The path toward deepening the container of self

Let’s assume it’s true that when the mind is stretched by a new thought, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.

Why stop with the brain? Surely the same metaphor applies to other organs.

In my experience, anytime I’ve been willing to stand in the fire of my difficult feelings and not run away from them, my heart is actually what expands and never shrinks back to its former directions.

Because you can’t unring that emotional bell. Every time shit goes down in feeling town, it’s recorded in our body. For better or for worse.

The good news is, this stretching helps us gain a new perspective on those complicated, unwelcome feelings. It can motivate us to stop racing around trying to outwit our despair, and start sitting with the sadness. It can compel us to surrender to these feelings, rather than attempting to fathom the source of our despair.

And it can train us to trust that the experience will lead us somewhere meaningful down the road.

Dayton’s psychodrama research poses a great question about this very issue:

What if despair was path toward deepening the container of self?

It’s a useful framing device to help us cope effectively in the moment. It doesn’t necessarily help the cloud of despair lift, but that’s not always the point. Maybe the point is gaining a new perspective on our emotional experience.

Behavioral therapists use the term called distress tolerance, which means our ability to cope when it is difficult or impossible to change a situation. Patients can learn to stop experiencing negative emotions as overwhelming and unbearable.

One technique is called improving the moment. Using positive mental imagery to elevate our current situation.

For me, that looks like asking myself questions.

Where is the gift in this?
What does this feeling want from me?
What is the meaning to gain from this difficult situation?

If it sounds hokey, you’re right. But my optimistic heart just eats them up.

There’s a part of me that finds a reassuring vital energy in that sadness. 

What if despair was path toward deepening the container of self? 


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