Updated: Feb 7, 2021
Life transitions have three phases: the ending, the middle, and the new beginning phase. I cover endings in my previous blogs 3 Types of Life Transitions and 5 Stages of Endings and Why They Are Painful. In this blog, I will talk about the middle phase, also known as the neutral zone. Emotions along this time can range from feeling confused or empty to doubt and curiosity about the future. There is no clear plan yet, but there is the awareness that there is no chance to go back to the old self or to know who one will be next.
While in the endings phase, you spend the time mostly longing for your old self, in the neutral zone, you have accepted that it’s time to move on. Just, you’re not quite sure how.
The middle phase is characterised by finding and accepting a new role and giving your life a new meaning. When, you take on the role (a parent, teacher or partner), you identify with that role. From then, this role defines your purpose. When that role comes to an end, you find yourself questioning who you are.
"What matters is not the meaning of life in general,
but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment."
Building a new identity
You're now in the process of developing a new self, at the same time you’re adjusting to a new life. Any transition requires time to adapt. An example of this is leaving your country of origin and move to a new one. When you arrive you have to adapt to your new surroundings, find new reference points and a place to stay, make new friends, learn a language, learn new habits and find a job. It is an exciting, but it is also challenging, hard and lonely time. You have to let go all you were before, the more you stick to your old self and rebuild your old comfort zone, the harder the transition will be. You have to let go of your old self and become the new version of you. This is the process of rebuilding.
“I have always believed, and I still believe that whatever good or bad fortune
may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”
Helping yourself through the Middle Phase
Reinventing yourself is a long journey but also full of opportunities. Depending on the situation, adapting and learning new skills, making new friends, allows you to realise your true potential. If you trust yourself, this phase can be a great experience. There are no limits in this phase, other than the ones you set.
Being rigid in this phase only prolongs the time needed to progress toward the new self. You’re likely to experience more often anger, sadness and anxiety than you would be if you adopt a flexible attitude. Allowing inner flexibility and let go of judgemental behaviours, especially toward yourself, makes any progress to the final phase a lot easier to achieve. Be curious, embrace every new opportunity of growth and observe this unknown self out of the usual comfort zone.
Here are some ways to help yourself through the Middle Phase;
Be kind to yourself. Pay attention to the words you use when you’re talking about yourself; it is important to use positive self-talk.
Practice mindfulness, learn to meditate or listen to your breath. Stop and observe how you’re feeling, embrace those feelings, allow them to be with you but not to rule your experience.
Do walks in nature, nature is restorative and healing, allow yourself to observe your surroundings mindfully.
Exercise regularly, no matter what kind of activity you choose. Dancing, gym or yoga classes are a great way to socialise too.
Try something new, be open to your new experience, explore things you were interested in doing, but never had the time or courage to try.
Reconsider to resume activities you loved in the past and had to give up.
Make an effort to socialise and make new connections; this is a good distraction and can lead to ongoing support.
There are endless possibilities; it mostly depends on your personal inclinations and what you are willing to try. This is a time for creativity and experimentation. Listen to yourself and notice what feels good. Embrace the new and do what’s right for you.
"Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
As always, I’m here if you need guidance and support through your life transitions.