My clients teach me things. They’re a smart bunch.
If I did therapy the old fashioned way, I’d likely miss their wisdom. It would all be about clever old me.
The benefit of a collaborative approach like mine is that it makes full use of the smarts you have too.
Here’s the metaphor my client taught me. I like it so much that I’m sharing it with you.
Imagine that you are a bucket with a spout. Like this one.
The stresses of life go drip drip drip into your bucket.
Sometimes, the stresses are bigger and the drip becomes a trickle.
Occasionally, the trickle becomes a flood.
For every drip, trickle or flood that pours into your bucket, it gets fuller and fuller.
Sooner or later it will get too much for you. You’ll be overwhelmed with it.
As the water drips, trickles or floods in, you won’t be able to take anymore. You’ll already be full to the brim.
Your bucket will overflow.
At that point something will give. It may be your health, it may be your emotional resilience.
Of course, the drip drip drip of life stress is relentless. There’s always some little bother or task to exercise us. So how can we make sure our buckets don’t get so full that we can’t take any more?
That’s where the spout comes in.
If we open the spout, water comes out again. That makes room in the bucket.
We can take it okay when more water drips in, because we’ve released some via the spout.
So what does the spout represent?
The spout is all those things you can do that make life better for you. It represents those acts of self care and enjoyment that make life easier.
The spout will be different for everyone.
But here’s some examples so you can get what I mean.
Meeting friends. Embroidery. Going for a run. Going to a gym class. Yoga. Watching comedy. Meditation. Breathing exercises. Going for a walk. Hugs. Sleep. Gardening. An hour of alone time. Riding a bike. Stroking a dog. Playing with a child. Painting. Playing guitar. Getting a massage. Singing. Having a dance. Being in nature. Listening to music. Going to the cinema. A night in watching a box set in your PJs.
We all have spout activities. Things that restore, relax and rejuvenate us. Those activities that release the stresses of life and make us feel better again.
We may not be doing them as much as we need to. There may be some that we are barely doing at all. It’s a good reminder of how much we need to self care in this way.
The bucket and the spout is a useful idea. It allows us to check what fills our bucket quickest, and what best empties it again.
If there’s more pouring in than being let out, your bucket will fill up and overflow. You won’t feel good.
So how can you best manage your bucket so that it doesn’t overflow?
How full is your bucket right now? How can you lessen the amount of water coming in? What spout activities will ensure that you’re letting more of it back out again? And are you emptying your bucket enough?Alun Parry is Director of The Liverpool Psychotherapy Practice