chris roberts green hills therapist


Whenever we are faced with overwhelming situations that we can understand or make sense of, we typically employ a type of defense mechanism called “compartmentalizing.” Compartmentalizing is not necessarily a bad thing! It is incredibly useful when we feel we have no other viable alternative to deal with a stressful situation. Compartmentalizing is a way of telling ourselves, “What is happening in this situation is unusual, and we don’t know how to deal with it, so let’s not spend any time resolving the situation. The situation is what it is, and we will let it be and leave it alone.” It is a way to not really have to think about the situation again. This is a great, temporary, strategy for dealing with trauma, or abuse, or trying juggle too many proverbial balls in the air. Compartmentalization is a way of choosing to pretend we don’t have 100 things to do today, and so we just choose one activity and try to enjoy it! It allows us to be able to enjoy life in certain circumstances.

However, we can become too good at compartmentalizing. Because it allows us to not really deal with the situation, it can start to become a tactic we use all too readily. It’s a great way to get things done, to power-through, and to keep moving forward. At some point though, the human soul can’t keep all the compartments separate. Unawares to us, every time we put an event into a compartment, it takes energy to keep it there. Our brain wants to keep things integrated. Our brain wants to make meanings of things and create narratives that make sense to us and others. Our compartments can become full, or we can have too many compartments to keep track of. Events don’t automatically go into compartments. We have to put them there. And in a good way, we can’t go on doing this forever.

When our compartments start spilling over into other ones, it may be a sign that we have gone too long without dealing with certain, important parts of our lives. We all have a natural drive for integration. Although on the surface we may believe we want to forget about certain things, or even believe they don’t have much of an effect on us, there may be a greater truth that we want to know and experience all of ourselves and our life. I believe life will be richer to the extent that we integrate all of our life experiences. This does NOT mean that integration is easy or simple or painless.   We typically put things that are painful or upsetting into our compartments. When we take them out, we will have to deal with them at roughly the same feeling-experience as when we put them in there. There is a reason we didn’t want to deal with them and that reason hasn’t passed.

Having the courage to start to deal with your over-spilling compartments is a brave endevour. We don’t know what we are going to feel or what we are going to have to deal with. Nashville individual therapy is a great place to start to explore and discover these compartments, what they meant, and how to effectively deal with and integrate these new experiences in your life. It will be far from easy, but may be one of the most rewarding things you can do.

Chris Roberts is a Nashville individual therapist who would love to help you deal with this part of your life. You may find heartache and pain, but you may also find joy like you have never experienced.   The breakdown of our compartments may be the calling to a richer and more fulfilling life. Chris Roberts can be reached at (615) 800-9260 or

Share →

Leave a Reply