Expansion feels like contraction. It always amazes me how expansion feels like the end. It feels like a collapse, a tightening, a painful process. We think expansion gives berth, space, openness and should feel light and freeing. And it does… after.
But it starts with a desire to run, escape, like the walls are closing in and in a way, they are, as the walls expose themselves, asking if you want to be free or continue to be imprisoned.
It’s taken me a while to realize that every time I feel caged or trapped it’s an invitation to expand. Because in the moments it feels like everything going wrong, can’t breathe, irritated and annoyed, sharp edges, back against the wall exposing the walls I have created and the limits I have placed on myself.
In the past I couldn’t have seen this, too caught up in the pain, trying to find ways to escape the pain, I missed the opportunities to see that this too was asking me rise, expand and move into a new place.
In these moments we have the choice to escape to what we know, the walls, living within our limits, or grow. In the past my triggers and reactions were so fine tuned to keep me in a cage and keep me small and hiding and shrinking into myself that I wouldn’t ever consider these invitations to grow, I would have seen them as everything is always hard and wrong and not working out for me no matter how hard I work.
The more I have grown the easier the walls are to see. The hardships, the moments of breaking, are clear signs I am fighting with something internal and nothing external, because the problem is rarely the problem but how we react to the problem.
The thing is they’re sneaky, these old ways of living and fooling ourselves, they’re hard and messy and noisy and they’re really good at convincing us we’re the victim and we derail into a mess before we know it. If we’re good at growth we start to recognize the signs before we’re off the tracks. See we get used to a certain level of comfort, even when expansion is our jam. We grow. Then we settle in to that new level. Then something comes along asking us to grow more and the longer we spend at each phase, the easier it is to fall into old patterns that we don’t even realize we have.
The pandemic, the isolation, the loss of our lives, the loss of our daily freedoms, the loss of our income, our friends, communities and networks, is straining for even the most enlightened and growth driven people.
Even when we have walked through the fire and crawled over boulders, we find a sort of comfort in a certain level of hardship. We’re really not unlike the frog who boils to death by being placed in cold water, then turning up the heat. The frog keeps adjusting his temperature but by the time he realizes he’s in trouble he can’t jump.
We’re sort of that, always adjusting to that external pressure. Eat a little more, watch a little more tv, drink a little more, fuck a little more, until one day we wake up to realize we’re like the frog, almost boiled to death and can’t move.
Things like the pandemic though, they incite our fight or flight, our trauma response flies into action and we want to run, we want to scream, we want to hide, we want to cry, we panic, we fear, we give up. It’s an onslaught of emotions at one time. One many trauma survivors have learned to adjust to, much like being in boiling water, adjusting, adjusting, adjusting until there is no room to adjust.
It’s in those moments that our beliefs, experiences, expectations, blueprints are available to use to explore, if we can find the 2 mm gap. See, when we react so quickly we can lose the space to explore and we are off the rails and deep end before we know it. Many people, me circa 2012, are living this way all the time, with no awareness of the rage, expectations, sadness, overwhelming emotional reactions are not normal daily responses.
But if we can catch them, in the moment right before we spiral, we have an opportunity to go from contraction to expansion. In that expansion we aren’t seeing that freedom and light and airy feeling we are hoping for, we are facing the demons, the emotions, the past experiences, the turmoil, the fear that we feel. We come up against belief systems and age old conditioning that no longer works if we want to move to a new place and a new feelings and a new outcome for our lives.
In order to become our best self we have to give up what holds us back from that. In order to give that up we have to face those things, explore them, release, reframe and repattern them into new and more empowering pieces.
It’s like a birthing process for the new way of being. We have to walk through a tunnel of darkness that feels like hell and closing and collapsing and at the moment when we think we can’t handle anymore, and we break through, we feel it, the release, the letting go, the expansion…
And in the expansion we find new foundations, new ground, new ways of living, thinking, acting and being. In order to break open we must allow ourselves to break. That’s how we find that light, how it gets in, how we see the darkness, the cages and the places we’ve been chained. There’s no growth if the light can’t shine on the ways we’re trapped.
And all we have to do is lean in and expand when we desperate want to lean away and escape.
The expansion hurts but the growth and the freedom on the other side is worth the walk through the darkest nights.
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