The Contraction After the Expansion

contraction after expansion

There’s a phenomenon that happens just after something amazing happens, or as you’re expanding into a new way of being, where you ‘contract’; where suddenly lots of fear and worry and doubt and stress come up (or you just want to fall on your face with exhaustion and stay there for the foreseeable future!) This is normal. It’s nothing to worry about. It’s like the exhale after the inhale, the ebb of a wave after it’s crested.

It also sucks, big time.

For years, I thought it was just me, that maybe I was crazy-pants or something. For years, I would worry about it and stress more because this contraction was happening…thereby extending the contraction and almost cancelling out the expansion. The first time I heard someone talk about this, I nearly fell of my perch. It’s a thing…it’s not just me! Thank God. I’m not crazy-pants (well, not over this anyway). Other people experience it too.

It still sucks though.

But it is actually neurologically explainable. Not by me…when it was explained to me I nodded and smiled and ‘mmm-hmm’d and then promptly forgot all the big words and neuro-science. (If you’re interested in the sciencey, ‘proper’ explanation, check out neuroplasicity, confirmatory bias and lizard brain) The gist is this: with new thoughts and experiences, you create new neural pathways…but there comes a point where your lizard brain freaks out and says ‘woah! Hold on there Nellie, let’s go back to comfortable, well-worn pathways’ and you get all the stress and exhaustion and backlash from your success or change.

The good thing about it is that it is proof that things are changing for you. The very fact that you are getting to the edge of your comfort zone means you are changing, things are moving for you. That’s fantastic! And if you can stay calm and not dive into the fear and doubt and stress and exhaustion, the contraction will pass, and you’ll be able to get back to the fun stuff you were up to when it arrived.

As well as brain-sciencey stuff going on, there’s also the fact that when you are changing and expanding, some stuff will need to come up to be released. Let’s say you are realeasing a book…it’s all ready, it’s super exciting…and then a wave of fear and angst comes up…it’s just coming up to be cleared away. And sometimes you don’t even need to do anything but weather that storm.

So, when your next contraction arrives, don’t panic. Remind yourself it’s natural and normal and actually studied by neuro-scientists. Breathe, slow down, take the opportunity to pause. If you’re expanding, chances are you have been doing things differently, so take a moment to regroup, to consider how far you’ve come. If you’re halfway up the mountain, this is the moment to stop and have your sandwiches and take in the view.

While you’re pausing, check in with your body, mind, heart and soul (especially body and mind because they’re often most affected by expansion and change) If you’re exhausted, rest. If you’re stressed, meditate, sleep or take time off. If you’re worried, distract yourself from those worries, dance them off or write them out. If doubts are running rampant, up your self-care and self-love to counter those doubts. If fears are coming up, be gentle with you, up your self-care and self-love and let them pass by.

Go have some fun and wait for the contraction to pass. It will. And the less significance you give this pull-back, the quicker it will pass. It’s so tempting to go into panic mode, to think that everything is falling apart, to decide that all the good work you’ve done has been for nothing and life’s never going to damn well change for you. But wait! Go have some fun and wait…if this is the contraction after the expansion, it will be gone soon. If it’s not, fun won’t do you any harm as you’re figuring out your next moves.

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