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Choosing to Expand

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The other day, I was interviewing Sharon for a book I’m writing on handling grief related to financial loss. She lost her job earlier this year in an ugly fashion: she had been led to believe she would be receiving a promotion, but when she walked into her boss’s office, she learned she would be laid off.

“Of course I was shocked,” Sharon recalled. “But then I found out that 10% of our company’s workforce was being laid off at that time due to the economy.”

I asked Sharon how she reacted to losing her job. Being practical, she immediately moved to less expensive housing and trimmed her budget as much as she could.

But I was curious about the emotional aspects of Sharon’s job loss―how was she handling that? What she said took me by surprise and inspired me at the same time.

“You know, Bobbi,” she said, “I chose to expand rather than contract. I saw this as an opportunity to step out of my normal way of being.”

With this outlook, Sharon took a trip to Burning Man, read self-help books, attended some classes, and even landed a role in a community theatre play. All of these activities helped her cope: “I realize that I don’t have to pull inward and be depressed.”

Sharon is a resilient person. She made a conscious decision to learn from her situation. Not only did she bounce back, she bounced forward emotionally and spiritually.

The word “inspire” comes from the Latin spirare, literally “to breathe.” Listening to Sharon’s story was truly like taking a big breath of fresh air.


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Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.