The Roman Stoic Philosophers, Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger (4. BCE – 65 ACE), made this observation about human planning gone awry:
Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.
Not knowing what harbor you are making for is what transition feels like. It is that in-between place where you cannot go back to a season in your life where the door has closed, and the new door has yet to open.
We often get stuck in-between the chapters of our lives when one chapter ends and the new one hasn’t begun yet. We tend to look for immediate and quick fixes to alleviate the dis-ease of uncertainty we feel when we are in what William Bridges calls “the neutral zone, the nowhere between two somewheres” in his classic book “Transitions”. Know this, that dis-ease is a form of anxiety. Also realize that you have crossed a threshold, and the anxiety is the sign that you have. You can turn your anxiety into anticipation (because it’s the same chemical reaction in your brain), however the former is fear-based “what if” thinking, whereas if you can shift to thinking and acting “as if” your future is determining your present, you will find new motivation to move forward!
In the space of the neutral zone, the “nowhere” zone, you have to learn to be with your anxiety and not attempt to fight it. Fighting it only gives it power. Being with it allows you to embrace the uncertainty and release your creative energies by learning how to ask new questions that free you from the limitations of the former chapter that came to an end precisely because it took you as far as was possible. You outgrew it! Yet you still have a future, and it is waiting for you!
What you call a caterpillar is actually a potential butterfly in the making. Unless it goes through the “nowhere between two somewheres” and literally experiences itself in a meltdown, in never emerges from its crawling nature to its flying one. In that meltdown, it becomes a liquid soup of what biologists refer to as “imaginal cells” (imagine every cell with the power to imagine a new blueprint of the future).
The nowhere between two somewheres is a place for the cultivating of your imagination of the many different possibilities that might emerge out of the residue of your last chapter. Stay encouraged. Say hopeful. Like the caterpillar, there is more to you than meets your former eye as a crawling creature.
Hold the in-between space of your transitional season with hope by learning to avoid asking “what’s next” as if there is only one possible “simple” answer. Nothing in life is always that “simple”.
Rather ask yourself, “what wants to emerge from where I have been, where I am, and where I am going?” See the in-between place, that feels like a “stuck state” and a “melt down” as your imaginative cocoon of creative potential.
Be patient and tolerate the uncertainty even when you can’t crawl to your next chapter. You never know, you just might be getting reinvented so that when you break free from the stuck state, you’ll have wings that bid you to leave the crawling life forever and climb higher to a more inspired view of reality.
About the Author
Dr. Mark J. Chironna has been in the people helping business for more than four decades. With a media presence spanning almost 175 nations, his message of wholeness through the integration of the spiritual and psychological is heard across the globe. He has a father’s heart for emerging generations and serves as the presiding bishop of Legacy Edge Alliance, a worldwide fellowship of senior apostolic leaders and churches. Dr. Chironna is regarded as an influential leader whose global reach, clarion voice, and prophetic insight are respected by leaders and followers alike. He holds multiple advanced degrees in theology and psychology, and is the founder and senior pastor of Church on the Living Edge in Orlando, Florida. He and his wife Ruth have two adult sons and three grandchildren.