In counseling terms, an “anchor” is any small, tangible object that, when held or touched, can remind a person of what’s real when they might otherwise be feeling disconnected from reality due to intrusive memories of a past trauma or anxiety-laden thoughts about the future. Also known as a “grounding object”, an anchor can bring us back to what is when all we can see is what was or what might be.
At home, I have a dish full of quarter-sized clay “stones” that are smooth on one side and rough on the other. Each stone has a different word stamped into it in colored ink. I’ve given these stones to friends and family over the years and recently gave a client one that has the word “courage” stamped into it. She used it to anchor (or “ground”) herself to the present during several challenging situations.
Facing some challenges of my own, I came to the conclusion yesterday that I, too, need to be anchored to the present. Before my recovery from Binge-Eating Disorder, I spent a lot of time avoiding my feelings by numbing out through over-eating or restricting calories. Neither of these strategies alleviated my guilt about the past or eased my anxiety about the future. More recently, I’ve spent time avoiding my feelings by diving into care-taking and romance. Again, these pursuits haven’t changed my feelings, only temporarily masked them.
So, perhaps now is the right time for me to drop my anchor over the side of my boat and just be present with my feelings. Instead of searching frantically for the next wind that will catch my sail and pull me away from my fear, sadness, and anger, I’m going to sit quietly and look around at what these feelings might have to teach me. Maybe there’s something to be learned by staring into the fog of sadness surrounding my boat. Or maybe I’ll gain something by being buffeted by the storms of anger. Or maybe I’ll discover how to ride out the waves of ever-changing emotion without being swept overboard, climbing back into the boat, and immediately setting sail for calmer seas.
Yes, it’s time to anchor myself and ride the waves for a while. Here’s to the waves, the fog, and the storms and the lessons that they’ll bring.