Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page
Counselling can sometimes take unexpected directions, and this week I found myself talking to a client about foam rubber shapes.
If you asked 100 people, as they do on those game shows, to say one word that they associate with foam rubber I’d bet that “squishy” would be an overwhelmingly popular choice, and that was the theme of my conversation with my client.
If you were trying to store some foam rubber shapes in box, you’d start off being able to put them in easily, but soon the box would become full and to contain the shapes properly, you’d have to push them all down and shut the lid. Then, when you had another shape to store, you’d have to open the box, add the shape, push them all down and shut the lid again.
As you added more and more shapes to the box, you’d find it best only to only the lid a little, just enough to push the next shape through, before forcing it shut again. It would gradually become increasingly difficult to get that one extra shape into the box.
The point of blogging about all this is to draw a parallel with how we sometimes deal with our feelings. When something bad happens to us, there can be a temptation to park it and move on. Rather than dealing with the event properly, we put our feelings in a box and forget about them. And so our box of feelings gradually fills up.
What’s the problem with that? Well, there isn’t necessarily a problem, but there can be. However squishy foam rubber is, there will come a point where the box can hold no more – or the pressure on the box may be too great and the clasp that holds the lid down may break. And once the clasp breaks, and the lid opens, all those shapes that were forced into the box will suddenly spring back to full size, they’ll explode out of the box, and your living room will be covered with a mass off foam rubber shapes – so many that it’s completely overwhelming.
Returning to our feelings, what can cause the box to burst open? I think it is generally caused by some very significant event, a major trauma such as a bereavement, the loss of a job, a road accident. Or it can be a change of circumstances – new responsibilities at work, becoming a parent, or one of our own parents becoming ill and needing more support. Such events can force a major change, and sometimes the box isn’t strong enough, sometimes it breaks open.
Once the box is open, I think it is extremely difficult to close it again. You can try to cram all the shapes back in, you may succeed, you may be able to force the top shut again. But the whole mechanism is now much more fragile, much more likely to burst open again.
If you tend to deal with feelings in this way, there can be signs when your box is getting full – for example, if you find that small things are starting to affect you in a way that seems out of proportion. Do you snap at the kids over little things? Are you suffering panic attacks? Are you experiencing road rage? Do you find yourself crying inexplicably over TV programs? Is your fear of spiders getting out of control?
These are signs that something needs to be addressed, and of course counselling can be a good way of doing that. You don’t have to wait until the whole box bursts open and there are 101 random shapes to deal with. In counselling, you can gently lift the lid a little and take out one or two shapes. And maybe that’s enough to relieve the pressure – or maybe that gives you the confidence to take out a couple more shapes – maybe even to get down to those big, nasty shapes at the bottom that have been there for years.