Transition : Letting go of the Old, Dwelling in the Neutral zone, Creating a New Beginning

Transition, is the process of letting go of the way things used to be and then taking hold of the way they subsequently become. In between the letting go and the taking hold again, there is a chaotic but potentially creative “neutral zone” when things aren’t the old way, but aren’t really a new way yet either. This three-phase process-ending, neutral zone, beginning again-is transition. Transition is the way that we all come to terms with change. Without transition, a change is mechanical, superficial, empty.

If transition does not occur or if it is begun but aborted, people end up (mentally and emotionally) back where they started, and the change doesn’t work. In spite of the new boss (or the new house or the new baby or the new president), nothing is really different. When we resist transition, we resist one or more of the three phases of its makeup. We may resist letting go of the old; we may resist the confusion of the in-between neutral zone state; or we may resist the uncertainties of making a risky new beginning. We resist transition not because we can’t accept the change, but because we can’t accept letting go of that piece of ourselves that we have to give up when and because the situation has changed. We also resist transition because it takes longer (often much longer) than change, and so it leaves us in limbo-or in the neutral zone, as I prefer to call it-while a replacement reality and a new self is gradually being formed. Although the change itself may immediately go straight from old to new-you live in one house one day and in another the next-transition always makes us spend a surprising amount of time in that uncomfortable in-between neutral zone. It is a long while after we arrive in the new house before we begin to feel at home there. And looking back, we realize that we felt as though we were in transition during those last weeks in the old house, too. Even the prospect of a change can put us into transition. Another reason that people resist transition is that it sets up “resonance” between the present and painful experiences in the past.

The Way Of Transition: Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments by William Bridges

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