Burning House: What Would You Choose?

By: Lilly Ulmschneider, Occupational Therapist, & David Leicht, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Young Adult Partial Hospital Program

Imagine for a moment, that your home is burning and all the people and pets have made it safely outside. You’re able to save only three items from the fire, which three do you choose?

While it may seem distressing at first, this exercise is designed to help you explore your values, passions, and priorities. After identifying the three items, reflect on what they may represent for you. For example, if you choose to save a box of old family photos, this could signify that you place high value on the memories and history of your family.

Digging deeper, this exercise allows you to uncover the underlying and complex reasons you made the choices you did. Going back to the box of old family photos, in looking more closely, you may realize that this box is especially important to you because it contains precious memories of a family member who has recently passed.

It is all too easy to lose sight of that which is most important to us. It sometimes gets swallowed up by the chaos of day-to-day life, other times symptoms of depression and anxiety seem to steal it from our grasp. Using this exercise to creatively explore what is most important to you provides you with valuable information to begin making positive changes in your life.

Living through your values provides a sense of contentment and harmony.

In the Young Adult Partial Hospital Program we often use exercises like this to set a foundation on which we can work together with participants towards real resolutions. Returning once more to the box of old family photos; the next step in creating an action plan may involve outlining other ways to process the loss of the family member and bring the preservation of memories into the forefront of their thoughts and actions. This may lead to creating a memory album of photos and stories that can be shared with loved ones, or hosting a remembrance party in their honor once a year. Whatever you choose, living through your values provides a sense of contentment and harmony.

Try the exercise for yourself. It’s also a great activity to try with family or friends. Doing this exercise with others may help you discover deeper meaning behind the items you chose to save from your imaginary burning house.