Whether we like it or not, everything alive is always a “work in progress.” Nothing living remains absolutely stagnant; the truth is that we humans are continually changing on numerous levels, including mind and body.
This may sound simple and straightforward; the tricky part is keeping up with our own transformational process. Since stress reduction is often a primary goal of my clients, you can imagine that the topic of “transitions and change” comes up a lot in my private practice.
In fact, I see people at a variety of “ages and stages” in their lives. Some people are in the midst of change in their professional lives. For example, they are changing jobs, exploring a new career path, or retiring from their work.
I also work with people in the midst of change in their personal lives. They may be transitioning to a single lifestyle after a divorce, or after the death of a spouse, or after their children go away to college and leave behind an empty nest. Clearly, transitions come in all colors, sizes, and textures.
Can you relate?
Meanwhile, if we liken the various transitions each of us will face in a single lifetime to a tapestry, we will see a common thread: that feeling of disorientation and resistance to the change at hand.
“Will I be okay?” “What will happen next?” and “Will I survive?” can be common questions swirling in our minds when we are in the midst of a life change. Unfortunately, these turbulent energies are a vital part of the tapestry of change.
In my work with people who are in the throes of change, I remind them that uncertainty, confusion, chaos, and disorientation are natural feelings during these times.
For example, after my client “Jim” was laid off from his job during the Pandemic, he initially felt devastated. As a result, he tossed and turned at night, unable to sleep, as his mind tried to process his shock, confusion, anger, and hurt.
I explained that change is a process. In the interim stage of transition—the period between two events—it is natural to feel a variety of emotions, including heightened vulnerability and increased anxiety. The truth is, this interim stage can be the hardest part of change.
We have left the known and familiar—
but we haven’t reached our destinations yet.
Thus, our lives and identities
are in limbo.
“You mean I’m not the only one feeling lost and anxious?” Jim whispered. I assured him that he was experiencing a normal response to a major life change.
For a couple of months, I worked with Jim regarding his grief process and his fear of expressing his vulnerability to his wife and close friends. Jim had always seen himself as “the strong one” and admitted to feeling ashamed of his current vulnerability.
During our work, Jim courageously released some of his emotional “armor” and integrated his vulnerability into his sense of self. As a result, he felt closer to his wife and children. And, although extremely empathetic about his job loss, his wife felt grateful to finally experience a deeper emotional connection with her husband.
Nevertheless, no matter how we frame it, a major life transition can feel overwhelming. After all, who likes to be in the midst of uncertainty? I know I sure don’t.
However, transitions invite us to embrace our strengths as well as our vulnerabilities. And challenges often encourage us to:
Move beyond who we think we are
so we can COURAGEOUSLY
own and integrate
more parts of ourselves.
Finally, our personal tapestries expand with the addition of each new thread woven into our lives. This allows us to learn from our life experiences as we continue to move forward.
As a result, we humbly embrace our humanness and connection to one another with compassion, mindfulness, and loving kindness.