The Word ‘Unpack’ and The Use of Imagery

In therapy, we often hear the phrase, “let’s unpack that.” Those words provide an image that we can work with to further explore.

Think about the last time you were on vacation and brought your suitcase. When I get to my destination, I like to hang my good clothes in a closet that has all the hangers ready for me; I put my casual clothes in the dresser, and my cosmetics in the bathroom.  Doing so allows me to feel organized and hopeful as I feel ready and excited for my week ahead. I also put our valuables in the safe; that allows me to feel secure.

We can achieve the same feelings in therapy when we unpack something that has been occupying space in our baggage. By exploring things in an environment that feels safe, we can begin the process of putting those memories or experiences in places in which we don’t have to carry them anymore. When we share the secrets we have guarded for so long, we can tuck them safely away. By unpacking the event, the experience, the trauma – we eliminate the weight that they inherently carry. Imagine if we had to lug our suitcases around with us the whole time we were on vacation? We would feel irritated, tired, anxious and depressed. The same things happen when we carry the weight of unprocessed events.

Let’s lean into the process of unpacking. That might be with a therapist, but it can also occur with a trusted friend, partner or family member. We can journal, mediate, pray. In any form we choose, when we focus on what needs to be explored, we set ourselves up to feel lighter, more joyful, grounded and confident.

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