Alanis and the E-Course: Lesson 1 (Limbo No More)

“All of my unconscious fears were in my face about letting go of the current identity. A lot of the thoughts that came up were fear-based and false, so I had to work to let them go.” Alanis Morissette from her Interview

Alanis Morissette, as millions of fans well-know, is a most extraordinary musician and human being. She possesses that rare combination of strength and humility that allows her songs to shine the light of consciousness and offer a lifeline of hope without being dogmatic. Her commitment to her personal growth is evident; her commitment to the healing of the planet is inspiring. And for her, there’s no difference between the two, as she says in the interview: “Evolution and the growth of love are synonymous.”

The core of my work with transitions is about helping people heal the fear voices and faulty beliefs that interfere with their ability to evolve in love. We live in a culture that tries to sidestep or deny the inexorable presence of change. We move quickly, talk quickly, work quickly, and keep busy to avoid to grief, fear, disorientation, and loneliness that live inside every conscious life transition. For in order to step into the new life – whether it’s a new city, a new job, a marriage, parenthood, or retirement – we must be willing to let go of the old lifestyle and identity. Alanis speaks to this process in the above quote, as well as in many of her songs. The dovetailing of her work and mine will be the topics of the next seven posts.

In order to receive the full benefits of this Alanis-inspired audio-therapy course, I suggest you make a playlist of the seven songs I will be referencing, which will correspond to the seven lessons of the Conscious Weddings E-Course:

1. Limbo No More

2. Madness

3. In Praise of the Vulnerable Man

4. You Learn

5. Thank U

6. Ironic

7. Incomplete

Listen to the songs repeatedly until their comfort and wisdom sink in past your rational mind and enter your heart. Listen to them until you absorb their truth into your bones and their beauty dances into your dreams.

***

Lesson One of The Conscious Weddings E-Course is “What’s Wrong With Me?” or “An Overview of the Wedding Transition and Your Personality Type”. When someone is hit with anxiety, terror, doubt, grief, or confusion just moments, days, or weeks after saying “yes” to a proposal of marriage, their first thoughts are, “What’s wrong me? This is supposed to be the happiest time of my life. Why am I so scared? Does the fact that I’m having doubts mean that I’m not supposed to get married?”

Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the most damaging messages our cultures propagates about the engagement is that it’s supposed to be the happiest time of your life, and if you’re feeling anything less than pure joy or if healthy doubt creeps up, it means you’re making a mistake. The reasons for this message are varied but are primarily based on a cultural fear of accepting that loss and change are a part of life and a lack of accurate knowledge about the stages of transitions.

As I talk about in the interview with Alanis and in depth on the overview of transitions tab of this blog, all transitions follow three stages: separation, in which we must let go of the current identity and lifestyle; in-between or liminal, in which we’re no longer single but not quite married (or no longer a non-mother but not quite a mother); and rebirth, in which the new identity as wife (or mother or employee, etc) becomes firmly rooted and we’re able to access new resources within ourselves. These stages are beautifully expressed in Alanis’ song, Limbo No More, where she lets go of the things that are no longer working, sits in the uncomfortable liminal stage, then moves into the rebirth where her new self takes firm root.

Limbo No More

My house, my role

My friends, my man

My devotion to god

All the more feels indefinite

Nothing’s been clear

Nothing’s been in

Nothing’s felt true

And I’ve never had both feet in

Nothing’s belonged

Nothing’s been yes

Nowhere’s been home

And I’m ready to be limbo no more

My taste, my peers

My identity, my affiliation

All the more feels indefinite

Nothing’s been clear

Nothing’s been in

Nothing’s felt true

And I’ve never had both feet in

Nothing’s belonged

Nothing’s been yes

Nowhere’s been home

And I’m ready to be limbo no more

I sit with filled frames

And my books and my dogs at my feet

My friends by my side

My past in a heap

Thrown out most of my things

Only kept what I need to carve

Something consistent and notably me

Tattoo on my skin

My teacher’s in heart

My house is a home

Something at last I can feel a part of

Sense of myself

My purpose is clear

My roots in the ground

Something at last I can feel a part of

Something aligned

To finally commit

Somewhere I belong

Cuz I’m ready to be limbo no more

My wisdom applied

A firm foundation

A vow to myself

‘Cuz I’m ready to be limbo no more

***

The liminal stage is often the most challenging for people to make sense of and endure. As Alanis says in the interview, “The liminal – I call it the abyss stage – is my least favorite!” It’s here that we must learn how to sit with the unknown, to learn to accept uncertainty and become friends with the very difficult sense of being out of control. In Lesson 5 of the E-Course, I offer five videos for managing the anxiety that arises during the wedding (or any) transition. One of the videos is a brief teaching of Pema Chodron’s work of Tonglen, which Alanis speaks of as well. As she says, “What helped me during the uncertain, amorphous, floaty times is not resist it.” This is the essence of Tonglen and, really, all spiritual teachings.

Does everyone get pulled into the underworld by the wedding transition? Of course not. There’s definitely a sector of the population that experience it more intensely than others. They tend to be sensitive, thoughtful, intelligent, introspective, have difficulty with change and prone to perfectionism and anxiety. A significant part of accepting that your difficult feelings are normal is accepting who are you and understanding that if you’re going through this, take comfort that you’re in good company. As Alanis says,“This is just what sensitive, thoughtful women in this era go through. It’s archetypal. It’s not personal to me.”

The more you learn about the stages of transitions and accept your personality type that opens you to touch into the archetypal elements of change, the more easily and quickly you will work through the letting go and liminal stages and find your way to the clarity and joy of the new beginning.

***

Sheryl Paul, M.A., is regarded as an international expert in transitions. In 1998, she pioneered the field of bridal counseling and has since counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, “The Conscious Bride” and “The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner,” her websites,www.consciousweddings.com and www.consciousmotherhood.com, and her blog, http://conscious-transitions.com. She has appeared several times on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, as well as on “Good Morning America” and other top television, radio, and newspapers around the globe. Phone and Skype sessions are available internationally for all types of transitions and ongoing counseling. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two young sons.

2 comments to Alanis and the E-Course: Lesson 1 (Limbo No More)

  • Jeremy McCarty

    Getting the deluxe version of FOE was the best thing I did in 2008. The sharings helped me really understand what I was feeling then and previously. So special to see her work explored in such an honoring way. Looking forward to reading the article on Madness now.

  • Luis

    @jeremy so true.