When I closed my office door for the last time, there was both a sense of relief and loss. I was leaving work that I had loved for 30 years. I had no plan and no schedule and looked forward to all the things I hadn’t had time to do. I read for pleasure, walked every day and cleared out clutter. My garden looked better than it had in years. I bonded with our new dog and had more time for family and friends. Sounds great, right? For awhile, it was.
It wasn’t long before I felt restless and bored. Much of my identity was connected to my work and I hadn’t found a new identity. I lacked a sense of purpose. What I missed most was knowing that at the end of the day I had made a difference in someone else’s life.
I was fortunate to find a class that used writing as a way to work through transitions. Offered by the Therapeutic Writing Institute, www.twinstitute.net,the class was based on the book Writing Through Transitions by Leia Francisco. The writing exercises helped me to sort through my feelings of loss and sit with my discomfort at not knowing where I was going. The class helped me to understand not only my current transition, but past ones. As I became fascinated with the topic of transitions I knew that I had found the focus of my future work. I set out to learn as much as I could. I was on my way to defining my purpose.
Like most people, I thought transition was another way of saying change. It’s not. Change is the event that happens. It can be one that you choose such as moving, retirement or getting married. It can also be unexpected such as a change in health or the end of a relationship.
While change refers to the event, transition is an internal process. It’s your reaction to a change that is significant enough to affect life and functioning. The more areas of your life a transition touches, the more unsettling it can be.
A transition is not static. It is a journey, one without a clear destination and no certain time of arrival. No one sets the GPS or gives you a map with a direct route. It’s up to you to look inward and find your own map, adjusting the stops along the way.
In this post I’ll give a brief overview of the phases of transition. Future posts will provide more detail about each phase. I’ll also discuss the value of writing during a transition and provide you with some writing prompts.
William Bridges, a respected authority on transitions, identified three phases of a transition.The first is Endings. During this time of psychological letting go, you can be affected physically, emotionally and spiritually.
The second phase Bridges calls the Neutral Zone. It is the in-between time, when you are navigating the uncertainty between what was and what is yet to come.
When you finally leave the old way behind and have moved through the Neutral Zone, you’ve crossed the bridge to New Beginnings. In this phase you integrate your experience into your life. You have a new way of looking at yourself and your world.
A few key points about transitions:
- It is a process
- It is not linear or logical
- It takes time. You cannot rush the process and need to be patient
- You may be immersed in the change for some time before you start the transition process
I hope this gives you a preliminary understanding of what is involved in a transition. What transition are you experiencing right now? What are your thoughts about transitions?