“Disenchantment, whether it is a minor disappointment or a major shock, is the signal that things are moving into transition in our lives.“ ~ William Bridges
In its most fundamental form transition is movement through a period of change, usually (but not always) set in motion by an external event. We must undergo a certain degree of inner transformation during a transition in order to bring a healthy synthesis back between our altered external world and who we are and our way of being. For all of us, life has many transitions. Some happen naturally and some we deliberately set in motion. They can be planned or sudden, rocky or smooth, slow or quick. As long as the road isn’t too bumpy and it’s going in the direction we want it to, we’re happy! We can handle the bumps just fine.
When the opposite is true it’s a different story. When adversity befalls us and we are thrown into a transition that we did not plan and do not want, we are faced with a challenge that can at times seem impossible to overcome. We are whisked off the road we know, taken away from our familiar world where the directions are clear, and put on a treacherous path that leads to who knows where. Transitions like these are the toughest life has to offer. The good news is that the force of life that spurs us on is resilient beyond imagination! With the support of others and a nurturing and caring approach toward ourselves we can keep our resilience strong as we move along a healing path to a renewed life.
We like to have a certain level of structure, predictability and consistency in our daily lives, and we come to depend on that. It allows us to create order and routines and to function well within them. Radical change shatters all that. Routines, roles, relationships and assumptions are all disrupted to some degree. It is as if you have been transported to a foreign land that you didn’t know existed. Never having been there and knowing nothing about it, you can’t understand life there until you gain some experience with it. It’s a frightening place at first, full of unknowns. We are on shaky ground and we don’t like it!
More than anything, we want to restore stability and structure and have things begin to make sense again. We want to get through the transition and be comfortable in our lives. Formulaic, step-by-step guides are helpful in that they provide a sense of what can be expected. They reintroduce an element of predictability into the confusion and they give you some sense of direction as to how things will proceed. Two good models are William Bridges’ three part model and Virginia Satir’s five part change process model. (Information about them is readily available on the Internet.)
Models of transition provide a general frame of reference. They are not personalized maps that show you your route. You are unique and will chart your own course, seeking, learning from and using knowledge you find helpful. And so, a word of caution: becoming too invested in the steps or stages laid out in any model can detract from the process. Healing always requires us to look inward and seek direction from within. Being over attentive to “keeping with the program” can cause disappointment and doubt if you stray from the formula and may even leave you feeling defeated.
Rather than an ordered, linear step progression, transition is more of a gradual falling away of the old and assimilation of the new. This happens in a continuous back and forth motion like the movement of the tides coming in and going out, in a natural, organic ebb and flow. During the process:
- losses are mourned
- emotions are released
- fears are dissolved
- understanding is deepened
- insights are gained
- possibilities are brought to light
- interests are sparked
- risks are taken
and newness is created. All of these things are weaving in and out from each other in varying intensities, depending where you are on your journey. This gradual blending or remixing is how transition happens and as it does, the domineering shadow of the past fades and the vibrant light of the present shines more brightly.
There is no prescribed time schedule for transition. Ultimately you do it in your own way and in your own time. If you feel stuck at a certain point and this is adding more distress to your life, then it is wise to get help with that. As you let go of your pain, your movement forward becomes stronger and stronger. You may have stalls and setbacks along the way but the option to start up again and carry on never expires. It is only one decision away. Have patience with your process… and yourself!