It is part of the human condition to crave the familiar and known. We can tend to net ourselves into certain ways of relating and being and gradually lose sight of the many other possibilities we could be living from.
It is often only a significant event occurring in our lives, a disruption and shake up of some kind, that can – for a time at least – radically alter the way we see things. These times of change and transition can be uncomfortable, or exhilarating in some cases, but if we handle them well, they can be a potent opportunity to grow and move permanently into a more expanded experience of ourselves and of life. Our ears and our hearts can be more open at such times to new answers and possibilities.
Change is a constant in life. It can happen in small ways where it doesn’t greatly disrupt the fabric of our life, or it can be a major life change – like a family member dying, moving to a new country, having a health crisis or the kids moving out of home. In some cases, one major life change will have a domino effect in your life and lead to other changes so that you can find yourself in drastically new territory. In other cases, it might not even be so much about external change but an internal change, where what once satisfied you doesn’t seem to anymore.
Regardless of the scale or type of change, somehow you find yourself in an altered landscape where the future can look unclear or even scary and the past can feel painful or sticky and hard to let go of.
Often we are forced to take external actions in response to an altered situation but on the mental and emotional level it can be very tempting to simply try and sit tight and ride out what is going on in the way that we have always approached things, hoping that it will all get better eventually. And of course time will eventually bring change, but will it be a change that is similar to the old (different but the same) or will it be something quite new?
When we enter into a state of caterpilliac goop, it can be difficult to not fight the potential for this to be a chrysalis out of which we can exit as the butterfly, more refined and truer to our self-expression. We can be tempted to just leap forward into the new to avoid the burning ground of having to acknowledge all the unfelt feelings that can come up to the surface, or we can lean back into the old, mourning for it and focusing only on the loss or staying attached to aspects of how it has been. Sometimes we can oscillate between the two.
The opportunity in this moment is to stop and take stock. To open up to more of our unacknowledged feelings and to create more self-love and self-knowledge, to assist the process of truly dissolving and letting go of how it has been and to open a clearer window of inquiry on how we want our lives to look in the future. From this kind of space, we can face the future from a more integrated and optimistic place.
So what can you do to assist yourself if you find yourself in a time of transition?
The first important step is to stop and simply acknowledge that things have changed and that life may never be the same again.
Following this we can acknowledge the impact this has had on us and how we truly feel about it.
In getting more closely in touch with ourselves and how we feel, we can also make a more honest inventory of what we need to get us through this time. It might be more practical or emotional support (such as counselling), or it might be simply slowing down and bringing kindness and compassion to ourselves as we go through a difficult time.
The other step, when we feel ready for it, is to give ourselves space to open up a wider vision for what could lie ahead. Stop and ask yourself “what do I really want for my life now?”. Bringing more clarity to who and how we want to be is a critical step for meaningful change. It is also a great way to touch into more of our unexplored potential.
It can also be useful through times of transition (or any time) to be grounded and stay in the present moment. Opening up to the simple things like a warm sunny day, the loveliness of nature, or savouring the taste of our food. This can stop us from getting overwhelmed by the past or present and, in allowing ourselves to breathe and be receptive, keep us open to new inspiration.
Times of transition can feel like walking through a tunnel with no light to encourage us on. It takes as long as it takes, and sometimes that can seem an eternity. We may feel powerless in such moments, but it is useful to remind ourselves that we always have the power to choose how we manage our process.
Remember to slow down, reach out for help if you need to, stay open to new possibility and – last but not least – be kind to yourself.
Susan is a holistic counsellor and life coach.