Once upon a time, I tried explaining my ‘container belief’ theory to my therapist. For whatever reason, when I’m the client, I lose all capacity to make rational sense and instead ramble on in half-baked metaphors loosely beaten with full blown emotion. She’s somehow always understood me and for that I’ll be eternally grateful. She’s the sole reason I only wake up screaming once or twice a year now. Miracle worker.
What I wanted to tell her was, a Container Belief is a practice that helps us condense collective chaos into something we can put a lid on and store conveniently in a much smaller space.
For example, after reading the morning headlines, we might be inclined to believe that humans are a consumptive, greedy, hedonistic virus hell-bent on running blindly into a zombie apocalypse. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. We might find ourselves drowning in despair and petrified there’s not a single, decent soul remaining on this doomed rock floating aimlessly in an ever expanding galaxy of nothingness, so why bother eating kale or even thinking about following road signs, let alone a moral compass. Right?
A Container Belief says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold your horses buckaroo. Are things really so bad? What about kittens, whales, peaches, beaches and rainbows? Maybe you just need a nap and a hundred and fifty three million dollars.” While I prefer nectarines, cause peach fuzz gives me the willies, a hundred and fifty three million dollars sounds nice.
Given the current state of affairs; the never ending pandemic, global warming, monkeypox, mass shootings, outlandish gas prices, the general extortion of labor leading to a long overdue revolt on capitalism and what? I don’t know, lost luggage and flight delays? It’s all too easy to think our ships will never come in because there are no remaining safe harbors. It’s all too easy to succumb to fear and loathing, especially in the cesspool that is Las Vegas. It’s all too easy to abandon hope and presume the planet is destined for self destruction, so why not just, dot, dot, dot.
But, what if the next wondrous, miraculous, life-changing, good thing is just around the bend? What if the purpose, meaning, peace, provision, prosperity, sanctuary, love, answer we’ve been longing for since day one is about to manifest itself? What if…we’re just deluding ourselves?
The difference between surrender and resignation is our intention. For instance, we could say: Fine god. Do whatever you want. I don’t care. And that translates to, I’m too tired, pissed off and terrified to keep trying. And you’re just a giant asshole in the sky who probably hates me. Guess I’ll go eat worms. OR, we could say, Dear heavenly creator, I love and trust you with all my heart. I believe there’s a purpose and a plan for every beautiful and terrible thing that happens under the son. No matter what, in the grand scheme of the universe, I know it’s ultimately all good. Let your wild will be done!
The difference between our intention is whether we’re in a state of Fear or Trust. Hate or Love. Exhaustion or Rest. Hunger, fullness, lack, abundance, destruction, provision, oppression, peace. Naps help. So does paid time off, affordable housing, self-worth, years of therapy and enough calories to restore minimal brain function. What else do we need?
I’ve often questioned the ethics of practicing gratitude during times in my life when I’ve been homeless or stretched so far beyond humane capacity, I’ve wondered am I taking the high road or just gaslighting myself? Cause this feels downright abusive. Equally, I’ve questioned the ethics of prescribing gratitude practices to clients who are actively suffering as a result of the charcuterie board of insults and injuries part and parcel to this mysterious thing called life. But, what are we supposed to do? Be perpetually bummed out or blissfully ignorant all the time?
One day, instead of blaming god for the plague of injustice, I turned to my Container Belief and permanently released the darkness. I realized human beings have been hurting each other since the very beginning and every behavior or event we’ve labeled as tragic, destructive, stupid, lazy, horrific, gross, selfish, toxic, demonic or otherwise utterly revolting, are simply the byproduct of being separated from Love. Name a childhood trauma. Name a social injustice. It’s no big deal. It’s not surprising. In fact, from a neurobiological perspective, it’s completely understandable. Look at the headlines and history: Fight, Flight, Fawn, Freeze. Duh. Kings, Captains, Capitalists. We don’t need each other’s condemnation. We need individual and collective compassion.
Ok, pumpkin muffins. Make yourselves a peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich. Take a nap and give yourselves a big hug. We’re doing great, all things considered. xo