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Transition States – vital and uncomfortable

What is a transition state?

We all experience those times when we are in-between chapters in our lives. It’s difficult and often feels very uncomfortable.

Something has perhaps come to an end, and the next thing has not yet begun. Things have changed, and we don’t know what to do next. We know that things will be different from now on, and a little voice inside is telling us that we need to change, to reconsider, reassess, reflect and review our lives.

We are, in all likelihood, uncomfortable. This feels like a state of limbo, the familiar is unfamiliar, it’s provoking some fear in us. I often call it a wobbly phase. The last thing you probably want to hear is that this is a good state to be in, it’s positive and to be welcomed.

Transition states are conditions where we find ourselves temporarily poised between an old reality that has passed away and a new reality that has not yet fully formed. Between paradigms.

Examples of times when we typically experience these states are when we lose a job or leave a job, a long-term relationship ends, children leave home, a partner dies, we move home. We might feel an awakening as the result of a period of positive activity such as meditating or attending a course, or it could be as the result of a profound insight from reading or from a conversation. It could be because we fell in love.

As we learn and grow, as we allow ourselves to deeply experience life, the insights we gain often lead to major life transitions. Our world view changes and everything around us feels unfamiliar. Despite sensing that all this is positive – we are unsettled and off balance.

Transition is more than change

Change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. It is not those events, but rather the inner reorientation or self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life. Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, the change won’t work, because it doesn’t take.   William Bridges

This quotation pretty much sums it up. A transition is a change that includes the deeper levels of our being and as such we are not the same as we were. It not just our hair or clothes or our weight that has changed – the change is in our minds and hearts. We no longer think the same or see the world in the same way. Transitions involves breaking through our limiting beliefs and questioning long held views and thinking patterns. We develop new perspectives and enter a new ‘reality’ that hasn’t fully settled as our new ‘default’. And yes – it feels uncomfortable. During these trying times we may feel confused, more stressed, on edge or lethargic; we might be more introspective and withdrawn or overwhelmed and unable to focus. We might be over-excited by the change or anxious, worrying about the next step – we are impatient.

What can we do to make it easier?

There is a wealth of evidence to show that these uncomfortable times are necessary for learning and change. We have to move through them, even though they are uncomfortable.

Resistance is futile

A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.  Nikki Giovanni

Embracing change is not easy for most of us – we resist. Even though I know it’s inevitable and often obviously positive, I resist, and grumble at times of change … but not for long. I eventually stop putting my energy into the futile attempt at control through resistance and relax into the change as best I can.

Allow yourself this time, and don’t push away the uncomfortable experience. Just like a caterpillar, keep nourishing yourself and change will happen.

You can’t hurry the transition from one state to another


There can be an important ‘waiting’ phase – a sort of limbo – and it is best not to rush this. Just wait. The new comes in its own time. You will cross a metaphorical bridge and find ourselves in a new place, there will be a different view and a new perspective.

So, the advice is to be patient, don’t rush into things and don’t panic. Patience is not just about waiting for something though, it is an attitude you adopt whilst waiting.

Patience is the key to paradise. Turkish proverb

Patience is poultice for all wounds. Irish proverb

When I was a child I didn’t understand the saying “Patience is its own reward”, but I do now. Once you have been patient and moved through a change or transitioned, you are able to feel joy more keenly, and there is a calm that settles in you. It’s worth it.

Get some help

You don’t have to struggle though it alone. Share your feelings with family and friends and if you retreat sometimes, let them know why.

There is so much advice on the internet and books galore on how to cope during difficult times. Nearly all of these will stress the importance of spending quiet time alone. This is essential. It can be meditating, listening to music, journaling, or walking in nature for example.

You can always contact a life-coach. There are many different approaches. The one I offer aims to clear negative emotions, limiting beliefs and anxieties that hamper your ability to move through transitions. You will develop resilience and tools to help you cope better and thrive on change. What we want is to travel through these times with a certain amount of ease and grace so that we can benefit from them though gaining insights and strength. A coach can help with this.

Have faith

Things will settle down and a new feeling of normal will return. Don’t rush it. Know that you are changing and opening to new experiences. It’s another cycle. It doesn’t have to be dramatic – and perhaps only you will know the full extent of the transformation!

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