Transitions are an integral part of life. We grow from childhood, adolescence, to adulthood through a series of transitions. In the process we leave part of who we are behind, and embrace new identities.
Major transitions involve some sort of loss. The whole process was at first described by the anthropologist Van Gennep when studying rites of passage in ancient societies. He identified 3 stages, This concept was later used by several jungian psychoanalysts (for e.g. Henderson) and other authors. The bestseller “Transitions, Making sense of life’s changes” (W. Bridge) illustrates these 3 phases in a very nice way. He writes “As always happens, an ending clears the ground for a new beginning”.
Psychotherapy can help to navigate the transition more smoothly.
1 Separation: Leaving the old behind
In this stage, we feel increasingly unhappy about our lives. We are longer emotionally involved in our current situation or feel we need to make a change. For example, we might want to quit our job, end a relationship, move to another country.
2 Loss and iiminality: Being in-between
The second stage is an “in-between” phase in which we grieve for what has been lost. For example, although we decided to move out of a relationship, we still feel sad about the separation. We might feel confused, depressed and not knowing what the future holds.
3 A new beginning
The final stage of a transition begins when we gain more clarity in our purpose and have been able to find a new direction in our life. We feel renewed energy and enthusiasm to move forwards.