What’s a transition?

What is a transition? I’m drawing from the work of transition expert William Bridges (source below).

A transition has three basic parts, and these can come in any order or mix up or flip back on themselves and repeat. 

  • An Ending. „Letting go of an old situation.“  This is a kind of death. The good old days cannot be returned to once the transition begins, because we cannot un-learn what we have discovered by starting the transition. There is no going back. Some endings are mental and emotional but nothing changes on the outside. Yet.
  • A Neutral Zone. „Suffering the confusing nowhere of in-betweenness.“
  • A Beginning. „launching forth again in a new situation.“ (4) This is a kind of birth. 

There is a place between the kind of death of self and the new birth of self, but our society never ever talks about or addresses this middle space, and we are consequently unspeakably lost in it.  Let’s break that silence.

I am in the neutral zone. 

This is such a terrible, terrible place to be.

I had not recognized it as such until I read the book and had it named. I just felt suffering and I did not know why or where this would be going.   

We feel pressure in our society to „get on with it“ and be okay again, get the new job, move into the new house, find a new partner, take up a new hobby. That all denies the importance of what is actually happening in the neutral zone to let the new beginning have any kind of chance to take, to catch, to make us new. We are exhausted by our ending and we don’t need more pressure.

As an American, I do have a well of optimism socialized in. I like to believe that the new rebirth can be a happier, contented, or at least deeply meaningful place to finally land. It is impossible to see and feel so optimistic from the neutral zone, though. And that is normal, says Bridges. Maybe if we as a society start to talk about, and admit, this bit about the human condition, we would not blame ourselves so severely for the suffering of the in-between place. I’ll talk about each phase in turn, drawing from this book.

The book I am referring to is Bridges, William. 2004. Transitions. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

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