HD 205, Fall 2019 Stretch Application 3
Intention: Practice applying and incorporating the ACT principle of expansion.
Mechanism: Engage in the stretch outlined and reflect on the experience.
Part 1 — Stretch
Making choices in alignment with identified values is not always easy, especially when we find ourselves triggered by uncomfortable sensations and emotions. Part of emotional agility is recognizing that emotions, even the most uncomfortable or seemingly overwhelming ones, are not bad or unhealthy. It is the struggle with the emotion that can sometimes create problems.
In The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris states:
Without struggle, what we get is a natural level of physical and emotional discomfort, depending on who we are and the situation we’re in. In ACT, we call this “clean discomfort.” There is no avoiding “clean discomfort”; life serves it up to all of us in one way or another. But once we start struggling with it, our discomfort levels increase rapidly. And all that additional suffering we call “dirty discomfort.”
-Happiness Trap, p. 87.
Please consider this statement and review the chapters on expansion (10-16) prior to taking this stretch.
Begin to pay particular attention to your emotional state and choose a time to work on this stretch when you feel a little uncomfortable (perhaps stressed, afraid, angry, disgust, shame, worried or overwhelmed). Then use the Expansion practice outlined below to approach and work with painful emotions. Then record your experience in the table below. At a minimum, please record up to 3 separate scenarios. You will be submitting your completed log.
Expansion is a mindfulness practice that can be used with any content of mind, but is typically applied to unpleasant, uncomfortable, or upsetting life circumstances. Expansion invites us to Notice, Breathe, Make Room and Allow difficult sensations, feelings, urges, desires, etc. (for simplicity, we’ll refer only to emotions here). Approaching painful emotions in this way can transform them into more workable, revealing experiences. Practicing expansion can also prevent unhelpful responses, such as rumination, avoidance or acting out. When difficult emotions arise, practice working with them by recognizing, accepting, investigating, and not identifying with whatever is present.
Work with a difficult emotion when it arises by practicing these four steps of expansion:
STEP ONE: Notice •The first step to working with a difficult emotion is to recognize when it is present. •Recognizing involves pausing and asking yourself, “What am I experiencing right now in my body, thoughts, emotions, and situation?” •Recognizing prevents denial or avoidance because you are bringing what is unpleasant and perhaps uncomfortable into your field of awareness so that it can be seen and dealt with. •It is important to note that just because you acknowledge something is present does not mean that you agree with or support it. You are simply observing, without judgment, what is present right now. •It is also important to be aware of any thoughts or emotions, such as resistance or aversion, that may arise when you recognize what you are experiencing.
STEP TWO: Breathe •The next step in this process is to breathe into your experience. •Taking a few conscious breaths can assist with calming the body and mind. •Breathe slowly and deeply and imagine your breath flowing into and around the sensation(s). STEP THREE: Make Room •After working with recognizing what is present for you, begin to create space for this experience. •It is crucial to bring an attitude of kindness, curiosity and compassion to your investigation. •Find a space for three primary facets of your internal experience:
-Physical sensations: Notice what sensations are present in your body, including their textures, layers, changing nature, and anything else.
-Emotions: What is the basic feeling tone of your experience (positive, negative, neutral)? What emotions are present? There may be many different emotions present. Ask yourself, “What does this feeling want from me right now? What is it trying to tell me?”
-Thoughts: Notice what thoughts are passing through your mind. Perhaps ask yourself, “What stories am I believing right now?”
•Opening to intense feelings can be difficult. Please go slowly and only participate to the degree that you feel comfortable. STEP FOUR: Allow •Acceptance in this sense means to acknowledge what is present in this moment and to allow what is already here to be here. •Notice any subtle or unconscious forms of resisting your emotions, such as trying to “accept” them so that they will go away. See if you can truly allow what is here to be here, and let the emotion(s) run its course and leave naturally. •When practicing acceptance, it may be helpful to say to yourself phrases such as “Ah, this too,” or “allow,” or “let be.” Non-identification means not believing that your emotions “belong” to you, or labeling them as “me” or “mine.” •It involves not taking emotions personally, and understanding that “your” emotions are not really yours. The emotions you experience are also not unique to you, but instead are shared and experienced by all humans. •It can be helpful to label the emotion you are experiencing as something that is present in this moment but not enduring.
EXAMPLE: Instead of saying, “I am an angry person,” you could reframe it more accurately by saying “Anger is present right now,” or “I am experiencing anger right now.”
•This practice will take some time. Please be patient with yourself and proceed at a pace that is comfortable for you. Again, be sure to practice conscious breathing throughout the process. Part 2 – Stretch Reflection: After engaging in any stretch, it is important to reflect on the experience to assess its impact and increase personal awareness. Please reflect on the questions below and answer each of the following prompts. A recommendation is that the total length of all three responses should be approximately 500 – 600 words in length. Prompts:
1. What did you experience while paying attention to your emotional state and practicing expansion?
2. How did your experience relate to the Harris quote cited above?
3. Describe, from your own experience, what it means to have a healthy relationship with your emotions and discuss why this might be important for you.
Grading: This stretch application will be graded based on the following rubric:
Achieving Developing Struggling
• Provides a detailed, in-depth description of the experience of engaging in the stretch.
• Thoughts and feelings are communicated with a high degree of clarity.
• Emotional Agility log is completed.
• Provides a description of the experience of engaging in the stretch but lacks detail or depth in explanation.
• Thoughts and feelings are communicated with some clarity.
• Emotional Agility log is partially complete.
• Provides a limited or confusing description of the experience of engaging in the stretch.
• Thoughts and feelings are communicated with limited clarity.
• No Emotional Agility log is submitted.
0-2 points Prompt 2
• Makes highly effective connections between quote and own experience.
• Shows thorough understanding of the quote.
• Analysis is logical and insightful.
• Makes vague connections between quote and own experience.
• Shows some understanding of the quote.
• Analysis is vague or generic.
• Makes limited connections between quote and own experience.
• Shows limited understanding of the quote.
• Analysis is severely limited or confusing.
• Makes highly effective connections about relationship with emotions and own experience.
• Analysis is logical and insightful. • Provides specific and accurate
detail to support ideas.
• Makes vague connections about relationship with emotions and own experience.
• Analysis is vague or generic. • Provides moderate level of detail
to support ideas.
• Makes limited connections about relationship with emotions and own experience.
• Analysis is severely limited or confusing.
• Provides limited detail to support ideas.
Emotional Agility Log Review chapter 13 of the Happiness Trap. Over the next 48 hours become vigilant about noticing circumstances where you are “triggered” or where emotions and physical sensations take your attention away from the direction of your values. When this occurs, practice the four steps of expansion and then record your experience in the table below. At a minimum, please record up to 3 separate scenarios. An example is provided below. Please submit your completed log with the stretch application essay. You can type your answers on a separate piece of paper.
What was the
Observe What was
happening inside me? (body &
happened next as I
opened my awareness?
Create space What
happened as I made room for
Allow How did I let what’s happening “just be” as it is?
Example: On a
group project, I
received a draft from one of my classmates
with so many
errors that by the time I
corrected the text I
could hardly see
I felt anger and disappointment—
hot, burning, tension, tightness in the shoulders.
I noticed the physical
tension and heat. I
remained with the
sensations without trying to
resist or deny them.
I felt a lot of energy moving
throughout my body. All of my focus was
on my anger.
This took some time, but I noticed that the heat dissipated and I had some clarity about how to work better with my classmate.