness was to my advantage. I never missed a deadline; am painfully punctual; quick to think and understand sometimes complex ideas and considering I started writing this column ten minutes ago, I will be done writing in another twenty. I could be very productive and achieve a lot in a day and have efficaciously managed to balance wearing multiple hats with ease. I made friends quickly and maintained fulfilling relationships where the ‘other’ benefited at the expense of my haste where I would be the first one to call or plan a meet-up. But I suffered from chronic anxiety and the feeling of running after goals and people was exhausting and a lonely place to be in.
So I started to slow down. Initially, my mind made me do that, where for example, in a group training, I would let others ask a question or start talking slowly or not pursue an answer to a question. Was it easy? Hell, no. I would be enduring so much pressure within me. With time, the pressure started to ease off and I started to experience a lightness, an opening within myself and I saw how empowered I felt. I had been disillusioned all my life that if I don’t hurry, I will miss out, but in reality, everything that was meant for me came my way and I was able to receive it from a place of calmness and containment and experience it more significantly. I stopped running after people and I realised that I would not wait for others to take an initiative and had filled in the space myself and now others walk my way. I still surrender to the fast force within sometimes but have also discovered the joy of standing still.
Going to uncomfortable places within us to explore, experience, and integrate is a lifelong journey. It’s difficult for some of us who are driven by a relentless energy and yet so powerful when we sublimate that energy to hold, stay still, be present and let all that within us emerge at its own pace rather than us driving it to known places. There is power in sitting back in a soundless space and letting life meet us at its own pace, rather than loudly running after and controlling it.

Zara Maqbool

The writer is a BACP (British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited individual and couple psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at zaramaqbool@yahoo.com or her official website.

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