Understanding the Phases of Life Transitions
Any transition serious enough to alter your definition of self will require not just small adjustments in your way of living and thinking but a full-on metamorphosis. The best way to minimize the creation of new trauma in this process is to understand the elements involved. Whether we notice it or not, our lives are in constant change and learning to develop deep compassion for ourselves during our many seasons can help us experience great joys during challenging times.
All beginnings start with an ending…
All things in this life and on this Earth come to an end. The natural process of entropy entails the reality that everything will eventually fall apart. Just as we watch the seasons come and go, the landscape of our lives constantly sheds layers. It is with this end that we allow for all things new to come into our lives and to redefine our existence. During this time we separate from our old life, and we must grieve our losses. We must express and explore our fears, and confess our expectations about the new version of life. An ending can manifest in many forms: a death, a move, a baby’s coming can signify the ending of young adulthood and so on.
When a caterpillar goes into its cocoon to begin the process of metamorphosis, it submits itself to a complete disintegration of self. So too, when we’re dissolving we may get hysterical, fight our feelings, try to recapture our former lives, or jump immediately toward some new status quo. All these measure can actually make the process more painful and slow us down.
What To Do
Allow yourself to feel the pain, the loss of your past life, let go of the idea of who you once were. This is your opportunity to let go of those painful stories you keep telling yourself. The closest you’ll come to controlling the situation is when you relax and trust the process. When we learn to recognize endings as opportunities as well as losses we are able to celebrate them and open new doors for ourselves. The journey has just begun and there are no shortcuts, the only way out is through.
The Neutral Zone
Enter Limbo Land…
During a transition, the neutral zone is a time of seemingly unproductive time spent. Contrary to popular belief, the neutral zone is actually not so neutral: it is rather a time of re-orientation. During this phase, you’ve let go of the old life but have not yet rooted into the new one. This period can be very uncomfortable, characterized by feeling numb, depressed and out of control. This is the time when we become discouraged and begin to doubt ourselves. The path feels clouded and muddled.
What To Do
Learn to be compassionate with yourself. It’s easy to fall into a cycle of self-judgement during this time. Our modern culture prizes productivity, rarely are we encouraged to take a “time out”. Break the cycle of caring what other people think, and allow yourself to be comfortable exactly where you are. Allow yourself to daydream, to get all starry eyed about the future, and to laugh at the very things that used to scare you.
The New Beginning
Spring Forth Anew!
“Transition, like birth, requires a determined strength for the passage through.”
This phase of the transition process is the step that we almost always would like to skip to straight away, but of course the hero’s journey wouldn’t gain as much depth if we didn’t endure the stormy weather that came along with it. This rebirth is the time in which we embrace a new life and identity, and feel confident, comfortable and excited about the possibilities of growth that a new beginning holds.
What To Do
Expect things to go wrong. That may sound strange and the opposite of what you think should be happening but the truth is that re-forming your life (like anything new, complex, and important) inevitably brings up problems you didn’t expect. Be willing to start over, in order to gather yourself and keep on persisting. Failures are an essential part of progress.