The Principle of Containment


One of the primary principles of purification has to do with containment. To ‘contain’ means to hold back, to hold within, or to carry something within a vessel, enclosure, or organism. In relation to purification, what we contain are energies of darkness that we do not wish to go out into the world. We hold them within our bodies until they pass from our consciousness. The principle of containment relies on two more fundamental principles that are at its foundation: that of energy, and that of identity.

To contain something does not mean to deny its existence. If we feel sadness, grief, fear, or anger, then these are the things that we feel. We can know and feel these feelings without acting them out. We can do this, because we are identifying with our soul-self that believes there is a better way to be in the world.

Energies that are not love and that are not light are carried within each human being. They pass through us as emotions and as thoughts but they are not who we are.This is a fundamental tenet of purification. We feel and think often in negative ways, but our feeling and thinking is reactive to the world of events that we have lived with since childhood. Our feeling and thinking are conditioned by these events and form our personalities. These personalities are not us. They are emotional vehicles available to us for our learning. They are not our souls which have a positive nature.

Any person who thinks and feels can learn to make this distinction. They can learn to perceive energies passing through themselves and to not identify with them. These energies are in our bodies; they are also in our subconscious minds. They come and they go. They sweep through us in waves of emotional intensity, but eventually they subside. As souls, we can learn to observe the movement of energies within ourselves and to wait for them to pass without acting them out in words or deeds. This is a great help to others with whom we are in relationship. It is also a great help to ourselves since what is acted out comes back to us and we once again have to deal with it, while what is contained eventually sets us free.

The second principle of containment has to do with identity. For most people, identity is connected with the personality — with our personal tastes, preferences, hopes, fears, and goals. These are all real and valid on the level at which they occur, but they are not the highest or truest part of who we are. Our personal self is based on the life of our ego, the life of our feelings. It is not our soul-self. It is not our pure spirit. Our soul has a goal of its own and that is to become what it is meant to be — the Divine pattern with which it was created.

Our soul represents our reason for existing on earth; it reminds us of our true purpose for being here. When we identify with our personal self or personality it is hard to contain negative energies, first, because we believe in them — we believe that they are us — and second, because there is no reason for doing so. It is only when we see and feel a higher value in not acting in negative ways, ways that are separated from love, that we can begin the hard work of containment. Only then can we strive to find ways to separate from our negative feelings and to eliminate the acting out of these feelings. This is because there must be a purpose for doing so, a purpose that is important to us, a purpose that our soul strives for such as purity, God, truth, love, a better world. We must hold an ideal within us that fuels both the process of purification and the specific effort of containment.

To contain something does not mean to deny its existence. If we feel sadness, grief, fear, or anger, then these are the things that we feel. We can know and feel these feelings without acting them out. We can do this, because we are identifying with our soul-self that believes there is a better way to be in the world, a way based on love and on God’s truth. But what is God’s truth?

There are many levels to this question, yet the one that concerns us here is the truth of how we are meant to live with each other, the truth of who we are. God has created each of us to become instruments of Divine love. We are each here to participate in the healing of the world and the upliftment of life. It is our choice whether we do so or not, but our fundamental identity tells us that we are meant to do so as the pure spiritual beings that we are.

All that we give to the world, for better or worse, has an effect on the world whether we know it or not. When we send out good into the world through our thoughts, words, or actions, we contribute to the raising of the collective consciousness of our fellow man. When we send out evil or dark or angry thoughts, we contribute to the darkness and fear in which many people live. We are each very powerful, and so the choices that we make about what we are contributing to the world are significant choices whether we perceive their effect or not. It is partly for this reason that containment of negative energies is so important. It is important because as powerful beings, we affect the world not just through our larger actions and deeds, but through our words and even through our thoughts and gestures. To become conscious of this is a great privilege and a great responsibility. To become conscious of our power means that we must learn to use it wisely. Without wisdom, we walk around blindly releasing whatever is within us, not knowing the effect that we are creating.

There is a popular idea today in the psychological realm that concerns the beneficial effect of catharsis — the free release of emotional expression. The gist of this idea is that we will feel better if we give vent to something. This idea has truth in it at a certain level, but it is a limited truth with specific limitations. It is better to give vent to feelings than to deny them or to suppress them. It is better to be ourselves than to not be ourselves. However, giving vent to something has more consequences than we presently hold ourselves accountable for. Our emotions affect all those most intimately connected with us, and even if we don’t express ourselves forcefully, our feelings get inside those we know.

This is a spiritual fact because at our core we are energy beings — spiritual beings sensitive to the energies of all of life. As we become more responsible and more concerned for the welfare of all, we must learn to contain our energies and to be realistic about our moods and their effects. This does not mean to eliminate feeling or to deny emotion. That would be a reduction of our aliveness. What it means is to not assume that our negative emotions are as real as we believe them to be. When we feel these emotions, we can try to stay grounded in the conviction that they are not our truth or reality, and can begin, however gropingly, to search for the positivefeelings that lie deeper within us and are part of our essence: love, joy, innocence, trust, kindness, tenderness.

What would we be like if each of us lived in our truth? We would relate to each other as souls. We would love each other as children of Creation, children of God. We would help each other at times of separation from that love to find the way back to God. We would not justify our feelings based on the external circumstances that we happened to be dealing with at a particular time, but would know that we had within ourselves the means to remain steady and faithful to God’s presence within us. In a word, we would perceive the sacredness of our life and the lives of others, and would steer ourselves emotionally in whatever direction was necessary to maintain that sacredness.

Containment, then, is not meant to subdue the life within us. It is meant to transform it, to enhance it — to bring us into a higher, more positive emotional state in which we recognize ourselves as souls and each other as souls. We engage in the effort of containment not on our own, but with the support of God’s light and love. Without these, we can make an effort of will to hold back our negative feelings, but we will often not feel strong enough to do what we are setting out to do. Without God’s help, we are limited by our own ego-nature from being able to detach from feelings that seem all too real to us. With God’s help, we can experience Divine light as a steady flame within us, sustaining and holding us when difficulties arise. With God’s help, we become capable of transforming our lives so that we are lifted out of the negative energies that have dominated us, into a space of love and light that is our home.


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