There comes a time in our lives when one chapter of life is ending and the next one is yet to be defined. Then we wander, “What is next?” “Which path shall I take?,” “What shall I do?” For many it happened in midlife but for others it can take place at any stage, most of the time unexpectedly. With stress, confusion and uncertainty, it is also a time of great opportunity and potentiality.
Throughout the course of our lives we experience many endings and many beginnings. Transitions and changes are as natural as night and day. Individuals who face changes, either in their own lives or environment, tend to experience some stress and anxiety. Change provides many challenges, yet it also provides opportunity for growth and to find true inner direction.
This challenging time is time that requires us to have the courage to face our situation with responsibility and maturity. Ultimately, creating new chapter in our life is more than phase of life. It is a mindset and attitude to be able to be creative and to invent ourselves from moment to moment to embrace the real possibility that exist within us.
Allowing the past to haunt us and don’t let go of it makes moving forward very difficult. A successful transition takes courage, and with courage comes change and development. To see a person transforming their life is like watching a flower open. Self-renewal involves letting go of the old and embracing the new. spiral2grow of New York City can help support and guide you with the process of change so you be in a better place.
Overview Of Life Transitions
Life transitions are changes in our lives associated with discontinuity of the past. With each change we must give up the protective structures which have carried us through and then face the new world with a sense of fragility and vulnerability. These times of disruption may force us to test the limits of our ability to adapt. However, with each transition we have the opportunity to learn a great deal about our inner coping resources and to ask ourselves what we really want out of life. This period of self-analysis can then lead to self-renewal and a new phase of stability and eventual equilibrium.
At times transitions are thrust upon us dramatically and unexpectedly. Disabling accidents, the deaths of those in our lives, divorce, the loss of a job, an illness – all of these events mean that we must leave something behind and then adjust to a new way of living, even if we feel totally unprepared to do so. These events can strike without warning and leave us in a personal crisis characterized by denial, anger, mourning and withdrawal. But not all transitions emerge from negative experiences. Marriage, a new job, a move to a new city, the birth of a child, re-acquaintance with an old friend – these events, which may be planned and expected, can also lead us into the process of a life transition.
Sometimes life transitions occur because we find ourselves in a rut. We may have the nagging feeling that something is wrong, although we can’t quite put our finger on the reasons. Our lives are not going the way we thought they would and time is passing us by. We feel that it is time for a change. This can happen at any time (that is, our twenties, our thirties, our mid-life years, etc.)
Examples Of Life Transitions
Life transitions are challenging because they force us to let go of the familiar and face the future with a feeling of vulnerability. Most life transitions begin with a string of losses: The loss of a role, The loss of a person, The loss of a place, The loss of your sense of where you fit in the world.
Life transitions can include any of the following: accidents, buying a house, changing jobs, divorce, getting married, having a baby, leaving for college, relocation, retirement, selling a house, serious illness, significant loss (of a person, job, pet, or anything important) and starting a career.
Ending Of The Old Way
Most of us try to avoid endings – and this may be surprising since endings happen throughout the entire life cycle. Some people deal with the task of letting go by clinging tenaciously to their old ways of living, forgetting that submitting to loss is a necessary condition for entering into a period of self-renewal.
Think of the parent who is not able to let the children grow up and live independent lives. This situation can cause substantial conflict, both for the children and the parent. People sometimes think that if they can hold on to their old ways, they can avoid the pain of change – but in reality more pain occurs by holding on. In contrast, other people deal with the difficulty of endings by dismissing the old as if it didn’t count.
These are the people who see a therapist and announce that they are not interested in looking at the past and want to focus only on the present and future. They fail to recognize that we need closure on the past, a true appreciation of the life lessons we have garnered from our histories, before we can continue with a productive transition. Refusing to look at the past is one way of allowing the past to continue to haunt us – and a condition which makes moving on very difficult. Let go of the old way takes courage and starts a successful transition.
Stages Of The Ending Process
Bridges has identified four stages of the ending process:
- Disengagement – Disengagement does not necessarily mean leaving or moving or not acting in certain way. It means a psychological disengagement from a situation, when one can gain the perspective to begin to define the old ways more objectively. Until we have this break, we are prone to seeing the world in the old way, and this will make a successful transition difficult.
- Disidentification – Not only do our activities change, but we begin to give up our former self-definitions. To do otherwise is to postpone the inevitable, to invite a perpetuation of inner conflict, and to forego the advantages of moving into a different stage of life.
- Disenchantment – Once our situations and our former self-definitions change, we may wonder about what is real and what is not. In a sense the world is made up of many levels of reality. Our old lives helped us to create one way of looking at things – our old reality (“This relationship is for life,” or “I’ll always have this job,” or “My health will last forever”). Disenchantment occurs when we are no longer under the “spell” of the old reality. We question our assumptions and begin to see the world in new ways, to look at other levels of reality. This opens the door to a healthy transition.
- Disorientation – This is a stage of discomfort. Our old situations, self-definitions, and views of reality have been challenged, and we are left confused, with the feeling that we have jumped into the void. We get by everyday by whistling in the dark, taking things a step at a time. Things that we had thought were meaningful are no longer so. In our society we tend to see things as constantly improving throughout our lives, but it may be more realistic to view things as they occur in the natural world – a series of expansions and contractions. We gain and we lose. Day becomes night – and then day again. We need to empty our cupboards before we can fill them up again.
Some people try to initiate a beginning before they accomplish the work of the ending, mainly because endings are so difficult for most people. For example, they may try to find a new relationship before ending the old one. This creates a situation where the old structures, the old realities, are still in place and it precludes accomplishing the work of the healthy transition which can lead to true self-renewal. Before finding a new relationship, the person may find it preferable to spend some time alone, think about what the old relationship meant and what was wrong with it, and gain insight into what he or she truly wants at this stage of life. To do this, we must confront the challenge of the ending, and then move into the neutral zone. The ending process requires courage and integrity to move toward as successful transition.
The Transition Process
When a transition occurs, we need to give up our old definitions of the world, our old ways of doing things, and we are challenged by the process of “letting go.” Endings are difficult for most people, even when we are unhappy with the way things used to be. The known is more comfortable than the unknown. Once we let go, however, we enter a period of feeling disconnected from the past but not yet connected to the present. This is a time which can engender great self-reflection, an assessment of what we really want out of life, and a time to reorient ourselves toward the future. Finally, the new beginning completes the successful transition. This is when we embark on a journey of new priorities and a sense of a renewed future.
Suggestions For A Productive Transition
Life transitions, difficult as they can be, afford us the opportunity to find our true inner direction and engage in the process of self-renewal. Here are some guidelines to make the journey rewarding:
- Give yourself enough time. When our lives are disrupted, it takes time to reorient our inner feelings to the new reality. Although we may feel uncomfortable during a transition, especially in giving up our old activities, to create new activities prematurely without giving ourselves the time to reflect and reorient may only serve to perpetuate the old ways – and a wonderful life opportunity may be missed.
- Arrange temporary ways of living. Although transitions can be very disruptive, hold on to those parts of your life which provide comfort and security. When we feel safe we are able to accomplish the task of the transition more productively. If your transition involves a job loss, find temporary work until you discover what you want to do over the long run. If you have lost a relationship, there is no need to isolate yourself from all of your friends. Hold on to those who can comfort you.
- Tolerate the discomfort. Transitions can introduce confusion and disorientation into our lives. Expect to experience times of anxiety and insecurity. These are natural feelings and an important part of the process, but they are only temporary. Trust in your own ability to see your way through the transition. Above all, realize that using alcohol and drugs will only serve to subvert the process. Face your challenge with courage and integrity.
- Take care of yourself during the transition. A time of transition can introduce stress into your life and you may feel depressed so that you may not want to engage in normal, healthy activities. Do something for yourself everyday which you find comforting and pleasurable. Get a normal amount of sleep and make sure your diet is healthy. If you can, try to get some exercise everyday, even if it is only a twenty-minute walk.
- Find the support you need. A time of transition is a very good time to seek the support of friends, family, community and a trained professional therapist who can guide you through the process in a safe and encouraging setting. Psychotherapy provides a safe and productive way to travel this leg of your life journey.
Life Change Therapy
spiral2grow of New York City provides life changing therapy to heal your mental and emotional pain and transform your health into great health. Life Change Therapy offers two stages of treatment. The first stage of therapy focuses on solving immediate problems. The second stage of therapy explores the aspects of each person’s life journey and story at a deeper level. spiral2grow assists individuals overcome their immediate problems and also helps them discover more joy, passion, meaning, intimacy and depth in their life and relationships.
Often the real problems and solutions are hidden from us by our own self limitations. We will help you uncover these limitations and guide you in discovering an inner strength to make it through difficult times. Below are some of the benefits of using Life Change Therapy to support and guide you through change and growth. We will use a combination of these life skills to create a plan to become your best while overcoming your problems.
Stage One Life Skills:
- Coping and managing stress
- Decreasing anxiety and relieving depression
- Self awareness and self understanding
- Letting go of unhealthy beliefs and behaviors
- Finding meaning and purpose
Stage Two Life Skills:
- Letting go of the past and opening into “Now”
- Creating a healthy lifestyle that embraces a rich and full life
- Opening your mind and heart to love, passion, intimacy and courage
- Trusting your inner self and wisdom
- Transforming suffering into joy
- Becoming responsible, accountable and proactive (rather than reactive)
- Life Transitions Center – www.hospicebuffalo.com – has focused on providing counseling, information, support, and resources to anyone concerned about issues related to loss, grief, death, and living with a life-threatening illness.
- Moving Through Life Transitions with Power and Purpose – A book by Cara Dimarco
- Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes – A book by William Bridges
- The Way of Transition: Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments – A book by William Bridge