Emotional resilience and self containment

In our yoga classes in Ealing, this week we’ve been discussing the idea of emotional resilience and self-containment.

What it means to be able to contain our energy, our thoughts, our emotions, our actions. So, we can look after ourselves and we look after the people around us.

What does it mean to contain oneself? Colloquially we use the term to mean to be able to hold our feelings or behaviour within bounds.

To literally contain them from spilling over (and by inference, affecting other people). We might say it positively – “I’m trying to contain my excitement” – or more pejoratively “For goodness sake, contain yourself”.

In class, I wanted to explore what the concept of containment had to offer our emotional resilience and health.

When I consider what containing myself means to me, I am struck by the way I use it to mean self-care. It means being able to hold my own feelings – tenderly, with consideration for myself – without splurging them out on anyone who will listen. It feels like self-respect. I acknowledge these feelings, and I hold them as precious. It means I will share them as necessary for my greater insight and wellbeing with people who’ve earned the right and will show me and them the respect they deserve.

There is strength in containing myself, until the appropriate moment when I may unburden myself to someone who can hold me and those feelings with care. And there is also respect for others.

Perhaps it’s a hazard of the job that I sometimes find myself pigeonholed by people who just want to let go, to let rip, to make their problem someone else’s, anyone else’s… but when it happens it feels like being hijacked. I’m sure you’ve experienced it too, especially if you are a good listener.

Of course, over the years I’ve got better at handling the situation and compassionately putting boundaries back in place. Yet still –

there is an energetic invasion when you splurge on someone whether they are interested or not, and we should take responsibility for that.

I’ve certainly done it, and later acknowledged it and thanked the person for their forbearance in dealing with it.

So – containing myself means treating myself and others with respect. It entails strength and compassion. It also assumes in practice that I will disclose and unburden myself appropriately because that too is part of containing oneself. If I am completely overwhelmed by my feelings they will either overflow or have to be suppressed. Neither of those, in the long run, is helpful to our health and wellbeing.

Continually overflowing feelings can leave people paralysed and unable to take action; continually suppressed feelings can leave people able to act but not to enjoy their life.

So we have a sense of measured unburdening, forbearance, and personal responsibility to add to self-respect. That sounds like a powerful cocktail for emotional intelligence to me. What does it require?

It requires us to know what we are capable of containing. So, we put in place support measures to help.

Over the years I’ve used psychotherapy, holistic therapies, retreats, personal study, yoga, friends and colleagues to help me process the emotional experience of life and keep me as available and centred as possible. This is the way I choose to live my life. In fact, that process has undoubtedly inspired the creation of classes and retreats as a place for people to do the same.

Do let me know what you do? Or if I can help by providing a safe place and careful listening while you take inventory of your own emotional holding, it would be my privilege.

Meditation classes provide a space to develop resilience

Meditation practice is a simple and powerful way to relax, quiet your busy mind, and connect with your deeper self. Mindfulness and meditation teachers variously describe the practice as going within, stilling the mind, finding inner peace, and experiencing being rather than doing.

For me, meditation is all these things, and a healer of body, mind and spirit. It will help you:

  • improve your cardiac health
  • strengthen your immune system
  • switch from fight and flight to rest, digest and repair
  • calm your emotions
  • bring clarity
  • help you feel content and confident of your purpose in life
  • know who you are
  • release stress and anxiety in your everyday life.

Joanne Sumner runs meditation classes in West London. She also runs regular retreats.

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