Life is filled with endings and beginnings. In our accomplishment focused culture, we’re taught that success requires continuous movement. Stillness is often synonymous with, at best, confusion, at worst, failure. Learning how to reside in or navigate the in-between space that occurs when one chapter has ended and the next one is not yet clear, also known as the Liminal Space, requires an understanding of what is required of us when we land there.
There are many path that lead to the liminal space:
Completion of a goal or project
Ending a relationship
Leaving a job
Healing from a physical injury or illness
The loss of a loved one
Even time of focused growth where you’ve worked on healing old wounds, exploring uncomfortable truths, becoming healthier, can land you in a liminal space.
The endings are easy to pinpoint. You set concrete goals and saw them to fruition. A relationship has run its course, your body has healed, or a loved one has passed away. A door has shut and locked behind you. There is no going back.
Yet, this transitional space consists of both an ending and a beginning, and beginnings aren’t always as clear. While you wait for clarity, you will feel disoriented. You will be unsettled. You will feel fear. You will grieve for all you’ve left behind, all you’ve lost. The ground beneath your feet will be unsteady.
In this space, you’ll find that the behaviors and beliefs you once had are confining. When you try them on, they feel as if you’re wearing clothes two sizes too small. You might find yourself resorting to old habits, grasping for what once brought you peace, what you thought you needed. That’s okay. The liminal space is a place to turn over all that you’ve experienced and learned, and to envision the future you want to move toward. No thought, feeling, or release is wasted in this place.
The intensity that leads to transformation when residing in this unfixed space is discomforting.
Many people choose to leap over the liminal space. They have the next goal or project in the metaphorical chamber — they accomplish one thing and immediately jump to the next. They refuse to be still. Even if the path ahead is not clear, they manufacture tasks and push themselves forward, often having to backtrack in order to relocate the path they were meant to go down. Sadly, these goal-to-goal jumpers are missing out on growth opportunities that reside inside this space. They are so busy “doing” they miss out on getting to know the new person they’ve become. It’s not possible to have had new experiences, wanted or unwanted, and come out the other side the same as when you went in. It’s not how enduring growth works.
Although there will be confusion, uncertainty, and fear in this space, it’s also a respite along the way. A place where you can retreat and reflect. A much needed place to restore. It’s imperative that you not lay a foundation and start to build when you first enter the liminal space. There will be time to build once your new beginning becomes clear. The liminal space is meant to be a safe place to experience a gentle release.
The most important thing you can do when finding yourself in this space is trust. Trust that your next beginning is coming. For some, this might be a short time, for others, it might take longer. There is no clock on healing and clarity.
Over time, you’ll notice the fog is thinning. You’ll remember that life is overflowing with thresholds and you start moving toward one. Then, one day, the ground beneath you is steady again. Sun is breaking through the mist. You might roll your eyes and laugh at how unsure you were when first entering the liminal space and how confident you now feel as your toes graze the threshold of your new beginning. When this occurs, let the excitement rise up inside you. Stoke the embers until the fire burns bright. Smile. Something new is about to be born.
If you're in a liminal space, this video from The Ego Project can help you navigate the changes in your life.
Listen to The Ego Project Podcast episode on Navigating Change.