Life transitions really, really suck! They are always there waiting in every corner of your life to bite you in the ass. Neither age nor wisdom grants you immunity from them. Transitions are some of the most frustrating times in life and every individual will go through them sooner or later. Yet, regardless of the upheaval they cause, transitions are an integral part of our human evolution. Without them we would remain in our own comfort zone and rot in place.
I have lived through many transitions, so I given a lot of thought on how to move forward during these times. I wanted to share what I have found.
1) It is pointless to self medicate with drugs and alcohol. It is very easy to feel despondent and depressed during a transition period. There is good reason for this, life is not turning out according to your plans. During transitions, your morals, beliefs and the old self you created are being challenged. For this reason, transitions necessarily become periods of confusion and chaos that can last for months and even years. No longer do the things that worked for you in the past create success in the now. Unfortunately, there is no way around them; you can only go through them and there is no medicine one can take to soothe the kind of heartache transitions cause. As Carl Jung said, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.” Turning to alcohol and drugs for help is a grave mistake many people make. These things don’t numb the pain, they simply postpone it. the fact is that, sooner or later, you will have to face whatever it is you need to face within yourself. Although you may think you are self-medicating successfully with artificial stimulants because you are feeling numb, the truth is you are simply worsening the hardship for you, your family, friends and coworkers.
2) Seek help from those you trust. By their own nature, transitions require you to abandon your old self and begin to create a new one. These periods don’t offer a timeout, as there are still work and family responsibilities to be accomplished. Having lost your old identity, it difficult to move forward from the new and eerie place you find yourself in because you lack faith in your ability to make decisions. That is why it is important to turn to someone, a friend, a family, and/or a professional that can help guide you integrate the changes you have gone through in your life and “start over” from a new perspective. Remember, there is no shame in getting therapy, just make sure it is from someone who is helping you progress and not someone who just regurgitates your feelings back to you. I am a big proponent of EMDR therapy, google it.
3) Learn to live one moment at a time, one day at a time. It is our impatience to feel better again that causes the most pain. We don’t realize it took years for our behaviors to take us to this point in our lives; therefore, it will take time to untangle the mess we are in. You will make progress once you stop fighting and accept there is no way to escape the transitional energy that is now controlling your life. This necessary part of the process must strip you of your old defenses so you may start behaving in a way that supports your authentic magnificence. This is not done with one giant decision that changes everything and makes you comfortable, it is accomplished one moment at a time. To do this, you must become conscious to the present. You can only do this when you let go of the desire to force the solution.
4) Become comfortable with confusion and uncertainty. Feeling unsettled is a normal part of a life transition. Losing your old identity is difficult because it leaves a void in you and you become confused not knowing if you are evolving into someone recognizable to you, family and friends. Your feelings will often vacillate between craving the hurried arrival of your emerging self and missing the loss of your old character. You feel detached while you try to behave in a way that supports your self-worth knowing you lack a defined individuality to rely on. This will cause what is known as circular thinking. Imagine yourself as a caterpillar that entered a cocoon to be transformed into a butterfly. After having been there for a while, you know you are no longer a caterpillar, but you do not understand what it feels like to become a butterfly. This uncertainty makes you circle back and forth between longing for the comfort you felt as a caterpillar and the desire to grow into a more fulfilling form. A key to surviving this mayhem is to relax into it, know this is part of the process and believe you are progressing towards a more fulfilling life.
5) Get Your ass out there. Getting through a transformation is hard work. There will be times when you just want to lock yourself up in your bedroom and stay in bed for days. Transitions can consume you and keep you in darkness so you have to fight against this entropy. Good way to start is by establishing a daily exercise routine. Exercise has been known to boost your happiness levels. It also helps you to sleep better and it increases your self confidence. Many doctors credit exercise with providing much better benefits than antidepressants. It will also get you out of your home and engage with people. Pick something you like doing and stick with it. I play tennis and lift weights daily.
Speaking of socializing, make it a point to go out into society. The best way I know to do this is by entering what a friend of mine calls “Desperado Mode”. This means saying yes to any and all invitations, no matter what they are (use common sense, of course, don’t risk your life or treasure unnecessarily). The advantage of Desperado is that it will force you to live up to the commitments you accepted from friends and family. This will also get you out doing things you have never tried before and expose you to new friendships. Last, but not least, pick up that hobby you have been postponing. This is your time to work on yourself and doing something new and creative will be emotionally soothing.
6) Have faith. The reason our lives must travel through these in-between periods is because each one of us has an important purpose. We all come from the same source, a Higher Intelligence that bestowed on us that purpose and gave us everything we need to accomplish it. Transitions are necessary steps in that journey. They are those spaces that make room for us to mature and get in touch with our most authentic selves. Have faith and rejoice for the time has come for you to claim the place that has always been yours in the infinite.
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We are all immigrants! Whether we left a country for a fresh start in another, or whether an unforeseen life change has sent us on an unexpected path, this cycle of death and rebirth is at the center of our human evolution and can alter us in ways we don’t fully understand. If you are going through such a period, I can help. If your organization is going through a challenging phase or serves people whose lives are in flux, like immigrants, seniors, or communities that are unappreciated, I can help as well. The combination of years and experiences have molded me into a messenger uniquely qualified to write, speak and mentor on the subject of discovering the inner resource that will convert difficult transitions into positive triumphs. Check out my website for the services I offer and to subscribe to personally receive my weekly blog.