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    Who or what is it that contains you?

    From our first moments we are mirrored, matched and bonded to others. Our sense of individuality is partly a result of our inherited genetic characteristics and partly a product of the environments we are brought up in. If we are lucky we are nurtured and can enjoy degrees of freedom to explore who we can be.

    Over time we develop routines, habits and patterns of behaviour. We learn assumptions that come to inform our perceptions. In the process of becoming ‘I’ we come to include and exclude others. Memory goes just a fraction ahead of us letting us know whether this or that situation or person is going to be good or bad for us and thus increasingly we choose experiences that reassure us in our identities. The world of digital communication reinforces this process by defining us in ways that suit state and commercial needs. We are defined and then redefined by our choices. The space in which are known to ourselves and others has been called the comfort zone.

    But what lurks on the edge of every comfort zone and in the consciousness of most people is the feeling that all such zones are conditional and can be broken.

    For some this is a reason to retreat deeper into the zone and build up resources against change. This is described as the bunker mentality. Others seek to climb out of the zone and choose to define themselves by their ability to survive life’s challenges head on. These are the much celebrated adventurers of life. It may well be that the discomfort zone is where we learn and as such it is to be commended – as long as adventuring itself does not harden into an attitude and a philosophy.

    However different they are both groups are determined by zones. Another approach is to realise that the place where the zone does most of its work is in your mind and body.

    One of the lasting values of therapy is the opportunity it offers to step back and consider the particular circumstances of your life. A good therapist can help you to look afresh at the details of your childhood, education, training and working life. He or she will help you to see how your parents and others in your kinship group acting in your best interest defined and shaped you in ways that made you feel safe. In turn you will see how your own strategies for survival entailed you containing aspects of your life in order to fit in. By completing various writing and breathing exercises you reappraise your life from a much more compassionate perspective. Eventually you will feel able to appreciate how you were shaped by your experiences and then decide whether these involuntary containments still serve you. This is a liberation that will take you beyond ‘zones’ and into a place of real choice.

    What you have to decide is whether you really want this.