Transitions. We all have them. We don’t talk about them. We need to.

Post in: Englisch

Transitions are uncomfortable.  They just are.  There is no way to whitewash or sugar-coat the pain, sometimes agony, of a transition.

A few days ago, I was looking for a cookbook on my shelf.  And I pulled out with it — as if by an invisible hand — my mother’s book Transitions by William Bridges. I took it from her home in 2016 after her death.

Here it is 2019 and I need this book at this moment.

I am in transition.

Bridges was an English professor who quit in the 1970s to teach workshops on transitions. He sees transition as „the natural process of disorientation and reorientation marking the turning points in the path of growth.“ (4). He reassures with images from nature:

It seems nothing is happening, but then the eggshell cracks or the buds blossom.

Changeis not transition.  Change means outer circumstances are changing. Change is situational. Transition is the process of how a change may affect us inside, change who we are. 

Transition is psychological. 

We can change jobs or partners without learning from the past and showing up differently the next time.  Those are not transitions.

We can also have an internal transition – thinking or feeling very differently about something, realizing something about our lives does not fit us anymore, and that inner transition can cause an outer change. „Without a transition, change is just a rearrangement of the furniture.“ (xii)

Any which way it comes, whether a transition is triggered via a change (someone leaves us, we get fired, we move cities or countries), or a transition begins and initiates change (we are miserable and we cannot go on the way we have been so we disengage and disidentify with that old life), there are some commonalities in adult development to transitions.

We also struggle if we don’t know what the transition means.

Bridges puts it, „as if we launched out from a riverside dock to cross to a landing on the opposite shore – only to discover in midstream that the landing was no longer there. (And when we looked back at the other shore, we saw that the dock we had left from had broken loose and was heading downstream).“

We are used to being mechanical in our modern world, like machines that plug in and function. If we are „broken“ it is as if we should take ourselves somewhere, to a therapist or doctor, and get some drugs or some treatment and be better, fixed, repaired, and able to function again.


I appreciate this book because Bridges challenges this mechanistic idea about life, human functioning, „mid life crises“ and lock-step life course stages. He goes organic with the processes that he is describing and the way internal and external changes and events are handled within us as human beings, complex and unique, and yet – reassuringly – because we are human, we can find some patterns and some reassurances from myth, ritual, nature, and the experiences of others.

In the next blog, I will write about what a transition is.

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