On Containing

bowl containing oranges.jpg
All around us, everywhere, the world is filled with containers holding things within them. The bowl contains the oranges, the orange skin contains the segments, the segments contain the juice. Most things, ourselves included, are both containing, and being contained. In psychotherapy we think of the containment of emotions as being able to bear and hold and work with uncomfortable and difficult feelings, and the act of feeling held and safe.

jar containing water and garden flowers.jpg
Without containment there would be no form in the world, everything would flow in and out with no edges. Containment allows shape and difference, by keeping one thing separate from another. Within our minds containment allows thought and understanding, and allows us to name feelings and experiences. Sometimes difficult experiences can overwhelm our minds, sweeping away the containing edges and leaving our inner world jumbled and confused. The work of therapy is then to bring containment back, to create words and a story which can hold the feelings and experience comfortably within the mind once more.

champagne in the garden.jpg
Containment can bring joy and play back into our lives, giving us new meaning and a richer understanding. The world is full of edges and containers and movement in and out, just look around you and within you…..

find more containers at the WP photo challenge

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About greenmackenzie

Hi, I'm Seonaid, and I share my home with my husband, my son and a collection of cats and dogs. I am forever snapping shots of things which catch my eye. I love art which is here now and gone tomorrow...like food and nature...but also have a passion for vintage and the ancient past! Nature is my favourite muse, with her wild ever shifting seasons. I have been using and teaching mindfulness and relaxation for over 12 years, and have yet to become any sort of expert :-) I'm a Psychotherapist, and run the Maggies Highlands Cancer Centre, in Inverness, Scotland.
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37 Responses to On Containing

  1. This is a wonderful post and such a huge concept. I appreciate you bringing it down to earth for us 🙂 and from one lover of images to another, your photos really amplify your message. Bravo!

    • Thanks Amanda, and yes it’s an immense topic with entire books exploring it……this is just a tiny snap shot of my thinking, and I’m delighted you enjoyed it 🙂
      It’s always lovely to meet a fellow lover of images!

  2. Madhu says:

    Just beautiful!

  3. Wonderful images, Seonaid. Love the mug. 🙂 Your words, as always, give much pause for thought. A very insightful post.

  4. Love this…save water drink champagne. Very cute.

  5. restlessjo says:

    What a carefully worked and interesting post for the challenge, Seonaid. I love that you have brought your psychotherapy into play, and that last photo is perfection. 🙂

  6. Interesting thoughts Seonaid. I wonder whether my OCD relates to this idea of containment. I find comfort and can only be satisfied when what I perceive to be my responsibilities are thoroughly contained … as you say. When the ‘edges’ of the container which is my world becomes permeable to this-or-that and my orderly life is no longer managed I become uneasy. So … yes …. I agree … being able to bear, hold, and work with feelings of all sorts is really what we’re all about ‘inside.’ Thanks for slowing me down to think about this interesting concept. D

  7. LB says:

    What an awesome take on the Container challenge

  8. quirkyjazz says:

    I like this idea. I will ponder it.

  9. ladyfi says:

    Lovely shots – but even more lovely are the thoughts behind the idea of containment.

  10. Robin says:

    Beautifully and thoughtfully done, Seonaid. I like the idea of saving water by drinking champagne, too. 😀

  11. icelandpenny says:

    Without the lines, we’d have no spaces…

  12. Rachael Charmley says:

    I love this. It’s given me a lot to think about…

  13. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Well said Seonaid 🙂

  14. Tina Schell says:

    Wonderful shots, especially the first. And nicely written too!

  15. Suzanne says:

    Wow. That was interesting. So insightful. I didn’t know the psychological interpretation of containment. I like the idea of finding stories and words to contain our feelings and difficult emotions. Is that why writing and journaling are so helpful? I’d love to know your thoughts on this.

    • Delighted you enjoyed the introduction to therapeutic containment…..it’s a huge topic!
      I like working with stories and words…..which of course contain symbols…which contain both conscious and unconscious elements. Writing works beautifully at allowing those symbols and words to find pattern, meaning and shape. To effect lasting change of the patterns in our neural networks all the research points towards relationship, sharing with another, these new patterns and shapes. Also speaking aloud can help shape and change neural patterns.
      Writing is such a useful tool in beginning to see our inner world, and to make sense of what is sometimes quite jumbled. We run a lovely journaling course at the cancer centre I work in….

      • Suzanne says:

        It sounds fascinating. I’m intrigued. Your journal workshop sounds like it would really help people going through trauma.

  16. Thoughtful interpretation of containers and containment…I am still letting ideas perk through my mind about this challenge. I, too, was thinking about the concept of containment from a therapeutic point of view.

    • It’s hard not to see the world in terms of containment after all that training 🙂
      There are of course whole books written on it, I usually go back to Bion of I’m thinking about containment……for this post I let my mind wander and play a little and then wrote just a small part of those thoughts…..such a big topic 🙂 look forward to seeing yours….

  17. colonialist says:

    These contain all the necessary elements – including the humour of the last!

  18. gwynnrogers says:

    You share wonderful words of wisdom, lovely pictures, and I even chuckled at your last picture! Yes, I know about containment… it can be friendly, beautiful or restrictive and harsh. I love your thinking and images. Sometime when you have time, read my family stories … you will understand about the containment I experience. http://gwynnsgritandgrin.com

    Thanks for an excellent post.

    • Thanks for the link Gwynn, interesting stories. I tried to follow you but couldn’t get the follow button to work…..will try again another time 🙂
      Delighted you enjoyed the post, and even had a chuckle!

      • gwynnrogers says:

        Sadly, I can’t get the “follow” button on my blog to work either. I think after you comment and I Permalink you then it notifies you… I think.

  19. In a way I see blogs as a kind of containers. Personalised, taylormade containers of thoughts and ideas, from which we can interact with others. Probably more superficial than therapy, but still, allowing us to “frame” certain parts of ourselves.

    • I think that’s very true, blogs, in fact reflective writing of any kind can be very good for us. Most of us don’t need therapy, but writing and sharing is good for us all 🙂 I’ve written a bit more about writing in an other reply if you’re interested…..

  20. Nourishing text!
    “(..) the act of feeling held and safe.” It’s interesting that you say ‘the act’, which means, if I understand well, that feeling held and safe is a kind of ‘practice’.

    • Delighted you enjoyed the text Rosa. Yes, for people who are overwhelmed or disorientated by difficult feelings just to feel safe or held has to be worked on. To begin to allow the hyper vigilance to settle, and to allow the brain and body to stop releasing the fear provoking chemicals, and instead release the relaxing signals which let our minds work more easily.
      We can’t really play unless we feel safe enough……and to create we need to play. This is Bions thinking. He was a British psychotherapist and much of his thinking was shaped by his war time experiences as a tank commander.

  21. Absolutely beautiful photography!

  22. Amy says:

    Wonderful selections and words for the containers. Containment can bring joy — so true!

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