No matter how old we are or what our life circumstances, life altering events happen, sometimes frequently. They are the situations, real or imagined, that drive us to our knees. They may be as clearly defined as the death of a spouse or divorce or as subtle as restlessness in our chosen career.
A life crisis can be brought on by external or internal events, but either way, they give us an opportunity to grow and create a richer life. Every time we face a life crisis of any proportion we have a choice. We can allow it to debilitate us or we can use it foster and support internal positive change.
Coming through a crisis requires navigating the treacherous waters of emotional, mental and physical upheaval. We must face down our demons and step into the fire of change, allowing it to burn away the useless debris that has put a stranglehold on our lives and then forge new strength and resolve. The process itself can inform us. It can teach us things we need to know about ourselves in order to live a more authentic life.
Like Elizabeth Kubla Ross’s stages of dying, there are stages that we must go through to accomplish a successful transition. Recognizing these stages and understanding that while they may not be pleasant they can lead us through our difficulties and teach us things that will eventually improve our life.
Too often we look at our problems as forces beyond our control. We think that our only option is to try to absorb them and survive, or to fight back with anger and rage. Too often we get stuck in the muck of the emotional conflagration that descends upon us, going back and forth, back and forth, unable to come through to the other side.
Every transition has a beginning, middle and an end. The crisis kicks off a chain of events within us that we can either work with or against. As we try to make our way through a transition we may flow back and forth between the stages several times before we are able to find our way to the other side. This will depend largely on our level of resistance to change and the pain and discomfort that comes with growth.
It is human nature to avoid pain and to seek comfort. Erich Fromm wrote, “Every act of birth requires the courage to let go of something, to let go of the breast, to let go of the lap, to let go of the hand, to let go eventually of all certainties, and to rely only upon one thing: one’s own power to be aware and to respond; that is, one’s own creativity.” This is the essence of transition.