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Expansion v. Depression – Round 2

ACT, expansion, depression, anxiety, mindfulnessIn a previous post, we explored how expansion can indicate an exercise in which we expand our internal experience to include the world around us, thus allowing us to get out of our emotional tunnel vision.

In this post we will explore a meaning of expansion that aligns itself with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). From this perspective, expansion means opening up and making room  for painful emotions and experiences. It allows us to stop struggling with the painful emotions/experiences and gives them some room to breath.

Essentially, we give them the room they need to simply “be”. We do not engage with them per se, nor do we allow them to overwhelm us. We give them the space they need, and nothing more. We open up to experiencing the emotion in its totality (body, mind, spirit).

This does a couple of things for us. First, it allows us to redirect the energy that was consumed by trying to control our emotions to other areas of our life that are more value focused. Second, it makes it easier for the emotions and feelings to come and go, to move about, and even dissipate.

The purpose of expansion is not, however, to eliminate negative emotions or sensations, but to allow them to “be” which then allows us to re-engage with our life and what we find important. A great question to ask during expansion is, “Can I still ___________(insert a value driven activity), while I am feeling __________ (the emotion or sensation).

Example: Can I still go to work while I am feeling depressed.

We cannot pack down our emotions, nor can  we allow them to overwhelm us. Expansion allows us to feel what we feel, but without getting overwhelmed or ignoring our painful emotions/experiences.

Thanks for reading, and be well!

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