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Transitions– making sense of life changes
  Transitions, from one stage to another, happen throughout life. These can be obvious such as a job loss or death but many go unrecognised. They are, nevertheless, important to personal growth and development. There are 3 basis stages to transitions:
  1. Ending
  2. Neutral Zone
  3. Beginning

When we begin a new job, get married or move house, these are obvious transitions in our lives often celebrated with a party of some kind. Until we reorientation to the new, however, it will seem strange and even uncomfortable. That is why going back to your old place of work or neighbourhood before you are fully settled in the new can be confusing. We can then, as a result, start looking back in regret when it was, in reality, time to move on to the new however good the old was..

Endings as also celebrated in many ways across cultures. When you leave a job there are good wishes if not leaving gifts to mark the end of that stage of life. Weddings also have presents to mark the” rite de passage”.

When we leave without any recognition, however, we need to mark our own ending in some way. This can be done with a simple ritual or nurturing treat. It is a means to recognise and leave behind where you were and to know more about where you are now going. Sometimes it is not until we are already in the new stage that we turn around and look back and recognise the ending for what it was.

With any endings we need to disengage and disidentify ourselves with the old. There may be disenchantment (a form of denial) and disorientation (confusion). Many times people leave jobs, for example, and when they are established in the new, they look back in criticism of the old. However, without learning the lessons of the old, we cannot make a clean break with it. Nor can we as successfully move into the new.

The neutral zone is a time and place between stages which some find people uncomfortable. This is because there may be a lack of identity especially if the old way felt very comfortable. During this period of transition, time alone may be needed which is more difficult in our culture than those of old. With Native American tribes, for example, the youth would go on a vision quest into the wilderness, away from the familiar, in order to find the new self. Taking time out is, therefore, one way in modern times that we can deal with transitions. It is often during this stage that we take on and form a new role and way of being in the world, free of the old.

Beginnings often involve some continuity with the old. A new beginning happens when the lessons of the old are learnt, accepted and integrated into the new. In other words, they provide the foundations for the new. If the transition is successful, the insights are used in building the new. During this period of building, resistance from the ego is often experienced and behaviour changes but not always. Perseverance is needed in order to push through the discomfort and into the new. Beginnings challenge inner safety therefore new containers need to be developed. This may be in the form of nurturing treats, time alone or external support.

Giving up habits, such as smoking, can also cause disorientation to take place as we begin a new stage without it. This is due to all the time released from not smoking and the place the habit took in life. Other things will fill the gap if we wait. Genuine beginnings start from within us mirrored by external opportunities. Once results start to take place we can then act and help the process of beginning. The issue is timing but not to let this be an excuse for not moving on. Only we can change ourselves and only if we truly want to. Beginnings, therefore, depend on:-

  1. Readiness to change.
  2. Identify yourself with the final result.
  3. Take things step by step.
  4. Enjoy the process of getting there.

“ After enlightenment, the laundry” (Zen saying)

© Copyright, Ankhra Laan-Ra, 2004.

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