Transitions: A Paradigm of Hope

A woman emailed me last week to thank me for this blog and tell me that my words give her hope. I felt humbled and filled with joy to know that I’ve brought hope to someone, and it was synchronistic as I had been thinking lately about how hopeful the paradigm of transition really is. As transitions follows the death (winter), liminal (autumn), rebirth (spring) cycle of nature, so we, in the struggles of our human lives, do the same. When we’re in the midst of the death or liminal stages, it’s hard to remember that the new birth always arrives in some form or another, that here has to be a clearing out in order for the new life to take form. It’s a law of nature, and when we remember it, we feel hopeful even in the midst of the struggle.

Years ago, when I was publicizing The Conscious Bride, radio hosts would often say to me, “Isn’t this a bleak portrayal of the wedding? I mean, what a downer to talk about death and grieving during what’s supposed to be the happiest time of a person’s life.” To which I would respond, “That statement is exactly why so many people are depressed and anxious during their wedding transition. Being engaged is not supposed to be the happiest time in a person’s life. Yes, there’s great joy and celebration when two people marry, but in order to feel the joy, you have to move through the grief, fear, loneliness, and disorientation. What I’m presenting is actually a paradigm for all life transitions that will increase the joy, not detract from it. When someone walks through a transition consciously, allowing themselves to feel the range of emotions that arise, they will truly celebrate on their wedding day (or in early motherhood, after the move, etc).”

As a culture, we’re in desperate need of a paradigm shift that not only allows for but expects the difficult feelings to arise. When we don’t feel the core feelings of grief, fear, loneliness, and disorientation directly, they become derailed by anxious thoughts and mutated into anxious feelings. Here we need to make a critical distinction between core feelings and wounded feelings: Core feelings are the pure, raw feelings that are inherent to life on earth; wounded feelings arise as a result of false beliefs or unrealistic expectations. When we’re in transition, core feelings are an inevitable and essential part of what allows the transition to pass through unhindered and propel us to the next stage of growth. When we sweep aside the core feeling because we think we shouldn’t be feeling that way around a life transition that’s “supposed” to be happy, an anxious thought arrives like “What’s wrong with me?” and the vicious cycle of anxiety begins. So much easier to just feel the original, pure feeling – but that requires a massive cultural re-education so that we all understand what to expect during transitions.

It’s not only around life cycle transitions that we need a paradigm of hope. Like most people, I think a lot about the state of our planet, which is so clearly in transition. There are some times when it seems like the world is falling apart. And in the context of transitions, that’s exactly what’s happening. Earth is falling apart. The old ways and old paradigms are no longer working. Whether it’s the energy source that fuels our world or models of education, work life, marriage and parenting, everything is shifting. It has to shift. The old ways have to die in order for new ways to emerge. It’s a scary time because we’re hanging in the void of the unknown and we’re watching so much crumble around us. We don’t how we’re going to find our way out of this mess, but find our way we will. Amidst the disintegration, massive amounts of inventions and solutions are being born. Earth will renew itself; she always does. And we as a species will continue to evolve as we always have, creating a more sustainable, conscious world where all species thrive. We’re not there yet, and of course we don’t know when we’ll belly over into the rebirth stage of this global transition. But when I feel scared about the falling apart stage, I remember this paradigm and it brings me hope.

2 comments to Transitions: A Paradigm of Hope

  • Jennifer

    Sheryl, thank you for this thoughtful article. Remembering nature and the cycles of transitions that mirror our own process is so helpful. And applying this new thinking to the transition of the planet right now is very hopeful.

    Here’s to the wonderful work you are doing and sharing that with those around you. I am very grateful.

    By the way, my new life is being birthed in Portland and it is wonderful and after 2 years of being in the liminal stage that was very difficult.

    love, Jennifer

  • admin

    Sometimes the liminal stage really does last a long time. I’m so happy to hear that you’re feeling settled and in the rebirth stage of your transition!