One of the key things about transition is that it involves an ending. That’s what sets it all off. William Bridges defines the stages in his book The Way of Transition: Endings, Neutral zone and new beginnings. He also goes on to break down the Endings into smaller components, which I will consider in this blog, as applied to re-entry.
If you don’t acknowledge your endings, it is hard to move through the neutral zone and on to new beginnings, because there is unfinished business. So have a think how each of these stages applies to you where you are in your re-entry right now.
This is the physical separation part of the ending. You’re separated from a familiar place, and you stop receiving the signals and cues that are associated with your host country. These cues tell you how to live, how to be. But – and this is a big “but,” moving away in itself doesn’t get rid of the infrastructure you have put in place in response to those signals. You have integrated these responses for how to live your life into yourself. So it takes a while for that to change once you stop receiving the signals.
Things need to be taken apart. Old habits, behaviours and practices that made you feel yourself in your host culture need to be taken apart, a piece at a time. You need to examine them and work out which are still appropriate. Spend some time unpacking your relationship to the identity you had, and the people or relationships you have lost. And bear in mind here that remodelling almost always takes more time and effort than constructing something new.
This is the inner side of disengagement. You have lost some of the old ways of defining yourself, and are probably experiencing some uncertainty as to who you really are now. Dis-identification is about loosening the bonds of the person you think you are so that you can make that transition towards a new identity.
This is about your discovery that in some senses the world is no longer real. This happens naturally as we grow and change – we realise that what we thought was true isn’t actually quite right and we have to adapt and adjust to what we now know. There is a sense in which the identity you had was in your head, because it no longer applies – your old paradigm doesn’t work any more.
This feeling of disenchantment is a signal that the time has come to look below the surface of what you thought was reality. It’s a sign that you are ready to see and understand more than you once did. But it is also a place where it is possible to become disillusioned – which can lead to going round in circles and getting stuck if you are not careful.
And so you become disorientated. Feeling lost? Confused? A bit like a shipwrecked sailor? Endings can be a time when ordinary things assume a bit of an unreal quality. It can be a meaningful and yet not necessarily enjoyable time. It’s no wonder this transition of re-entry is exhausting – it is totally disorientating at times.
Moving on from Endings
And so you move on into the neutral zone, a place I have talked about in the blog before. A time of nothingness, which awakens the fear of death and abandonment. Before you can find something new and start again, you have to cross this neutral zone, or liminal space. Not an easy place, but one which can bring great riches if you are able to stick with it.
A metaphor for Easter
Whatever your beliefs are, think with me for a moment about the story of Easter. On Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified, there was an ending. A very clear ending. A death. That’s one way of getting yourself thrown into transition. It wasn’t completely expected, even by those who knew Jesus the best.
So, on Friday evening, what is going on for his followers? Think about the phases I just described, some of the thoughts arising / questions you might be asking yourself:
Disengagement from Jesus – facing him not being there anymore, I can’t follow him anymore.
Dismantling – what that was all about? I thought I was a disciple – am I still? I can’t do what I have been doing anymore..
Dis-identifying – who I am now, where does this all leave me?
Disenchantment – was he for real? Do I believe what I did an hour or two ago? – but I thought he would take over the Romans? Did I make it all up?
Disorientation – utter lostness.
And so his followers find themselves in the midst of Easter Saturday – no idea of what things might come to; dark; lost; stuck; no idea how it will play out and whether they made the right choice to follow him or not.
What you cannot see or feel or even hope for during Easter Saturday is that Easter Sunday is just around the corner. Easter Sunday brings new life and new hope. Resurrection to something new – not exactly the same as it was before, but transformed. And no one really saw it coming.
If you are in the midst of Easter Saturday, remember that Sunday will come. It might not appear overnight, but it will come. Don’t stop hoping. And if you’re struggling to hold on to hope, please reach out to someone who can help you hold on to that hope.
12th April 2019