11 Reasons Why Life Transition Is So Difficult
If you have experienced any major life transitions e.g. divorce, separation or breakup, loss of a significant relationship, redundancy, death of a loved one, death of a pet, retirement, major health crisis, sudden end to a glorious career due to illness, sudden success, becoming parent for the first time, promotion etc, you would noticed that life felt as if you were traveling through a vast arid land with no end in sight. Getting through the emotional turmoil that followed such events is a daunting, task. It is difficult, painful, uncomfortable, very disorientating, confusing and stressful. It therefore did not come as a surprise when one of my clients asked me, “why is life transition so difficult?”
My Personal Story:
My granddad was abducted and killed on his way to church when I was about 16 years old. Following this tragic incident, I went through something, but I could not put my finger on what it was. I did not know that what I was experiencing was “transition” the impact of the change I had experienced as a result of the tragic death of my granddad. Unfortunately, since I didn’t realize that the change I had experienced had ushered me into transition let alone understand the benefits of transition, I thought there was something wrong with me. There were times I thought I was losing my mind. Other times it felt as if my whole world was falling apart. I felt cold, depressed, and lonely as if the whole world was against me, I had mood swings, things that used to interest me lost their appeal, there were times I felt tired without doing any work and had suicidal thoughts at times.
I was laughed at by friends and colleagues, disbelieved by my tutors and misdiagnosed by doctors.
My experience set me on a journey to find out why transition-the emotional journey you have to go through before life can feel normal again- is so difficult.
Why Life Transition So Difficult? Views From The Experts:
1. Transitions are often difficult, but what makes them more difficult and even terrifying is being unable to find words that make sense of them to ourselves or to others.
2. There’s a tug of war between the old me that is intimidated by the change that’s in the air and the new me fearful that nothing will change (fear of failure)
3. Transition is a time of confusion and emptiness when the ordinary things assume an unreal quality. Things that used to be important don’t seem to matter much now. We feel stuck, dead, lost in some great, dark world.
4. Lack of supportive Network: There is an absence of any supportive network that might assist people in times of transition. When we reflect on our own need to be understood by others and find no one to grasp the meaning of what is happening to us.
5. Ordinarily there are no gurus, no tribal elders or spiritual directors available to help interpret and guide us on our journey.
6. Nobody likes to loose, so we don’t want to talk about our losses. We are happy to talk about our successes and accomplishments but not our losses. But transition starts with losses (ending).
7. Transition starts with letting go. What people must let go is something that is quite dear to them and literally move on in order to claim the gifts that await in the new environment.
8. Transitions are difficult because we cling to the past, continuing to serve those passions of yesterday, while neglecting to make adequate space in our hearts for the next season of life and service.
9. Our Western culture notes, Dwight H, Judy, is so externally focused that it is very difficult to find conversation partners when we are wrestling with major changes. It is even more difficult to find places of support and safety to discuss those inward transformations that may be pushing through to our awareness.
10. Transition is difficult because “the desert stripes you bare”. Our self-protective barriers and defenses crumble. Here we come out into the open, are exposed to elements human and physical-this is a place of spiritual nakedness. The false, competitive self must die; the self or ego identified with our person that we present to the world must wither and fade away. The image of ourselves that we like others to see-confident, competent-is often shaped or conditioned by our culture, by advertisements, by the modern preoccupation with “image” or “cult of celebrity, by the compulsions and illusions of our age. …This is a self-image or image of the self that we would like to project to others-we think that our worth, our value, comes from what other people say about us, how they acclaim us and appreciate us. But this is the illusory self, clamouring for attention- a wax mask that must melt in the heat of the desert. (Andrew D. Mayes-Beyond the edge, p.16)
11. Identity confusion: Identity confusion may arise with changes of life circumstance. Who we are is very important to most of us because we operate from the core of who we think we are. Our values are based on who we think we are. Not knowing who we are during transition disorientates us and make us stuck.
Transition is a testing process of undoing and remaking. Our cooperation or resistance will determine how long and how difficult the process would be. Remember that it took God one day to get the Israelites out of Egypt but it took the Israelites 40 years to get Egypt out of their minds.
Change instead of Transition:
As a consequence of the challenge that transition poses some people and organizations try to shot circuit the transition process by using change to avoid transition.William Bridges observed that, it is common for both organization and individuals to use change to avoid transitions that would truly transform their existence.
Individuals walk out of a relationship, rather than letting go of their approach to relationship that made them unsuccessful and unsatisfying in the past-and will continue to do so in the future.
Organizations find that some particular change (that they made without any attention to the transitions it caused) did not work. But rather than giving up on that make-the-change-and-forget-the-transition approach, they repeat it by initiating another change-and are amazed when that change doesn’t work either.
Individuals look for a new job rather than facing the attitude and behaviors toward work and toward authority figures that make them unsuccessful in all of their past jobs. They don’t ask “what it is time to let go of?”. Instead they say they need to start over-so they make a change.
Organizations try to copy a competitor’s successful product, and then try again with another when the first one isn’t a winner. They do not let go of their strategy of imitating the competition, and doing something original instead- even though originality is exactly what gave the competition its advantage.
Individuals decide to move to a new house or a new town, rather than letting go inwardly of the old way of living that lacked meaning. They make a change rather than making the more profound transition, which would put them on a genuinely new life-path.