Changes and Transitions
“‘Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar...
“I–I hardly know, sir, just at present,” Alice replied, rather shyly, “at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.’”
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
It is no small exaggeration that we've all been undergoing extraordinary change. Individually and collectively. In our personal world. In the communities we belong to. In the big world all around us.
And while so much change at the accelerated pace with which we’ve been experiencing it could be uncomfortable, confusing, frustrating and unsettling for any of us, William Bridges, who when he was alive was considered an authority on change, said the root of our discomfort lies in the distinction between change and transition.
Change is all the external stuff we see and are attempting to do something about, while transition is all about how we’re experiencing change, what’s going on underneath the surface of things for any of us, and the meaning we’re making of it. Most of us avoid transitions and focus on the external changes. The doing rather than the being. But transitions are unavoidable -- those unsettling feelings ultimately confirm this, though some of us have become quite expert at powering through or ignoring our discomfort.
Transitions, as Bridges describes it, has 3 parts: 1) an ending of something that the change requires us to ultimately let go of, 2) a neutral zone -- what I prefer to call liminal space -- in which we have an opportunity to reorient ourselves around what has changed for us, and 3) a new beginning where we’ve integrated the external with the internal and are able to successfully move forward in the full embrace of transition.
Because liminal space is unknown, ambiguous territory, so many of us prefer to move from an ending (if we’re willing to admit that something has actually ended) to a new beginning. Or perhaps we feel that the new has been foisted upon us. We don't want to deal with the so-called neutral zone or liminal space. It's challenging and perhaps even painful or frightening.
I encourage us all to acknowledge and honor the changes we’ve been grappling with and carrying these past few years, when it has felt like time collapsed and sometimes the unthinkable happened.
Sit in liminal space for a while to understand the meaning this has had for you. Converse with a friend or companions about what you’re discovering there. What do you know now that you didn’t know before? What more might you want or need to know about yourself in this transition time? What is it offering you or beckoning you toward?
Spend some time alone in contemplation, sipping tea or coffee during quiet morning hours, or on a long walk or run, or simply being still if that works better for you. If you need one, do seek out a professional who is expert at helping us move through times like these in healthy ways. Capture your thoughts in a journal -- stream of consciousness, just let them flow. Or if you prefer, create an art journal where you draw your thoughts and feelings or make collage -- no expertise required. Doing the latter certainly helped me to work through the transition of cancer -- which was one of my big life changes these past few years.
Do what you need to allow your thoughts and inner wisdom to surface like a beacon, integrating all that’s been happening on the outside and the inside. Perhaps then you’ll discover the new beginning it’s leading you toward.
Reading about change:
Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges PhD with Susan Bridges
Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler
Parable of the Talents, Octavia E. Butler
Holding Change, adrienne maree brown