Even though it has been almost two months since our lives have upended, it was not until last week that I felt I had found my rhythm. Establishing a schedule with plenty of flexibility for spontaneous activities is the ideal container I need to feel secure, creative and useful.
Each one of us has different parameters for our individual containers and our parameters reflect the way we want to feel as well as what we value. If we value solitude, then our container will have tight parameters that give us uninterrupted alone time. If we value freedom of movement, then our container will have parameters (no long-term leases) that allow us to pick up and move easily.
Our containers are impacted by external events: things we have absolutely no control over – like a coronavirus. Our inability to control, and in a lot of cases to predict, external events is often the source of our suffering. It is common to lament: “Why is this happening to me?”
Most of us humans have some fairly predictable responses to this lament.
One of my favorite responses is denial.
Denial is a natural response in the process of assimilating unwanted or undesirable information. Essentially we pretend that the undesirable event is not happening.
My wife did not die. She is on a trip. My health is not poor. The doctors misread the test results. My friend is not mad at me. She is just in a bad mood.
Denial is like building a cocoon to help you insulate from the pain of the truth. In addition to avoiding the pain, denial is a useful tool to avoid self-blame.
Humans are funny creatures. If we are not ignoring the reality of the situation (denial), then we are typically blaming ourselves for the situation. I can’t tell you how many times I have counseled a trauma survivor who blamed herself or himself for the trauma.
Why do we do this?
In my experience, we blame ourselves as a way to perpetuate our illusion of control. We think that if we are responsible for whatever bad thing happened, then we can figure out a way to prevent a similar bad thing from happening again. If only this were true, but it is not.
The truth is we have no control over other people or natural phenomenon. Yes, we can mitigate certain risks – reduce our chances of getting hurt – and nothing is a guarantee. (I know someone who got pregnant because the condom broke.)
Denial and controlling behavior, which is an anxiety response, are easy to judge in others and harder to see in ourselves.
For this reason, I recommend being very kind to ourselves and to others when we see denial and over-controlling behavior. Meet your own or another person’s denial with compassion. The stronger the denial, the more fear they must be feeling.
If we can connect to another’s fear, then we can empathize with their plight. Remember empathy does not mean agreement. You do not have to like what the other person is saying or doing. In fact you can be empathetic AND set very strong boundaries.
We have come full circle. We have come back to our containers and the need to have clear parameters that reflect our values and our needs.
Our containers are what we have control over. Our containers are what allow us to navigate a world that is unpredictable and big.
If you would like support around identifying and establishing the parameters of your personal container, then please know I am available to help. I have been doing container work for over 20 years, both professionally and personally, and welcome the opportunity to help others feel good about their containers. Please contact me if you want to schedule an appointment.
Kim Bushore-Maki is a soul-driven entrepreneur who understands the undeniable urge to create a business and a life filled with meaning and purpose. Her vision of opening a center where women could heal and grow led her to open Shakti in the Mountains in Johnson City, Tennessee: a place where the creative, feminine energy is nurtured and valued.
Five years later, Kim is still in the flow of supporting and building a healthy, vibrant community and now guides retreats, teaches yoga, and provides one-on-one services for women who want an immersion experience into the life-affirming, Shakti energy.
Kim’s training as a therapist and yoga teacher allows her to safely and compassionately guide women on a heart-centered journey to Self, where women re-connect with their beautiful, authentic spirit.