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Containment refers to putting away thoughts, feelings, or images, allowing you to feel safe and to get things done without being distracted. For example, you might need to concentrate in a class and can’t afford to be distracted by negative memories, or you might just be drained from thinking about negative memories all day long and could benefit from thinking about them for only a short time each day instead. 

Therapy is a good place to work on negative memories. Many people recall pieces of their negative experiences in therapy, then put the leftover work away for later. It is important to remember that the purpose of containment is not to rid yourself of memories but to create a boundary with them to give you psychological space and allow you to feel safe. Negative memories are part of people’s history, and they can lead to personal growth. Your experience of your past is valuable and deserves respect. It has contributed to your personality. 

There are many ways to accomplish containment. The brief list of ideas below might help you to create your own containment practices.

  • Write about the troubling thoughts, feelings and images in a journal, and fold over the page. Open it only if you need to do so, as when processing in therapy.

  • Make a containment box. Decorate it, if you wish, with safe images. Perhaps place a lock on it. Use it only for containment purposes. Place in it writings, pictures you make that represent your feelings, or any triggering photographs or objects.

  • Place thoughts, feelings, and images in an imaginary containment box in your mind. For example, you could shrink the troubling memories, perhaps imagining them on a video cassette or DVD, place the movie in its case, and lock it in a box, vault, or other secure place. You could even send it to the moon on a rocket, bury it in the desert, float it into the clouds on a hot air balloon, or sink it into the sea. Some people imagine safe guardians protecting the box.

Write below some of your own ideas for containment which you think might be helpful in your situation.

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