The Beautiful Pain of Transition

Summer has just come ‘round the corner.

Some years it’s easy, with spring progressing mildly from underneath the dregs of winter to blossom into full leaf. This year, it’s been harder. Cold holding on much too long and now the endless rain that some days feel as if it’ll never stop.

As if Nature Herself is having a hard time moving from one state to the next.

Reminds me of my youngest son: even for an activity he loves, it can be like pulling teeth to get him to change his clothes or just put on his shoes.

What is it about transitions that make resistance dig in its heels so strongly?

It’s easy to understand when we’re being forced into a situation we never bargained on. The diagnosis, the cheating spouse, the car accident, the cutbacks at work.

We resist moving forward because it means letting go of what we love and need.

But what about when we transition into something positive? The promotion, saying yes to the proposal, buying that house by the lake, or the move to Hawaii.

Why, even as we run forward with open arms, does a part of us hold back?

Why is it, that just when you embark on that great thing you’ve always wanted, your body decides it’s time to get sick. Sometimes it’s a cold. Sometimes a chronic condition that’s been lingering in the background comes on full force. Why do you feel depressed when you should be elated?

It’s all about the lizard brain.

Your subconscious mind spends its time working for your survival. It picks up the cues and clues in your daily life to maintain the status quo. It’s been learning, since the moment you were born, to adjust and react to keep you out of danger.

That’s a good thing!

However, as soon as you decide it’s time to step away from the norm, even for the better, it’s like you’re suddenly on a tightrope over a bottomless chasm. At least, that’s how your lizard brain reacts. Whether by conscious choice or the rug ripped from underneath you, it can feel the same way.

You’re in unknown territory. You’ve taken a risk. From here on in, anything can happen.

How exhilarating!

And yet, how scary.

Resistance is the result of your subconscious’ attempt to keep you in the comfort zone.

It shows up in my office all the time. Most of the clients who come my way are in some sort of transition, whether they realize it or not.

Resistance shows up as anxiety in the young women getting ready for pregnancy. It shows up as the fear of aging in the women lost in a lonely empty nest. It shows up as insomnia, acne and constipation in the those navigating the weird and wonderful world of perimenopause.

Sometimes we brush these symptoms aside or put up with them because it’s “normal” to feel this way.

Some transitions are more subtle and yet the physical symptoms they engender can be quite present.

Women no longer able to keep silent around overbearing husbands. Women dissatisfied in their jobs. Women who’ve given up their own identities, wants and needs for the good of the family or for fear of rocking the boat.

Their bodies amplify the messages of their inner turmoil with pain they can’t ignore – often in the joints, uterus and intestines .

Resistance shows up as the stunned look I see when health conditions require a woman give up sugar or bread or wine.

The alchemy in my work really starts to happen when a woman connects to her body and understands how the symptoms are part of her communication system.

Where her story intersects with her pain is where the juicy stuff collects. The core of her case from which we can build solutions.

This is the opportunity for growth.

Watching a woman discover that point of decay, then metamorphose into a stronger, healthier, more beautiful version of herself is a joy to behold.

How can you embrace the necessary changes to get you from one phase into the next with a little more grace?

1. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

If there’s one way to get your subconscious out of the rut of what it believes to be your safe zone, it’s walking the edge and stepping across the line on a regular basis.

This doesn’t need to be sky-diving. It can mean driving home by a different route or ordering the fish instead of the chicken. It can mean making the first move with your man, being the one to phone a friend.

As your comfort zone expands, you’ll be better equipped to regain your equilibrium when the big stuff happens. You’ll approach any changes with the conscious experience of how the benefits outweigh the risks.

2. Acknowledge the risk it took to take the steps you did.

Of all the things I learned from one of my most brilliant teachers, the one that comes to mind most is the mantra, “I’ve been here before and I’ve survived.” Whenever I’m lost in the overwhelm of a new situation at work or nervous when my son doesn’t call on time, saying this reminds me that, no matter the outcome, I am ultimately safe.

3. Celebrate your arrival to the next level.

Buy yourself some flowers. Look in the mirror and say “Thank you”. Take a dance break.

4. Use your fear as a tool.

Fear (one arm of the stress response) causes us to fight, flee or freeze. In my case, it was usually one of the latter. And then I would wonder why I never got ahead in my life, never made the huge strides I see others enjoying.

The beauty of the fight response is that it requires you to take action. No longer fighting enemy tribes, this might look more like taking business risks. It might mean asking for the guidance you need to overcome a physical ailment. Or giving up the wine for a month for your own good. It might mean saying “I love you” or “I’m sorry”.

Nothing makes me feel stronger than having “faced the fear and done it anyway”.

Important aside: When you’re in the moment of a shift – whether intentional or that ripped-away rug – take the time to sit with your feelings (sadness, fear, anger) FIRST. Feel them so they can move on, and so can you.

5. Get support – friends, professionals, online chats. Find someone who can hold your hand along the way.

I’ve said this before and you’ll undoubtedly hear me say it again. I don’t know how I would have maneuvered the muddy worlds of divorce, asthma or working as a solopreneur without my friends and colleagues standing by me every step of the way.

What got you through your last transition? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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5 thoughts on “The Beautiful Pain of Transition

  1. (i too love the dance breaks!) i am currently in that gray in-between area of an upcoming transition. it’s a positive one, yet will be life-changing in many ways. i’m beginning to see some of the symptoms you mention here appear, cathy. i’ve been journaling, and also talking (and talking) to my husband in order to connect all of the emotional and physical reactions i’m experiencing. i need to get back into my regular fitness routine since that has been suffering for the past month as well (michelle – you’re inspiring!).

  2. Yay for dance breaks!

    I was like your youngest son recently. 😉

    I found myself in a state of inertia. I morphed into a couch potato, which is very unlike me. Granted, it only lasted for a week or two, but it was enough to scare me.

    During that time, I didn’t exercise at all. And before that time, I struggled with restarting my workout routine for close to a year. I’ve exercised regularly for over 20 years. This has never been an issue for me. Again, I was concerned.

    As I approached week two of Extreme Slothdom, I decided that enough was enough. I printed out a calendar. I filled in a workout regimen. I kept it in my kitchen so that I would see it often. I opened the sealed Jillian Michaels DVDs that I purchased from Groupon for a steal approximately three years ago.

    I woke up the next morning. I walked the dogs. I kept on my running shoes. I popped in the DVD. And I just did it.

    Six weeks later….

    I feel sooooooo much better. Funny how that serotonin stuff works. 😉

    • Oh yes, sometimes it takes a kick in the pants to get us started when we’ve dropped out of life a bit, for whatever reason. Great job getting your act in gear, Michelle.

  3. I have learned to embrace change. I totally agree that when the fear of being out of your comfort zone is set aside, change can be totally exhilarating! One thing I have found, regardless of whether it is positive or negative change, is if I tackle it head on, it always results in growth.

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