“The only constant in life is change”- Heraclitus
Change is a part of life. Change and transitions open up the opportunity for growth and allow us to reach out goals and full potential. Although we know that change is a part of life it is often uncomfortable and sometimes unexpected and unwanted. There is a way to approach change and transitions that allow you to move through them smoothly and reduces emotional distress.
Difference Between Change and Transitions
Although many people use the terms “change” and ‘transitions” interchangeably. There are some critical differences between these two terms.
Change refers to a specific external event or situation such as losing a job, having a child, a big move, losing a loved one. Often one remembers a change as they represent an event and are situational. They are often sudden and can be both positive and negative but often you remember the day.
A change is what often triggers a transition. A transition is not linear or concrete but is instead an inner psychological process that is in response to the change. A transition involves a constellation of feelings, thoughts, and emotions one moves through in response to the change. Often one has to redefine themselves after a big change that can influence one’s sense of self and place in the world. To effectively move through a transition, you have to be willing to dig deeper and see how the change impacts your inner self and your external roles. It can be helpful to know the different stages of a transition to help you integrate the change into your life in a healthy way.
This aspect of transition represents the ending of something. An identity is lost, and one is forced to let it go without completely knowing what is next. No matter how positive the change is a new baby, new job, new house, it always involves grief, and this is what often throws people off. Our society does not know how to grieve, to take time to process the emotions associated with an ending. When it comes to a positive change such as a big move or a promotion one may be confused as to why they are struggling and not just happy right away. People want to jump from the ending to the new beginning without acknowledging the grief and honoring the process of the transition. Many people don’t do this because they have no idea that they are supposed to. They just feel stuck and often experience some shame and guilt for not being happy with the new change.
Have you experienced this before? Have you experienced a big change in your life but once you moved into the transition felt lost? Unsure? Uncomfortable? When you thought you would just be so happy? How did you move through these emotions? Did you resist them? Or acknowledging them?
Often, we resist these emotions which only makes them persist. We believe (often unconsciously) that if we let them in, they will consume us, and we will never be able to shut the door. The opposite is true the resistance makes them persist and become all-consuming. Feelings and emotions will move through you if you let them do so with compassion. So how do we honor the first stage of a transition without getting stuck?
We make room for our emotions and grieve.
A great way to make room for our grief and to help us process the thoughts, emotions and behaviors of letting go is with a ritual. Many people associate rituals with religion, but they are so much more. They represent a process that can help you connect to your authentic self and prepare you for the next stage of your journey. We have little rituals built into our lives that often support us in restoring our self such as daily routines and habits that help us to feel connected and give us a sense of purpose.
Our mind loves rituals it can help us move through the process of letting go. A ritual is when you give yourself the time to move through a change. I am sure you have heard of “rites of passage” rituals that exist universally in different cultures marking major life events. Rituals offer a space for transformation, when we move from before to after, of letting go of parts of ourselves as we move into a new stage of our life.
A ritual will help you take responsibility for the direction and purpose of your life. They can be creative and uniquely special and meaningful for you. One of the most important parts of ritual is taking the time and having the intention to do it. Block off some time and maybe light some candles. You can write a goodbye letter to your old identity or anyone else as you move into a new stage of your life. Honoring the parts that supported you in the past. You could have a funeral for the old you, helping to let go of your identity, or maybe a relationship, friend, job, etc. or could get creative and create a piece of art or music that honors the parts of yourself that you are letting go or to honor and acknowledge the emotions and thoughts that are showing up.
You are always complete and whole but parts of you may be transformed. Whatever you choose, allow yourself to feel what you need to feel, move how you want to move, and say whatever you need to say. When you know you gave yourself the time and space to acknowledge and process the emotions that have been brought up by the change and you have started the process of transition and transformation.
When we don’t take this time, these emotions can haunt us. You may need to do this process a couple of times as you move through your transition but know you have the tools and skills to do it. The next stage is no man’s land.
No Man’s Land
The second step in a transition is no man’s land. It’s the in-between where you have begun to let go of your old role, identity, relationships but you have not yet stepped into the new beginning. You have not yet found your footing. This place can be very uncomfortable for people, sitting in the unknown. We like to control and this resistance and reacting to this space can make it worse.
I believe just know that this is just part of the transition can help you to be more compassionate with yourself and help you to relax. Don’t worry this is not a place you will live but it is a time where you are building the next stage of your life. Learning to relax here and to be okay with this stage can help you to build a solid foundation for your future.
The world is your oyster.
You can reframe your anxiety, uncertainty into curiosity and compassion. Take the time to start to piece together the things that light you up in life. Try new things, meet new people, push yourself past your fear and know this is an opportunity to create something beautiful. You are the author of your life and it is through navigating this transition that you can create a foundation where you can truly flourish and thrive.
Work to stay out of your mind and move into the present moment. Life is happening now the more you can be in it the quicker you will move on to the new beginning.
The successful transition, into a new beginning, is marked by feelings of grounding and new energy. It can help you move in your fresh identity. Though parts of us were always present no matter what stage of life we are in, when we move through a successful transition, we become more of who we really are, we connect more deeply to our authentic self aligning with our true purpose and passion. With the start of the new beginning, you feel established in your new roles, routines, and feel renewed. As we grow and move forward, you may have another change. This may trigger a transition and you will know to honor the process of growth and further self-discovery.
Just as the seasons change so do we, learning to flow with the process and embrace the ever-unfolding pattern of life will allow you to truly thrive and flourish.