Is there a truer statement than, "the only thing constant is change"? As we observe in nature, the growth process and the life cycle we live in a state of constant change. Just living our lives we are changing internally and live in a world is evolving.
Talking about transitions, we immediately think about change. However change is the event and transition is the internal process. When an external situation happens such as; a job loss, death, divorce, new baby, moving across country, a health crisis or just the even of having a milestone birthday we are thrown into a transitional period. The internal process of transition concerns our feelings about the changing circumstances of our life and our ability to adjust.
The transitional process is normal, just as pass from one chapter of our lives to another. Some of the transitions are uncomfortable, painful and frightening, while others are smooth, easy and welcomed. We go through them many times and despite discomfort, they can be manageable. The challenge is to develop the resilience to embrace them, use the time to grow and reinvent yourself. It is important to understand the transition process and the three stages (1) the ending, which is followed by (2) a period of anxiety and confusion which is called the neutral zone (3) finally, the new beginning. These stages are described in William Bridges book "Transitions," written over 20 years ago. Each of these stages is essential and the sequence is important. Each stage needs its own time and requires courage from us to do the necessary internal work. This process has a natural sequence just as nature flows from fall to winter and then to spring.
Stage 1- Endings
Whether it is a relationship, a job or a life we all would like a good ending, a leaving well, a lovely good bye or a joyful memory. However that is not always the case. It is important if the ending was difficult, that we look at best of "what was" while anticipating "what could be" on the other side. If we struggle with and ending we are unable to see new opportunities and appreciate them. When we experience a dramatic shift in our life, it is a time to ask ourselves some questions. What we have experienced in the past that will prepare us to move forward? What we are trying to hold on to by not moving forward? At this time, rituals such as funerals, celebration and memories are important to help us complete the ending and let go. If you have loss a job or a relationship possibly cleaning out your desk, your closet or even your e-mail file can help you with the process.
Stage 2- Neutral Zone
Endings are not immediately followed by new beginnings. This is the time of "I do not know". This is the time when self-doubt, self-criticism and the waiting takes place. We cannot rush through this period and even though it is unsettling settling, we must settle. It is similar to waiting through the harsh winter for the first signs of spring.
The neutral zone is perfect time for self-reflection, creative thinking and brainstorming. There will be a ebb and flow to this period. You may be confused and achieve clarity, grow, let go of perfectionism and appreciate the process for what it is. This time can be a gift.
Stage 3- New beginnings
The anticipation of a new beginning can be an exciting time and frightening all at the same time. The simple undertaking of something new can you joy and make you feel vulnerable. Knowing that you cannot go back and must reinvent yourself in a new situation can be challenging. If you learn how to handle change and the transitions that follow you can improve the quality of your life. Support along the way from a caring professional can be helpful to keep the emotional components of transition from crashing down on you. By just seeking help you are making progress in your journey through a transitional period of life.