Transformation is one of those things that sounds really good in theory.
And that’s because what people are focused on is what happens on the other side of a change they are envisioning. They get excited thinking about how fabulous it’s going to feel to be at the end of the transformational journey.
But they forget about the GETTING to the other side part. Not anticipating that a big chunk of that process includes some pretty rocky places along the way between where you are now and where you want to be.
What I’ve observed in my long career as a workshop leader and creative guide is that transformation usually happens in three different stages. So I thought it might be helpful to lay out the map of those stages as I understand them so that you can navigate them with greater grace and ease.
Stage One: To Infinity and Beyond!
In this phase you get strong intimations that transformation is actually possible. There is a sense of excitement, possibility, even liberation. You experience yourself in a powerful new way as how and who you want to be.
Inner doors fly open and it seems like the sky is the limit.
For those of us in the transformation biz, this is what often happens at workshops and retreats. It’s a taste of a potential bright and shiny future. It’s usually exhilarating and somewhat scary but it also includes a great sense of hopefulness and possibility.
A lot of folks think that this phase is the whole enchilada and that things will just continue to get better and better from here.
Most folks are wrong about that.
Stage Two: What the Hell Happened ???
The second stage, also known as the transitional or liminal (i.e.in between) phase, usually comes as an unwelcome surprise.
It’s where you have begun the process of dissolving what no longer works in your life, so that you can step into the shiny newness that is beckoning you. And it often feels like dying.
Because it is like dying.
Since this phase is so difficult and confusing it can lead to doubts about the original vision and revelation. People often find themselves questioning whether or not that sense of the new self that they experienced in the first stage was actually real.
This stage is akin to what is known as the transition phase in the birthing process. And as any woman can tell you who has given birth to a child, transition is both painful and incredibly messy.
Transitions can feel pretty crappy.
This part of the process can be quite uncomfortable. And is characterized by feelings of bewilderment and tremendous disorientation. Exhaustion bordering on depression. And intense emotions of grief and anger that arise for no apparent reason.
Sometimes folks feel like they’re falling apart. They are overcome by a deep sense of loss. They can’t find their juice or sense of purpose and excitement. What had meaning in the past no longer feels relevant.
And it’s so darn confusing because it comes on the heels of such a tremendous opening where the expectation is that things will just continue in an ever upward spiral of positive feelings and experiences.
Transitions are not always going to look the way you think they are supposed to look.
One of my lovely students was deeply frustrated because she had gone through the excitement of the first phase at a workshop and then felt like she had gotten stalled once she came home. Her complaint about herself was that she didn’t think she was “doing” anything important.
The more we talked the more I found out that in the space of a couple months she had totally reorganized her house, re-landscaped her yard and put in a huge and fabulous vegetable and fruit tree garden.
But she didn’t recognize these things as valuable because where she wanted to see movement and change was in her business. And because she had an idea about how things SHOULD look she didn’t think that the changes she WAS making mattered.
Transitions are always an invitation to dance with the unknown.
This second phase of the transitional process requires a great deal of trust because it’s not linear, rational OR logical and doesn’t always make sense to the ego. Which always wants things to show up in certain way or happen in a particular order.
The alchemical process of change has a life and a wisdom of its own. Which means that it will mobilize and motivate you to do certain things that it deems to be necessary to your overall growth.
Sometimes that can look like painting your house. Or getting fascinated by a new art form. At other times it can look like laying on the couch and watching re-runs of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
But it’s not always clear why you feel it’s important to do those things. You just intuitively know on some level it’s what needs to happen.
Transitions take time.
The process of transformation is at core a pilgrimage to your true self. A soul journey into the depths of your being. And soul journeys are never quick. There’s a deep and mysterious rhythm … an inner timetable … that you can’t force or hasten in the transformational process.
And sometimes part of surrendering to that rhythm means it looks like nothing is happening at all in the visible realm.
One thing is pretty much guaranteed, however. It’s always going to take way longer than you think it’s supposed to.
Stage Three: Settling Into Your New Skin
The transformation has occurred. You have a new life. A new job. A new status. A new relationship. A new sense of self.
This phase can be incredibly tender and a little wobbly because you are like a newborn babe opening your eyes on a glorious but unfamiliar world.
You are out of the swirling confusion of the middle phase but you are still not yet completely at home. However, you are definitely liking what you see.
This is a time of adjusting to and becoming comfortable with the new normal and is often characterized by feelings of wonder, relief, incredulousness and joy.
You made it! You have arrived!
It’s time for celebration.
A time to gain greater and greater confidence in who you have now become. And to sail along comfortably until the NEXT wave of transformational energies arrives to take you on a whole new journey of dismantling and rebirth!!