Expand When You’re Tempted to Shrink - Christine Kane

I’ve received several emails and comments recently from people who are feeling fearful about money.   Understandable, of course.

As much practice as I’ve had in being creative, conscious, and courageous, I too can feel the tug and pull of the media and the collective mindset.  It says, “Be scared.” “Recession is here.” “Things are bad. You should feel bad, too.” “You’ll never be able to fill your gas tank again.”

Even for those of us who don’t watch television, the message is everywhere – airports, the post office, grocery stores.  I make it a game to see how well I tune it out. But still I sometimes feel the tug of negativity.

And I’m tempted to shrink.

We all know that feeling.  It’s an imploding.  It’s holding our breath.  We believe that if we constrict and contract enough, then we’ll protect ourselves from any external damage.  This is why companies lay people off, restrict the flow, and consequently, stop all creativity — almost guaranteeing a loss of vitality and new ideas.

Of course, it’s not just money that can make you want to shrink.  It’s also any situation where you take a risk, or try something different, or put yourself out there.  I remember performing many shows where the audience wasn’t very big.  I always had to make the choice to expand – even if I wanted to shrink or be embarrassed.

Shrinking restricts flow — and flow is life force and energy. Shrinking says, “I’d rather believe the collective mindset than exercise my own power to choose my thoughts and actions” – and our power to choose what we think is one of the few things we actually can control. Shrinking says, “Mine mine mine. You can’t have any.” – and our connection and flow to each other is what generates wealth.

Here’s a story for you:

My acupuncturist once said to me that when he’s feeling scared about getting patients or having enough money, then he knows it’s time to expand.   He says he does the opposite of what his fear wants him to do.  He held his arms out wide and looked up at the ceiling. “This is how I want to live,” he explained.  He said that when he’s tempted to shrink or contract – that he always chooses to give. He tithes money, he treats a patient for free, he takes someone to lunch, he hires extra help.  Need I say that he’s quite successful?

How are you tempted to shrink right now?  And what would expansion look like?

  • Becky Hunter

    Excellent post! I was just about to write to you with a very similar question… I might still do so, but this was a helpful, gentle, encouraging push to stay strong and not shrink down. Thanks!

  • Serena

    Great post and comments, Christine. A most timely topic! You’ve provided us with a refreshing way of looking at things. I struggle with the push-pull of shrinky and expansive thinking constantly. It’s great to be reminded that we all struggle with this, and that when we want to retreat into our comfort zone, that is the time to forge ahead.

  • Thauna

    Thank you for these words and advice…I often feel the pull to shrink and I’ve been fighting it for a while. I appreciate your advice on expanding when you feel like shrinking. I think I can do that! :o) I used to say all the time, “I can’t do that, I’m poor”…well I’m not. I’ve replaced it with it being choice, I choose not to spend money on that right now…instead of thinking I can’t. And sometimes I do it anyway and enjoy the feeling of the money comes in and I spend it. I’m going to play with tithing unexpected money…I love that! My word for 2009 is ALLOW and I will allow myself to expand when I feel like shrinking. :o) Thank you!

  • Deb

    @Christine – I wasn’t concerned with “working” or not; just sometimes wealth seems to not be the important issue. On the other hand release has been invaluable and has kept me out of trouble with my tendency to defend myself. But expansion has really paid off this week; every day this week.

  • ChickiePam

    Hi Christine,
    Thank you so much for what you do. You touch my life every time I read your blog! I used to read regularly, but have gotten away from that this summer. I have spent my summer in hospitals and going to doctors and helping my daughter heal from cancer. My word for this year is “adventure” and I didn’t get my damn vision board done! 🙂 We have had quite a roller coaster ride and today I was feeling shrinky. I’m not working much and money is tight and school is about to start and..and…and….

    Reading this blog shifted that somehow for me. I am determined to thrive and to avoid “playing small” (although I’m only 4’10” tall, I can avoid that! hehe) So thank you. Another blog in the past helped a lot, too. The one where you said “My body knows exactly what to do”.

    I’ve been writing blogs about my daughter at my website and friends go there to catch up so that I’m not on the phone all of the time. I’ve not said in the blog that we have chosen to avoid chemo and radiation and are instead doing alternative treatments. Those treatments are successful and she is getting better by the day. Still tires easily, but she is no longer on narcotics (went off of them as soon as she started the alternative treatments and is comfortable with plain tylenol). I think I’ll go blog now and come out of the closet on this one. We’ve already been reported to social services for medical negligence so there can be no negative consequences at this point.

    Thank you for being in my life.

  • Tim

    It doesn’t matter that you wrote it… but I will correct that on the blog… sorry about that. The fact is YOU sang it and no one sings it like YOU :-). You could probably read the phone book and the reality of that compliment is still “visible”.

    So thank you again!

  • Christine Kane

    Thanks Tim! I just went to your blog and cleared up one thing here…

    I didn’t write that song! It was written by Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin. And thank you so much for the kind words!

    Thanks everyone for the great thoughts here. Deb – your word of the year is a guideline – an intent. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to “work.” It’s the intention — which i see as the sunlight behind the clouds sometimes. We can intend wealth – but we first have to remove that which keeps us from it. And that can be a hard process at times!

  • Tim

    I have sat here and listened to “Don’t Laugh at Me” continuously for the past 30 minutes and its still playing!!

    Christine – I’ve been following you somewhat for a few years now. An old friend introduced me to you one weekend in Raleigh years ago and then again we traveled to Asheville to hear you perform. Ever since you have brought such inspiration and joy.

    I think I have said it before, but I must say it again – I will give you the best compliment I think I have ever received and that is… “You feel like Truth”. Eternity is visable in you, in your music, your lyrics, your inspiration, your soul! Thank you!!

  • Matt

    I was just listening to “Now that you know” which reminded me that I hadn’t been to your blog for a while. The latest topic was insightful, especially because we just made a very conscious decision to “lighten the load” a few weekends ago. We went through our room and our kids, hauling off 2 truckloads of stuff that we never used but took up our space and energy. By clearing our house and not being pulled into getting stuff just to have it we feel more financially secure, realizing we can live on much less than we think we can. It feels good to simplify, and it felt like we are expanding by shrinking our physical “stuff” and needs (as well as hopefully teaching our kids some control in our “gotta have more” society).

    On a side note, my entire family enjoys your music so much. My 7 and 8 year old girls play “4 legs good, 2 legs bad” no less than 10 times a day 😉 Your lyrics matched with your posts here always help to ground us and take a breath in the chaos. Thanks for helping to nourish these sometimes starved spirits.


  • Brad Ainge


    I had to post another comment because this topic is coming at me from all directions. Isn’t it great how inspiration comes when we open up to receive it?

    I went to a professional networking meeting last night and they showed this video http://www.celebratetraining.com/

    It fits in perfectly with your current post.


  • Thea

    my friend sent me a link to your blog this am. I love thispost, and just went through a situation where I was faced with this choice to expand or shrink. I am a photographer, and took a photo journey to help my heart expand. It feels so much better to have the river flowing.

    Wonderful blog post…I look forward to exploriong your music:)

  • Deb

    @Christine – I am sooo not expansive at the moment. It is a handhold to handhold crawl up the sheer face of this cliff which has many different types of terrain, not just finances and economics. Of course times like this have me wondering what I was thinking when I chose wealth and release for my two words for the year. I don’t see how the dots connect.

  • Deb

    @Amy – As a military wife for 17 years I can identify with your situation whether your family is military or not. Could I suggest that perhaps your soul and maybe your psyche is rebelling against giving away any more pieces to strangers for the moment. And really it’s okay to not “force” it quite so hard and be comfortable for a little while with being less social.

    I am a severe introvert and our frequent moves would take quite a toll on my spirit. There was not just the move and the new neighbors but the farewells and the welcome parties. Too much.

    I used my kids activities grease the skids for easing into new relationships. Things like library story time for parent and tots or the playground activities center or such things create neutral settings where safe conversations can bubble-up about non-controversial topics. And I was better at toeing my commitments for the kids activities and socials than for myself. Of course kids tend to be naturally expansive, there are exceptions but generally they are expansive. Something you might consider.

  • amy


    This hit home for me in a totally different way. A combination of circumstances has had me home since my daughter was born just over 2.5 years ago. Any at-home mom will tell you just how much your world will shrink when you step onto the “mommy-track.”

    Well, we just moved again (our third since DD’s arrival) and so I’m starting the process of connecting with a new community and new friends.

    The voices in my head keep telling me that it’s too hard, that I won’t connect, or find the time to pursue personal goals. These voices get really loud sometimes. I have to push myself to things, to stretch into new social situations, and the more I stretch, the louder the voice screams.

    I don’t know how I counter this sometimes, except the realization that pulling back means the world will pass me by, and I don’t plan to live life in the background.

  • Christi

    This came at a good time. I have been feeling shrinky. So today I did spend a little bit of money supporting independent artists – a friend doing an ezine for charity (http://beetiger.livejournal.com/290091.html), a friend of a friend selling prints of her photographs (http://diosa-en-disfra.livejournal.com/377844.html), and you (http://bemyrecordlabel.com/2008/07/27/first-day-in-the-recording-studio/).

    What I’ve come to think of as the ‘i suck’ voice says that it’s not much money and so it doesn’t matter…or conversely, that it’s crazy to be spending even a little money on these things when our budget is so tight…but the reality is that I feel good about doing it. These are things that nourish the soul.

  • Christine Kane

    (I’m dragging this out into three comment boxes cuz this can get REALLY long! I spent the day in a writing room working on songs – and I didn’t have my laptop.)

    erin – i’m going to address some of this stuff in a blog – but I would start by simply pointing out that you offer SORT OF an either/or thought there. “EITHER I’m “financially in balance” OR I’m throwing responsibility to the wind in all this expansion!” My life view includes expansion in my definition of responsibility – so the two ideas don’t conflict. Your question kind of requires a redefine of what expansion even IS to you – AND what responsibility looks like. It doesn’t have to be Suze Orman shouting at you from the tv screen. 🙂 For one thing, I started tithing (giving money to anyone/anywhere that feeds my spirit) 10% of any UNEXPECTED income I received. That can be scary. After i started doing it, i got a huge unexpected check in the mail. And the first thing I wanted to do was hold tight. But I tithed on it. And little practices like that keep me moving outward and opening up more and more. It’s not an event. It’s a practice.

    Chris – Your website is FABULOUS. And thanks for taking those risks! You’re doing wonderful work in the world!

    michelle – those kind of situations always make me stop and ask myself, “okay, so what is THIS trying to teach me here?” 🙂 Congrats on paying off your loans!

  • Christine Kane

    mark – raising rates/fees, etc is a great thing. Stick to your new rates too! i did the same thing – and I now I get to do less shows (cuz of course, lots of venues went away) and make more money.

    cynthia – i was JUST talking with my VA today about this very thing. We were both saying that we’re doing really well and all is great. And the only time we get freaked is when we’re faced with that ubiquitous undercurrent of fear – be it media, or other people out there. We were laughing about that voice that jumps up and says, “Ohmigod, i’m supposed to be scared and I didn’t even know it!” 🙂

    michelle – i went through the same thing with the house I’m in – and it has been absolutely fine, perfect and amazing. I’m SO glad I expanded in the choice to purchase a house that was more than double the cost of the first “fixer-upper” I had.

    thanks vickie! I loved how you worded that. like poetry!

  • Christine Kane

    Lance – I’d also add that when I feel “small” if I’m in front of people, sometimes I can’t fake “big” or fake “expanding” – but I CAN be very real and authentic and I connect with the audience at a deeper level. it’s hard to explain – but sometimes the situation calls for letting some deep stuff happen before the “expansion” happens. Thanks for your thoughts – and congrats on taking a risk with your blog!

    caren – that sounds like a great book. going to look at it now…

    susana – as someone who has lived through all of those “co-worker warnings,” I say GO FOR IT!!!

    mags – that’s a GREAT way to approach it. martha beck recommends something similar in Steering By Starlight.

  • Michelle

    Perfect timing. The same week that I paid off my student loans, my car died! While I rejoiced at the first (a 10 year goal achieved!), it took awhile to not feel bitter that I will not, in fact, be debt free.

    On the other hand, I discovered some personal power in walking away from dealers who treated me poorly and, in the end, managed to find a car I love that will cost less than my student loan payment…in essence, I get a new car for “free” in terms of my monthly budget!

  • chris zydel

    Hi Christine,

    Thanks as always for your provocative thoughts. I think that you are right. There’s a lot of fear in the air these days, and when people get scared the impulse is always to get “shrinky” ( yes, a GREAT word).

    I tend to be a bit counterphobic and go towards what scares me, kicking and screaming the whole way, and continually asking myself, “Why, why am I always challenging myself to do the big, bad scary thing? Am I NUTS or what?” Especially this year, with all the messages to pull in, pull back, get small, get shrinky, don’t take ANY risks and hope for it all to blow over, I thought that I was particularly crazy to expand in certain areas of my life. But I did it anyway. And it is paying off more than I could even have hoped to dream.

    Yes, the world, life and the economy are in a bit of a tilt-a-whirl right now, but there’s always cracks in the cement for enterprising little blades of grass to poke through!

  • erin

    I, too, love the term “shrinky” – it perfectly describes the way I’ve been feeling lately. We’ve been making a concerted effort to stay out of the consumer debt cycle this year, which requires a lot of planning. On one hand, I feel great that we no longer have to carry around the weight of endless credit card bills. On the other hand, though, it’s so hard to feel expansive in this area when I’ve trained myself to think, “nope, can’t afford it” for so many things.

    I’d love to hear how you and your other readers keep a sense of financial balance. How do you actually put into practice the idea of financial expansion without throwing responsibility to the wind?

  • vickie


    Often it is in the “hard” times we learn what we really need or want. These are the times to look at how we do and what we do and whether the doing is what we want or need. So instead of thinking “lack” we can think abundance by really examining where we are, why we are there and where we want to be and what we want to be doing. There will always be times of “less”; however, those times teach us what we really value. I hope these times always lead me to worry less and spend more time doing what I truly love regardless of what someone is telling me about the economy.

    Thanks for all the wonderful posts. I have shared them with others. They lead me to think more, examine my life and encourage me to continue to pursue my dreams.

  • Michelle

    My husband and are in the process of buying our first home – we are waiting to hear if our offer was accepted as I type this. I am excited about it but yes, I also want very much to shrink back into what is easy, what is known, what is safe. I vacillate between thinking, “we can do this, this is the next great step in our lives” to thinking “OMG WHAT are we thinking we can never swing this.” I am working my postive thinking to the max these days and chanting “if it is meant to be it will happen!”

  • cynthia

    Christine – you most definitely have your finger on my pulse point right now since I’ve been experiencing a little financial anxiety myself. The funny thing is that my family and I are just fine – nothing has changed for us. I think I’ve let the negative news and noisy undercurrent get to me subconsciously making me think that I have a problem myself. I think you’re absolutely right in your approach too, and love the analogy you present.

  • Mark

    Christine – you have your finger on the pulse of the nation. 😉 Awesome idea for a post!

    In his book “The Trick to Money is Having Some”, Stuart Wilde says something like, “There will always be a market for Rolls Royces and fine champagne.”

    With this in mind, I recently raised my fees. It was very tempting to shrink or lower my rates out of fear. But I’m doing the opposite. It feels fantastic and I’m still getting gigs, only better paying ones.

    I’m also applying this to giving when I don’t get. There’s nothing like surprising a friend with an unexpected gift – that kind of thing.

  • Mags | Woo-Woo Wisdom

    Lovely synchronicity for me in this post, Christine :). I’ve been reflecting on the idea of Flow lately, especially related to how it is abundant and expansive. I can feel the truth of that, even as I still work on releasing undercurrents of feelings like not being worthy or feeling insignificant and staying small. The more I release, the more I allow Source energy to flow through me, and the more expansive I feel.

    Sometimes, when I’m struggling to release something, I’ve found it helps me to look at other areas in my life where I may find it easier to be expansive, e.g. cooking something different, or going for a walk somewhere new… anything really that gets the energy moving again. Since everything’s connected on an energy level, when I return to my original issue, I often find that things have eased up a bit there as a result.

  • Susana

    Perfect timing and just the right thing to say and action to follow.
    I want to cut back my ‘regular paycheck’ job by 2 hours a day, so that I actually have time to do creative projects that interest me more and explore ways to generate income from them. I’m getting a lot of, “are you sure you know what you’re doing/how are you going to make it/can you afford it?” fear driven feedback from co-workers.
    I feel that I can’t afford to wait for a better economy or retirement (at least 10-15 years away) in term of my psyche, emotions, and creative energies. I find bankruptcy of of one’s creative energies and denial of soul urges much worse in the long run than living through an economically frugal period.

  • Caren

    That final paragraph, about how your acupuncturist expands, is similar to what I’m in the midst of learning from Busting Loose from the Money Game. The first time I read the book, I was nodding “yes, yes” and relating, and could see the truth in what he was saying. THEN I read about the author, and how he doesn’t offer money-back guarantees, and he offers incredibly high-priced counseling and seminars, which turns me off…

    THEN I decided to take what I could use, and leave the rest behind. I do not have to jump on the Robert Scheinfeld bandwagon to gain value from his book. The process he teaches is very effective – at least, at my early, early stage of the game, I feel better! Which is very helpful, and the key to being IN the flow, rather than judgy about the lack of flow. I’m excited to see where it might lead!

  • Lance

    I think we’re all tempted to shrink sometimes – no matter how strong we think we are, or how brave we act. For me, I notice this most in taking steps outside of my comfort zone. Probably related to fear of failure. Or being seen as different. One thing I did recently was to start a blog, and that has been a step out of my comfort zone. What I have found is that once I rose up to this desire (instead of shrinking and just depressing it into the back of my brain), I have been renewed with a sense of purpose in my life! And with that also, has come a feeling that I “can” try new things – even knowing that some won’t work out – and I can learn and grow. It has been very liberating.

    I also have felt this way about shrinking when I have to get up in front of groups of people to talk. I’ve found that when I’ve shrunk down, and then correspondingly not performed to my best ability, it hasn’t been as engaging to the group I’m involved with. When I’ve rose to the challenge, and really give it my all (even though I may have felt like shrinking), is when it usually goes the best.

    “our connection and flow to each other is what generates wealth” – I love this Christine. And in this I see wealth not only as dollars, but also the wealth of a purpose driven life (friends, family, health, life, etc.). From what I’ve read here over the last few months, I’m sure that’s the “wealth” you’re describing here as well.

  • Christine Kane

    m. – it sounds like you’ve got a great view of the saboteur voice that stops you in your tracks. once you know it’s there – you can name it and give it a little funny voice and a personality. (I have this vision of this big bus I drive – and all these beings/voices are along for the ride. One of them is this depression-era heavy-set Polish grandma type with saggy nylons. She’s always warning me about the cost of things. If it were up to her, I’d never do anything risky or even walk into a Starbucks, for that matter.) Name that voice – and make it kind of funny!

  • Christine Kane

    Brad – that’s very cute — and I’m impressed with your video capabilities (and your guild guitar! i love guilds.) it’s amazing how doing a little expansive creativity can begin to shift you and make you feel better. keep us posted. (i’d also assign you a new song to write called “I’m so freakin’ hire-able!” That way you’re not focusing on “need.” 🙂 )

    bonni – i like the word “shrinky.” and i’ll think about your question and perhaps write a follow up post about it.

    l. – excellent! i like to make morning pages into something more than just my feelings and emotions. turning them into possibilities changes the scope of my day. i know it will help!

  • m

    and its ‘all too expensive for me’. I’m often cutting myself off from opportunties because its all too expensive. I spent YEARS stopping myself from buying a super8camera because I was convinced in my head it would cost at least £300 to get one – it actually cost me £40. I’ve been freaked out about the cost of publicity for some courses I’m thinking of holding in the autumn and spoke to a friend about it last night and it could potentially cost HALF of what I thought it could cost.

  • l.

    This is exactly what I needed today. I have been feeling very shrinky also, even when people are saying “expand!” when I tell them what I want to do. I think my morning pages today will be about how I can expand instead of shrink, because this is something I really want and need to work on.

  • bonni

    I love this. I’m feeling very, very “shrinky” lately. It’s money (as frequently is the case with so many people). I feel like penny-pinching and hoarding, and I know this isn’t a good attitude to have.

    I’m still giving to charities and I’m still trying to keep myself open to spending money on things I want/need, but I just don’t feel it, you know? Once I give the money away or spend it, it’s okay, but when contemplating, “Should I spend this?” the answer is almost always, “Oh, better not!” and a big list of stuff we have to pay for starts scrolling past….

    So HOW do you expand when you feel like this? How do I open myself up and say to the Universe, “I’m not worried, I know there is unlimited abundance, bring it on!” I mean, I can say it, but how do I actually PRACTICE it?

  • Brad Ainge

    Hey Christine,

    Good timing on this post! I’ve been facing those same fears lately and shrinking by the minute. So yesterday I turned it into creativity and produced a video to express my frustration with making a career change. I don’t know if it will get me any closer to a job, but it sure made me feel better! 🙂

    Here’s the link http://strainge.blogspot.com/2008/08/job.html