Containment

The concept of personal boundaries is an important building block for good relationships.    When we have a strong sense of self, we are able to “keep in our own lane” and not take on the emotions of others.  Without excuse or apology we are able to speak our own truth and say “yes” and “no.”  The love and empathy we have for others come from genuine care and not from guilt or fear of displeasing the other.

Another aspect of boundaries is containment.  Containment of our own emotions and desires prevents us from interfering or encroaching on the rights of others.  Containment is being able to hold back instead of attacking, especially with words. 

Couples coming in for help with relationships or marriage counseling often bring with them the hurt of feelings not only of being misunderstood, but also of being disrespected by the other.  Name calling and pointing out the shortcomings of the other may feel like a temporary relief for one’s own angst, but the lack of containment can do permanent damage to a relationship. 

Containment is not keeping our thoughts and feelings to ourselves, but it is in the delivering of them as I-statements rather than accusatory judgments on the other. Containment moderates the intensity of our communications with respect to time and place and also the vulnerability of the other.

A healthy relationship does not always just come naturally. Weathering the ups and downs of communication requires a commitment to keep working at it and to learn from mistakes instead of dwelling on them.   If it truly takes 10,00 hours to become a master of a skill, the joy of sharing life with another can motivate us to do the work.