I was waiting for it. I’d even blocked it into my schedule. I’ve done enough ‘expansions’ to know that after stepping into a new space, creating something at my edge or launching something new, I experience an equal and opposing sense of contraction. Since launching new programs, I’ve been waiting for some massive attack of paralysis or closure. Instead it snuck up all stealth and subtle.
This is apparently not something that people talk about. Although I feel like I talk about it quite a bit since I work with creatives, entrepreneurs and development enthusiasts. But I guess a lot of people who are ‘out there’ aren’t talking about the inner storms of their outer offerings. So, I thought I’d let you in on mine. Not because everyone should be exposing this, but because I’ve worked with so many people who make themselves wrong for these rhythms and I’d love to help bring some self-compassion and relief to others. In a recent Dear Chela episode, I answered the question as to whether or not I feel fear in my business. Yes, yes of course I do. I also feel contraction and self-disgust. Take that.
I’ve learned that these experiences are not going to go away for me. And for anyone else pushing their edges, expressing themselves or creating something they hope will meet and serve people, I’d be downright shocked if you didn’t have your own version of the expansion/contraction rhythm.
For the most part, I experience myself as courageous, powerful, productive and effective. But I will say that these are qualities I’ve developed and they don’t come with a lack of terror, doubt, failure or floundering. I’m just not as bothered by these challenging rhythms as I was when they’d take me over and stop me from going after what I was called to go after.
Here’s what it looks like for me when I’m going through creative expansion…
- I’m called. An idea or impulse floods in. I want to say something, create something, offer something. I simply must go to this new place. I don’t usually experience any fear at this point. Enthusiasm takes me into motion.
- I move. I start making something happen. Maybe I map it out or engage the team or gather resources or just start taking action. This feels good. Until it doesn’t.
- I thrash. I haven’t actually figured out what activates the thrashing. Probably something about ‘getting it right’ or not feeling like I have enough energy or the right ‘something’ to get through what I want to create. Enter fear and doubt.
- I stress. Stress and angst are the response to the fear and doubt. Depending on what I’m working on and how risky it feels, this phase can be as unnoticeable as a hiccup or can drag on for weeks. I tend to get more and more focused on the outcome than on the process. That is soul death for me.
- Flow. Somewhere in here, I remember who I am and rest in both my utter insignificance and also the far reaching enormity of my vision and purpose and it all becomes Matrix like. Little effort. Creative Ninja. Deadlines tend to catapult me here.
- Visibility. And out it goes. Mostly I feel relief here and a sense of completion. Sometimes I’m concerned about how what I’ve created is received. Particularly if I’ve taken a risk. I’m more concerned about how it’s received if I know that it’s out of alignment is some subtle way, which is a telling compass for me. But how I’m recieved is usually less interesting to me than what I need to create.
- Contraction or Self-Disgust. Depending on what I’m up to, this comes in different forms. But what is always true is that even when I think I’m ready, even when I’m anticipating it, I don’t see it for what it is.
It’s sneaky. Sometimes I just feel exhausted and want to hide. Other times I cringe at the thought of something I’ve said or done, all nitpicky and perfectionistic and grasp onto what I’m deeming my failings. Other times I go into full blown existential angst, critiquing whatever I’m up to as off base. I feel like I want to burn everything I’ve ever made. Inner drama central. Often I’ll project fears of judgement or rejection onto others and fear loss of relationship from those closest to me. Torture town. Or I just get reeeeaaaaally impatient and petulant.
Part of what’s so sneaky about these contractions is that they’re rarely related to where the expansion’s taken place. For instance, I love my website. I’m stoked about Be Cause. These are great. But a couple of weeks ago I started getting agitated. I felt more and more distracted and overwhelmed. I just wanted to escape. I forgot that I hadn’t experienced my post-expansion-contraction yet.
Here’s what I find most interesting…this is the gold of why I’m sharing about this…
The content of the contraction is irrelevant. What I’ve felt agitated about is not actually the source of my agitation. This is simply part of what happens when I grow. Sometimes it’s subtle. Sometimes fierce. One of the biggest mistakes I can make in a cycle of contraction is interpreting that there’s something wrong with me, with the world or with where I’m at.
If I interpret this natural, predictable phase of creativity and growth as a problem, I’ll pour energy into trying to fix or change myself instead of taking care of myself and stabilizing in the new place I’ve entered.
The trick is not to avoid the places of fear, doubt or shame or even make them go away, but to simply not be bothered by them. If you allow them to distract you from who you really are or what you’re called to do, you’ll likely become identified with their content and begin making choices from this place, which perpetuates the contraction phase.
If you’re wondering what happens next, it all starts over. The contraction and self-disgust release. This happens a lot faster when I don’t give it fuel, but it sometimes takes a bit to recognize what’s happening. Then I settle in, stabilize where I am and wait to be called up again.
What about you? Have you identified your creative and growth rhythms? Do you thrash? Go dark? Hustle? Push? Rage? Hide? Confession time, what’s it like to be you while going through what you go through? I’d love to know…
PS- If this stirred some questions for you about how to work with your own rhythms or anything else, ask me here and I’ll jam with you on Dear Chela.