A Coaching Power Tool Created by Natalie Beauchamp
(Transformational Coach, CANADA)
Trust yourself enough to let go, shift, and uproot. Give yourself permission to shed who you use to be. You are allowed to start over and find new ways to bloom into your best self ~ Alex Elle
Noun: The process of becoming smaller
Synonyms: Shrinking, reduction in size, shrinkage
Noun: The action of becoming larger and more extensive.
Synonyms: Growth, increase in size, enlargement, extension, augmentation, development, evolution
Exploring the state of Contraction
Most of us at some point in time in our lives have lived in a state of contraction. Through my own experiences, it seems as though we continuously ebb and flow between contraction and expansion, and that one can not exist without the presence of the other. Gaining awareness around when and how we are living in our contracted state seems to be the catalyst that propels us forward into the transformative space of expansion.
To better understand the state of contraction, let us look at the different ways in which it appears to manifest in our every day lives:
- As a state of fear and anxiety
- Absence of self-worth or self-love
- An absence of confidence
- Staying small to feel safe
- Not wanting to leave our comfort zone and therefore not experiencing any growth
- Leading a mundane and unfulfilled life
- Afraid of change or making big decisions
- Fear of speaking up or speaking one’s truth
- Holding onto old habits and thought patterns (ex: I’m not deserving/I’m not good enough)
- Having your underlying beliefs direct your life
- Abandoning yourself for the happiness of others
- Not wanting to look at what’s keeping you stuck
- Not in touch with your true self or trusting your true self
- Fearful of being too big or too much for others
- Fearful of shining too bright or making others uncomfortable
- Fearful of judgment from others, but also stuck in a loop of self-judgement
One of the most significant reasons and perhaps the most debilitating reasons we find ourselves in a state of contraction is that it’s what we know and where we find comfort. It may have been used as a safety mechanism as a child, and now as an adult, we are holding onto the underlying belief of “I need to be this way in order to survive”. Although in the present moment, it is actually creating the opposite effect of what it was originally intended for.
Amanda found herself 10 months into a long-distance relationship with Jake. Although she found the distance between them challenging at times, she loved Jakes company when they did get the opportunity to spend some quality time together. The relationship started out strong, with lots of open communication and deep conversations about the future and what that might look like for the two of them. But over the last couple of months, something had changed. Amanda was feeling a sense of heaviness along with feelings of anxiety.
At the beginning of the relationship, Amanda shared that she wasn’t sure what the future might bring but she really wanted to focus on finishing school before making any decisions about moving closer to Jake. She also was quite clear that she didn’t enjoy the big city living and that she was hesitant in moving to a big city like the one Jake lived in. As weeks turned into months Amanda and Jake continued to share ideas about their future together and in doing so, she noticed that Jake was very excited to start a life with her and hoped for her to move in with him once her schooling was done. Caught up in the excitement for the potential of this relationship to be “the one” Amanda agreed to move.
There were talks of buying a house, getting married and having children. Since they were both nearing their 40’s Amanda thought that maybe they weren’t moving too fast, that perhaps this was just the pace in which relationships unfolded when you reached middle age. But there was always something that didn’t feel quite right about it. As time passed, she continued to go along with Jakes ideas about their future, secretly hoping they would become something that she also really wanted. Truthfully, Amanda was worried about buying a house with Jake since they had never lived together. She also had never really wanted children, but seeing how important this was for Jake she tried to convince herself that this could be something she wanted as well.
They continued the conversations but Amanda was no longer being truthful with herself or with Jake with what she needed and what she wanted out of this relationship. Time continued to pass and Amanda found herself in a severe state of anxiety and stress. Somehow, she had abandoned her own wants and needs in order to please someone else. She had begun to put Jakes happiness before her own. She was no longer the driver in her own story, which was a pattern she was all too familiar with. She felt like she was shrinking herself so that she didn’t hurt Jakes feelings, and she was allowing fear to take over the insights of her intuition. She was no longer being true to herself and found herself feeling smaller until she felt suffocated and fully contracted with the decisions she had made within her relationship with Jake. An awareness was setting in, she just had to figure out what to do with it… (to be continued)
Exploring the state of Expansion
Expansion is indeed the very opposite of Contraction. One could say that it’s like taking a deep breath of fresh air, a sense of filling our lungs in order to break free from the ever restricting state of contraction. Let us now look at the different ways in which Expansion may manifest in our everyday lives:
- Trusting your intuition
- Living up to your fullest potential
- Open to change and the growth that accompanies it
- Being open to receiving
- Being open to new adventures
- Trusting in yourself, your journey and where you are headed
- Clearer thinking around future goals and seeing a clearer path to accomplish them
- Open to self-transformation and self-realization
- Allowing yourself to shine bright
- Embracing your authentic self
- Being Vulnerable
- Valuing deep love and compassion for yourself
- Being Courageous
- Feeling a sense of Freedom
- Opening up to new ways of living and/or thinking, a rebirth of sorts
- Acceptance of who you truly are
The Expansion state is really about trusting yourself, trusting your intuition and being in the universal flow of life. A beautiful state to be in, but not always easy to get to. How does one transition from Contraction to Expansion? By gaining awareness of where and how they are contracting, trusting in themselves, and finding the courage to continue to move forward.
Case Study Cont’d
As Amanda gained this new awareness of where and how she was shrinking herself within her relationship with Jake so many things became clear. She realized that her anxiety was trying to tell her something all along. She realized the fear and stress she had been experiencing about the future was because she wasn’t being true to herself. Her anxiety was really her intuition trying to sound off alarm bells (“You’re abandoning yourself!” it would have yelled), and over these last couple of months, she was trying to push aside all the ways her body, mind and soul were trying to get her attention. She realized that staying in this relationship would be going against what she truly wanted. How could she be honest with Jake if she wasn’t being honest with herself?
Her awareness of this contracted state was just what she needed to move forward into the direction she now knew she had to go. She was going to speak her truth and allow herself to be heard and seen. She was going to stay true to who she was and what she needed to do in order to live a fulfilled life. She found the courage to speak her truth to Jake and he was grateful for her honesty. Knowing that they both wanted different things out of a relationship made it easier for them to go their separate ways. In the past, Amanda would have allowed such a breakup to spiral her back into a contracted state, but knowing she was following her intuition and staying true to her Authentic self she continued to unfold beautifully into her new expansive state.
Other ways to compare Contraction vs Expansion
Another way to compare Contraction vs Expansion is to look at some different thoughts and beliefs that may be associated with each state. Contracted thoughts and beliefs carry a heaviness to them, whereas those associated with expansion carry a positive and uplifting lightness to them. Notice the difference in how you feel when reading through the thoughts and beliefs that accompany each state.
- I am not good enough
- I am not smart enough
- I don’t deserve to be happy
- I don’t fit in
- No one understands me
- I am too fearful
- I am flawed
- I am weak
- I am powerless
- I will never get out of this rut
- I can’t______ (sing, dance, play sports, write)
- I will never have enough money
- I will never be successful
- I will never live a fulfilled or purposeful life
In order to move these thoughts and beliefs into a state of expansion, we need to bring an awareness to our client on what’s keeping them stuck, what old beliefs they are hanging onto, what fears they are not willing to let go of, and what old stories they are replaying over and over again that are keeping them small and comfortable.
- I am an Amazing Human Being
- I am strong
- I am powerful
- I am intelligent
- I am worthy of Happiness
- I am courageous
- I am a survivor
- This moment will pass/This feeling will pass
- I am capable of living out my dreams
- I live an abundant life
- I trust myself
- I trust my intuition
- I am grateful
- I am worthy of living a life of purpose
- I am capable of doing hard things
- I am talented
- I am loved
Exploratory Coaching Questions
As discussed above, movement from contraction to expansion occurs once the client has gained awareness and a better understanding of their contracted state. Examples of exploratory coaching questions that may help create this awareness could be as follows:
- Where in your life are you feeling stuck?
- What areas in your life are you playing small?
- What is keeping you from moving forward?
- What would your ideal life/career/relationship look like?
- What’s missing for you at this moment?
- What thoughts or feeling are lurking in your shadows?
- How are these thoughts/feelings serving you at this moment?
- How honest are you being with yourself?
- What beliefs or judgments would you need to let go of to move forward?
Once the client is able to see how they are living within a contracted state and start to become aware of the reasons why they can then create a sense of trust and courage within themselves to move forward. Some exploratory coaching questions that may help them within this stage could be as follows:
- How would you be living if you had no fear?
- How do you need to be supported at this moment?
- What are you willing to let go of in order to move forward?
- What examples from the past do you have where you were fully trusting yourself?
- What does trusting in yourself feel like?
- What does being courageous mean to you?
- What does the embodiment of courage feel like?
- How do you think you can use trust and courage moving forward?
- What are the positive qualities you see in yourself?
- How can you bring awareness to these qualities in your everyday life?
- What is one first step you feel comfortable taking to reach your goal?
- What are you willing to commit to making this change?
Contraction + Awareness = Trust + Courage = Expansion
- In what areas of your life have you witnessed yourself contract?
- In what areas of your life have you witnessed yourself expand?
- What helped you move forward from contraction into expansion?
As coaches and within our coaching practice we are also forever flowing between contracted and expanded states. Through my own experience, on some days, I have witnessed myself full of confidence and ready to take on the coaching world one client at a time, and on other days I have found myself doubting my capabilities. Fear creeps in before some sessions. Can I do this? Am I even good at this? Who am I to think I can help people change their lives? Again, Awareness is key when this contracted mindset tries to take over. If we are able to notice when it is trying to get comfortable within our thoughts, we can simply acknowledge what’s going on and reframe our perspective into one of an expanded mindset. Different ways we can practice this is through the use of journaling, visualizations, mirror work, mantras, and again trusting ourselves and moving forward with courage into that beautiful state of expansion. The journey of self-work and self-realizations that go along with it are always worth the effort.
- In what areas of your coaching have you felt yourself contract?
- In what areas of your coaching have you felt yourself expand?
- How have you been able to transform your contracted coaching state into one of expansion?
- What tools can you use to move from Contraction to Expansion within your coaching practice?