In my abnormal psychology class, the professor mentioned "containment rituals," and used the example of visualizing the trauma safely contained in a box.

I recalled then that I have, over the years, devised a couple visualizations for myself which were helpful enough for me to continue using them:

1. "The Anxiety Dial." My anxiety is controlled by a small dial, like the volume control on my car radio. It turns by itself toward the right as I get anxious, until it is cranked all the way up to eleven. As I slowly manually turn it down, I relax. If I'm by myself, I will actually use my hand to turn the invisible dial to the left.

2. "The Trauma Backpack." This has to with crisis counseling, which involves talking to people who have just experienced some sort of sudden, horrible trauma, sometimes as early as half an hour before I show up. Their pain is a heavy burden - the trauma backpack. While I'm there, I can help them carry that weight. But their backpack belongs to them. I can't carry it off with me. If I find myself obsessing about them afterward, I remind myself that their backpack doesn't belong to me, and it has to go back to them. I have my own backpack, and I don't have room for theirs.

Do any of you do things like this? What are they? And do you have to invent them yourself for them to be useful, or can you use ones others suggested to you?
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dorothean: detail of painting of Gandalf, Frodo, and Gimli at the Gates of Moria, trying to figure out how to open them (Default)

From: [personal profile] dorothean


I've used Tonglen for help with emotional distress. I know there is a lot more to this practice, but what I'm thinking of in this case is using it to self-soothe, acknowledge or deal with my emotions by "breathing in" the hurtful emotion I'm experiencing and "breathing out" something better. I try to visualize the hurt being transformed in my lungs. For example, earlier this week I "breathed in" shame and "breathed out" forgiveness. It worked.
sonia: Quilted wall-hanging (Default)

From: [personal profile] sonia


I'm more auditory than visual. A phrase than can help instantaneously (when I remember to use it) is "I give thanks for help unknown already on the way." Cuts through panic when I'm feeling desperate about a situation but have run out of ideas about ways to change it.

I don't remember where I got the phrase, maybe read it somewhere, but definitely didn't make it up myself. Still effective for me.

When I'm working with clients in session and tell them about an image that comes to mind, they often change it in unexpected ways and make it their own. In two different sessions recently, I brought up enlarging the emotional container. One client talked about buying a larger thermos at an army supply store, and another person talked about a water tower. Whatever it takes!
zeborah: Zebra with stripes falling off (stress and confusion)

From: [personal profile] zeborah


Interesting - I kind of do the opposite, visualising the stress as something in my body that needs to flow into my blood, to my lungs, to be breathed out. So I breathe in good air, breathe out bad air.

There's also a special loopy path through my brainspace that I... take my inner eyes along (it's in two simultaneous halves, mirror-symmetrical) as an aid to distracting myself from distress. And for similar purposes, I... invoke? use the name of, anyway, a character in a story I wrote when I was a teenager. This is pure habit: when I was a teenager I used writing to distract me from stress, so when stress was pulling too hard I'd say her name firmly to pull myself back into the story. Now I still say the name to pull myself away from stress, without going into that story.
zeborah: Zebra with stripes falling off (stress and confusion)

From: [personal profile] zeborah


And also memorised psalms and such: when I was a teenager, Psalm 23 in French with a weird tune I made myself, and these days Psalm 8 in Latin or especially the Pater Noster (to a Gregorian tune I found somewhere) -- this one works well enough I can mentally sing it when otherwise I'd be bursting into tears, and that's been put to the test a bunch recently.

I think most of my techniques are distraction techniques rather than containment techniques. I got taught (as a destressing-to-get-to-sleep thing) about putting stuff away in a box but it wasn't very effective for me. The way I got rid of my problems sleeping was to think about the novel I was writing at the time, planning out scenes in advance and such, which I enjoyed so much that I didn't mind I was still awake two hours after going to bed; and after a while I started dropping off to sleep straight away (and being a bit disappointed in the morning that I'd missed out on my daydreaming time).
boundbooks: An overhead photograph of a blue mug filled with black coffee. (dark coffee in blug mug)

From: [personal profile] boundbooks


That backpack concept is an incredibly useful way of articulating the issue. Thank you for doing up all of these posts, I'm finding them both fascinating and helpful.
notemily: Photo of me, a white girl in her mid-20s, wearing glasses, smiling, looking up and to the right (Default)

From: [personal profile] notemily


I've tried Tonglen, but it always makes me feel like I am taking the bad thing into my body and it's making me sick. It works better for me to visualize breathing OUT the negative emotions and breathing IN clean air.
mildred_of_midgard: (Default)

From: [personal profile] mildred_of_midgard


Not that I have major traumas, but for minor anxieties, the containment method that comes to mind is the one I've been using most recently for an event I need not to dwell on dreading until I get some idea of when it's going to happen. It's something I half-remember from Dan Simmons' The Hollow Man, and it just came to me one day when I was trying to push the anxieties out of my mind.

It's the idea of burying the thought and smoothing the leaves over the spot until no one can tell that something is even buried there. Now that I think about it, I distance it further by giving it a very blurry visualization, and giving it a vertical orientation, like a painting rather than imagining myself actually bending over the physical earth. But the image of reaching out with my hand and smoothing the leaves of a painting over the ground is very soothing and is working for me.

It's like mnemonics: whatever works.
notemily: Photo of me, a white girl in her mid-20s, wearing glasses, smiling, looking up and to the right (Default)

From: [personal profile] notemily


I also love the backpack metaphor. My own visualization is something I started using when I was a kid to help me fall asleep. I would worry so much that I couldn't relax, so I would imagine each of my worries written on a small piece of paper, which was then put inside a helium balloon. I would visualize myself holding all of the balloons in my fist, really tight, and then I would let go and watch them float away. Now, I use it to help start my mindfulness meditation. To let go of the thoughts that are jockeying for space in my mind, and just concentrate on the breath.
st_aurafina: A ceramic head marked with phrenology detail  (Brain: Phrenology)

From: [personal profile] st_aurafina


My visualisation is a big old steam engine, that gets going with a trigger, and takes a long, long time to slow down again. I use this to remind myself that long after I've been triggered, I'm going to be in hyper-reaction mode, because that big, heavy engine doesn't stop on a dime.

I really like that backpack concept, though - I work in health care and I tend to over-empathise. I think this would really help me keep my boundaries clear.
em_h: (Default)

From: [personal profile] em_h


My most effective anti-anxiety visualization has been fencing -- I imagine my mind as a big open green field by the sea, calm and peaceful, and the source of anxiety is herded, rather like a sheep, into a pen in one tiny corner of the field. And it can't get out until I let it out. I've been surprised by how effective this one can be.
mildred_of_midgard: (Default)

From: [personal profile] mildred_of_midgard


That's exactly what I thought when I read that! Glad to know I'm not the only one.

From: [identity profile] thecityofdis.livejournal.com


until it is cranked all the way up to eleven

I have never seen Spinal Tap but after the episode where they explained this joke IN DETAIL on Brothers & Sisters, I now understand this and chuckled at it, where a week ago I would not have.

I would like half a nerd point awarded to Ravenclaw, if I may.
Edited Date: 2011-05-06 07:28 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] mme-hardy.livejournal.com

Maybe sorta related?


I have a visualization I do for migraines that actually works.

I take each area of the pain (I can see them quite clearly long before I do this visualization) and wrap it in foam, then collapse it into a bag, then dump it into a waiting UPS truck*, which drives away.

I do this as often as it takes (sometimes the pain regrows) until I all asleep.

* I think it's an important feature that it's a UPS truck, because I know that UPS trucks do go away and that the things in them never come back.
chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (Muramasa - key)

From: [personal profile] chomiji


When I do relaxation breathing, as I breathe out, I visualize my tension and anxiety as smoke being dissipated by a wind until the air is clear.

I also have a "mind room" that's a refuge. This is from a visualization from Passages: a Guide for Pilgrims of the Mind by Marianne Andersen (out of print, but you can find it online). It's a study that I have visualized in minute detail, and I go there if I have time after I've done my relaxation breathing. It's changed over the years - it has a computer now, which it didn't in my teens. It's up a flight of stairs, and once I go in and close the door, nothing can bother me.


From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com


Mainly I've used ones that I've invented myself; some of them involve figures I can turn to for comfort (these are animals more than people). They often involve some form of flight (by which I don't mean actual flying, but just getting-away-from-something quickly) or putting up barriers between myself and the situation.


From: [identity profile] cicer.livejournal.com


Sometimes, when I'm anxious, I imagine that I'm surrounded by enormous stone walls so that nothing can touch me.

It's funny, because the way I visualize it, it seems like it should be a very disturbing place. I just imagine a flat plane with a black sky, and huge walls that go up as far as the eye can see. But I find it very relaxing. It's an empty spot just for me.

From: [identity profile] teadog1425.livejournal.com


Yes! I have several things like this that I have used (and still use) over the years...

- I have a variation on the dial one for when I have thoughts that go round and round in my head, where I imagine them as mice squeaking, and they get put in a glass jar, and I can turn the volume down on it until I can't hear them any more...

- I have one that I got from a public-speaking coach which I have found very helpful for panic attacks, which is a traffic light (I found that I had to write this one down for it to be really effective) - you go through the different lights, so RED is the trigger, the thing that happened that set the panic off, and for AMBER you write down all the awful things that you are imagining will happen, all the panicky consequences that you fear, and for GREEN you write down the logical reasons why those panic thoughts are unlikely to happen - I found this was very effective for panic attacks...

I have another one that I use when I have panic-movies that run in my head of awful things which I'm worried might happen, where I've learned that I can't stop the movie from starting in my head, but I can subvert the 'script', but in order for that to work, the alternative 'script' has to be compelling, and for me what works best is surreal humour - to imagine wings growing or people's voices becoming cat meows etc... - every time the movie starts to run, I subvert it with something wacky, and pretty soon it stops running!

I think I've (pretty much) become resigned to the fact that I think I will always have panic feelings, but I'm finding more and more effective tricks for how to manage these when they are triggered... It is very interesting to hear that other people do the same - and I will have to remember the backpack one as that is new to me!

From: [identity profile] bemused-leftist.livejournal.com


I shrink the frightening object, like shrinking an image on-screen. Not all the way to invisible (then it could sneak up on me!) but down far enough that it no longer blocks sight of the normal world. It's still there to be dealt with, like a basket of dirty laundry, but it's across the room now, and I can deal with it or guard against it in a normal way.

Sometimes I adjust the shrinkage back and forth, or move it around on screen, just to show it who's boss.

From: [identity profile] coraa.livejournal.com


I have one, but I have to remember to use it while I'm still calm enough to concentrate, and often I don't.

It's a fairly standard, um, "magic circle"--you mentally draw a circle of protection around yourself, and whatever you don't want to come across the line can't. Sometimes I use it against fear, but I usually use it to keep other peoples' anger or panic or whatever from infecting me. But again, I often forget it until it's too late.

I got it out of the novel Wise Child, by Monica Furlong, which I first read when I was about twelve or thirteen. In it, the main character, Wise Child, is often frightened by a number of things. Her mentor, Juniper, teachers her to draw the circle of protection to calm herself. It stuck with me because, in the book, Wise Child is a Christian (the book is set in a medievalish Britain--Scotland, actually, I think) and is afraid that magic will damn her to Hell, so Juniper tells her to ask Jesus to draw the circle for her if she prefers. Since I was getting hellfire and brimstone preaching, daily, at that point, and still three-quarters believing it, that was a great relief to me. I now draw the circle myself, but I think that's why it stuck.
Edited Date: 2011-05-06 11:46 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] sophia-helix.livejournal.com


A few years ago I tried visualizing myself in the center of a sort of bower made of vines and flowers that grew around me and cut off anxiety. It mostly worked, but not all the way -- until my therapist asked if I felt completely enclosed in my visualization. That's when I realized that in fact I had difficulty "sealing" it and always felt like my back was exposed. I wasn't able to fix the problem (I am not a good visualized), but I was impressed that she even knew to ask the question.

From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com


I take all the darkness rattling around my brain, gather it up in the forefront of my head and push it out through my forehead. It actually helps a lot.

From: [identity profile] erinlin-w.livejournal.com


I used to pretend that all my stress and self-loathing was a red bean bag, and I'd kick it as far away from me as I could. Had to be a beanbag, and not a ball, because a ball could bounce back.

From: [identity profile] wordkink.livejournal.com


When I'm having a panic attack it helps if my wife breathes with me (largely because by this point I haven't remembered at all to use any technique for any sort of calm). While she reminds me to breathe evenly I imagine that the air I breath in is very cool, and that there is a blue arrow, that comes into my lungs and then when I breathe out the arrow has become green, and is taking away all the heat and anxiety in my chest. It really does help me feel cooler which in turn helps me to relax.

From: [identity profile] marzipan-pig.livejournal.com


When I'm trying to sleep and feel bad about myself, sometimes I imagine everyone who I know loves me sitting in a circle around me and how that feels.

Unfortunately the only times I've done well with the 'keeping stuff in the other room' thing it was medication induced and I found it really uncomfortable, like I couldn't really GET at anything.

When I used to have panic attacks when driving, I'd remind myself I was doing it just right, that what I was feeling was anxiety, I was feeling the symptoms of anxiety, I was having an anxiety attack and I was doing a good job of it, it was clearly an anxiety attack and it felt exactly like an anxiety attack is supposed to feel. This would usually soothe me out of it (like 'nothing is really wrong' I guess?), though it's never worked as well in any other anxiety-producing situation.

From: [identity profile] anait.livejournal.com


This post (and the attending comments) would have been so, so helpful this summer, when I was looking around online for information about anxiety and how to manage it. My anxiety was exponentially increased by the anxiety of others. I would imagine myself as a human shield, and everything coming from the other person would be deflected away, unable to get inside me. I still do this occasionally if I catch myself over-empathizing.

From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_swallow/


I love that idea-- it kind of reminds me of one of the tricks I used to manage a specific compulsive thought that bothered me a lot when I had just started to drive a lot...

from an email I wrote to a friend around that time:

I'm kind of having an issue with that classic childish self-control questioning, where you think things like "well what if I stood up right now and screamed? what if I just let go of the railing and let myself drop? what if I slammed my bike into that pedestrian?" etc. i don't even notice that happening anymore in my head except when i'm driving a car, especially at high speeds on a curvy road, when i am SO aware of how heavy and huge the car is, and SO aware of the consequences of fucking up, that "WHATIFYOUJUSTLETGOANDALLOWEDTHECARTOSLAMINTOTHERAILING??" gets really loud in my head. and i need to be SO attuned to my surroundings and my own driving that i simply can't have even one fraction of my brain in charge of acknowledging and sweeping away those cobwebs.

so while i was driving last time i figured out a way to acknowledge and get rid of those thoughts/fears without recognizing them for as scary and big as they are. what i do is look at the scary black fear in my head (it's black because i'm driving at night and the car is black, btw) and then sort of zoom out a little so i see ALL the scary black variations of that fear dancing around together, they're like a pack of furry black demons, and then i zoom out even farther and see that they are furry black BABY demons and they have a big friendly furry monster mother who is putting them to bed now because they're sleepy and cranky (and that's why they are acting out). it turns my scariest fear into something cartoon adorable, and it's easy to activate quickly in my head so that the whole thing takes about two seconds.

From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_swallow/


I don't have clinical anxiety, etc., but I am frequently bothered by automatic thoughts, as well as other garden-variety obsessions and anxieties. I find this type of visualization really helpful because I am a very metaphorical thinker (and my synesthesia also means that visualizing abstract things as various colors/textures helps a lot). I always have to wriggle the idea around in my mind before I find exactly the right metaphorical frame that resonates with what I'm experiencing. The car at night/furry black monsters framework I posted above is a good example.

From: [identity profile] anait.livejournal.com


Thanks for sharing, I really like this. I used it today to calm myself, 'cause today really sucked, and it helped a lot. Thanks. I picked the lake where I used to row, one of the most beautiful spots I know. :)
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