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Book Review: Transitions ~William Bridges

Death and Taxes used to be just about all that folks felt were inevitable in the course of living life.  All though those two processes seem to be part of life for sure there is another variable that really is more prevalent in our lives that the first two listed and it is – Change.

We do not have many of the loose coins in our pocket anymore, but the amount of change a body must process through in a lifetime is coming at a rapid pace these days.

The folks who are avoiding change or avoiding making change in their lives seemed to be trapped into a hanging on which does not give them new tools for coping with the change.  Stress fueling their every waking moment.

A dear friend of mine is suffering with so many ailments and is in the throes of a hording syndrome that now includes rats in her home.  I thought this latest problem would allow her to find release and to make a change, which might open the door to more change.  Such has not been the case or the outcome.

I went back to my trusted authority on making change in one’s life which is the book .  I believe his name is what initially caught my attention in the bookstore.  How clever, a person named Bridges talking about transition and change. It made the concept simple and I refer to my tattered copy so many times during the year when I am problem-solving.

This is not a new book but it is the ground work for a number of other studies and it just makes sense in a slow moving cycle or a busy, fast paced season of change.

Bridges premise is that there are three distinct stages of change and recognizing which stage is taking up your time at the moment is key to understanding your situation and making progress to transition into your new stage.

The Three stages of change spelled out are Endings, The Neutral Zone, and The New Beginning.

I would like to focus on a traditionally happy ending – the wedding.  Yep! This is an ending, it is a time when you are ending your definition of yourself as being a single being.  You are publically stating that you are making a comment to a relationship with another individual.  People offer toasts, well wishes, advice and hopefully there is some skilled counseling involved before the big event.   An ending is the beginning of a change and it is not a final moment but it is the beginning of the transition.  We are on to something new.

The Neutral Zone is the next phase.  After a wedding we call this the honeymoon period, the honeymoon is not just the trip, rather it is a period of time when the couple is testing and problem-solving and bonding.  It is a time of reorientation; a time of testing the different pathways possible to this relationship.  Can this marriage withstand buying a house, how will you celebrate the holidays or an unplanned pregnancy, or that new partner never does the dishes?  There is lots of trial and error in the dance of conflict resolution and the newness of your relationship.

The New Beginning comes only at the end of the transition.  Sometimes it comes as an Ah Ha moment in hindsight, or when we become just determined to launch a new activity and find success.  It requires more than just perseverance, “it requires an understanding of external signs and inner signals that point the way to the future.”

In the wedding example of a transition, the new beginning might be that the couple just realizes they were truly working as a team in the negotiations over the purchase of the right house for their needs and wants to be met, and that they had truly listened and understood the other person’s needs and wants in the situation.  They are all set to move in – to a new transition phase of their marriage.

An unhappy example of an ending might be when one partner becomes seriously ill in a relationship or the relationship is terminated because of a sudden death.  The Neutral Zone is something which takes a long time of healing work and changes in expectations and plans. This cycle can be extremely uncomfortable as we disconnect from the past, the present is extremely emotionally traumatizing, and we need assistance and time to reorganize ourselves for the future – our new beginnings.

I most often return to this book to discover that I have not fully acknowledged an Ending and that I am wandering around in the Neutral Zone needing some assistance in reading the signs that direct me towards a new Beginning.  Being in the Neutral Zone has become uncomfortable; I am relieved to open my copy of this book and regain my focus and find a new understanding.

We all have different skills at making change in our lives; I have positive redirections to employ with the outline which Dr. Bridges builds his premise of change.

I have read a number of blogs that have shared about simplifying their holiday and not spending as much on gifts as they transition to the new economic circumstances in their lives.  I am wondering how that went and was it a transition in which you were successful?  How will it change your future celebrations?

What stages of transition do you find most difficult?  What transitions are you planning for and making preparations?

I look forward to your comments.

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10 Responses to “Book Review: Transitions ~William Bridges”

  1. Ruth Says:

    Thanks for sharing that review. I hadn’t thought before that there might be a zone between beginnings and endings. Phrasing it in terms of getting married is a really good way to make it clear, for me at least, since I’ve been married less than 2 years. I think we came out of the Neutral Zone about 2 or 3 months ago.

    I’m in the middle of a transition now at work, I hope this way of looking at them will help me smooth that one out. I feel like I’m ready to move out of the Neutral Zone there, but I’m not sure if I’m actually quite ready yet.

    Ruths last blog post..4 Hours of Sleep ? A Bad Day

  2. patricia Says:

    Good morning Ruth,
    2 years is about right timing for moving out of the neutral zone after a marriage – sometimes the marriage begins after a major disagreement or a big problem solving event.

    I don’t quite know how long a transition at work takes – birth of a baby is about 2 years, when the kids start living their own life and get more control.

    …and too sometimes you don’t realize you have moved out of the NZ until you have…rather a great hind sight vision or realization

    I now understand Bridges has 4 books out…I might look at another since I have found #1 to be so helpful over the years.

  3. Dot Says:

    I agree with Ruth. This review was so thought-provoking and interesting that I stumbled it and also mooched it for myself from BookMooch, a book swapping service.

    The idea of breaking down change into stages makes a huge abstract concept, change, easier to handle.

    Dots last blog post..This and That

  4. patricia Says:

    Dot,
    I agree that breaking down into stages truly assists in making the change happen and finding success. I think the Neutral Zone also gives one time to test the waters and try different pathways to discover what road to take next.

    It is not just an instant situation – though there are those moments when one’s life can change in an instant…

  5. Evelyn Lim Says:

    Thanks for the interesting review. I find that transition is most difficult at the beginning. I tend to put up a lot of resistance. However, when I overcome it, putting things into action is not quite so tough.

    Evelyn Lims last blog post..Past Life Memories In Hokkaido

  6. Davina Says:

    Hi Patricia. I had to think about my answer for this one. I’d not considered there being an Ending phase before. My favourite phase is the beginning and I’d have to say that the idea of neutral is most difficult for me. I liken neutral to a resting place where I either sit down and don’t want to get up, or because I sit down, doubt moves in and stops me from moving farther.

    Davinas last blog post..The Quote Effect: Naughty, Nice & Niche Bloggers

  7. Jannie Says:

    For me the hardest part of transition is often starting.

    Without reading his book, to me it seems that things are always in cycles, and life always in the fluxes of little neutral and little ending phases, not sure how that would tie in to his book or if he addresses the cyclical nature of things.

    Jannies last blog post..A happier ending

  8. patricia Says:

    @Evelyn Lim
    The beginnings might just be the perfect time to be more cautious,I tend to dive through the endings and then get frustrated at the neutral zone that it will not end fast enough – means I am not doing the work needed to do to get to the beginnings.

    @ Davina,I think the neurtral zone is very active path finding and trial and error, where I fall apart in the NZ is wanting to just barge thru it and get on with the new beginning – trouble going with the flow and reading the signs

    @ Jannie, I like the fellow’s name Bridges and I think of a transition like a bridge on the journey..Taking the first step on to the bridge and not knowing how long the bridge is or how sturdy over the crevice of the unknown makes it hard to let go..
    end the relationship with the known. I just jump onto the bridge and then check it out wanting to dash to the other side,
    Yes, I think life is cyclical and when the work is done then the circle gets wider and knowledge is expanded on the journey

  9. Kay Lilland Says:

    In Patricia’s essay and in a comment, “stumble” is used in a way that is new to me. Please, someone, explain.

    I am emerging from a 5 year focus on a project during which I have been only superficially connected to many friends. Perhaps today is a new beginning.

  10. Patricia Says:

    Stumbleupon is a program on the Internet which when one signs up and chooses 15 categories one can read lots of blog articles that have been stumbled in those categories. I click on my SU button and read about 5 post every evening. I can then like or dislike the post and subscribe or move on. I attempt to have at least one article a month stumbled by someone on to SU and some of those posts are the big numbers in the recently top posts box above.

    It replaces magazines for me….with more interesting things. Not as fast as twitter….My UNICEF cookbook fundraiser some one pushed the button saying it was adult material…and that took and expert to clear up and get back up and running. – I am not a porn site.

    I love reading the architecture sites for ideas for bikingarchitect and several of those posts have been Stumbled too and are getting some great reads…
    If you click the share button and have joined SU you can post an article and do a short review to add it to the 5 million readers group.

    No paper! less pollution! reading more diverse articles. I found my vegan raw information on SU and the politics of food…
    I love the poetry sites too…I have not figured out how to due direct messaging on SU yet though have received some….So much to learn.

    I spend the equivalent of one whole day reading and commenting on the blogs that I subscribe to and I usually don’t make it through the 2 complete pages….

    IS that helpful? Did that answer your question?
    Where as churches have Facebook sites and a few twitter sites…they are not on SU…just articles.
    .-= Patricia´s last blog ..An Idea to Ponder =-.