Conversation 3: Acceptance & Willingness

Expansion Explained

Expansion Explained– a recording of Julian McNally (3:14 min)

(“Expansion Explained” by RMIT Counselling and Psychological Services, Six ACT* Conversations, RMIT University is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Meanwhile I’ll explain a little about the skill we’ve just practised.

It is called expansion because you aim to expand yourself to include the difficult feeling or thought. This is the alternative I promised in Conversation 2, to ignoring, suppressing, avoiding, getting rid of or controlling thoughts and feelings.

Of course, if any of those methods are working for you consistently and in the long term, by all means, continue to use them. I would be the first to admit that what I am offering you here is not easy – not usually anyway. Simple, yes; easy no. But if you’ve found, as we discussed in Conversations 1 and 2, that there are some problems that these conventional methods just never deal with satisfactorily, then you may care to try this alternative that I call willingness, acceptance, choosing, including, permitting, allowing etc.

By the way, the reason I have to give it so many names is because the names are a label for the experience, they aren’t the experience. In the same way that you can’t get home by walking on a map, and you can’t feed yourself with just a menu, you can’t use much of what I’m saying by just hearing it, reading it or understanding it intellectually. You need to experience it – which is why I urge you to practise these exercises.

Key Takeaways

So when you practise expansion, there are three simple steps. They are Observe, Breathe, and Allow.

Firstly, you observe the feeling or thought that you are struggling with, paying attention to its characteristics: How does it feel or look? What size is it? How fast is it? What temperature does it have?

Secondly, you breathe in and around the feeling or thought, trying to get yourself as close to it as you can and at the same time using the breath to expand the sense of space around the feeling.

Thirdly, you allow it to be where it is, the way it is for as long as it is. For many people this is the most challenging part of this process. They feel they can’t do anything but struggle with or run away from the feeling when it’s there. Allowing or including is simply a choice that you make.

Hopefully, if you’ve done the standing and sitting exercise earlier in this conversation, you have found that you can choose to do something you don’t want to and can delay or prevent yourself doing something you do want to.

This is the kind of choosing I spoke about earlier when you were choosing to sit or choosing to stand.

And I’ll remind you again that we are not trying to change our level of enjoyment or motivation about what we are doing, rather to change what we do in the presence of difficult feelings.

I said before that willingness and acceptance is simple, but not easy. Given that it’s hard to do, the question comes to mind “Why do all this work?” In Conversation 5: Your Values & Direction of Six ACT Conversations, we’ll be working together to find an answer to that question. Before going on to that though, I recommend you practise the exercises in Conversation 4: Mindfulness & Being Present.


Share This Book