Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Before flight, the cocoon

We often fear it. We experience it on pretty much a daily basis. We often resist it. It’s as much an inevitable part of life as death and taxes. Yup, it’s change.

Have you experienced big changes in your life recently? Or several small ones? When you do, it’s natural to wonder how you will live in that different world. A question we hear often these days is: What will the “new normal” be?

In his book Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, William Bridges says that the changes don’t do us in; the transitions do. He says the change is the situation (the new job, the new roles, etc.). Bridges defines the transition as “the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation.” In other words, the change is the external event. The transition is the internal work we do.

He describes the three parts of transition as the letting-go stage (which begins when something ends), the neutral zone, and the new beginning. Bridges says, “People make the new beginning only if they have first made an ending and spent some time in the neutral zone.”

Cocoon time
What Bridges calls the neutral zone (the land between what has been and what is to come) I see as the cocoon stage of a butterfly’s transformation. From caterpillar crawling on its belly to soaring butterfly—that metamorphosis only happens because of time spent in a cocoon.

You might see your transitions that way, too. After you acknowledge (and grieve) what is no more, it’s time to let go, time to enter the cocoon—what Bridges calls “the limbo between the old sense of identity and the new.”

Once, to note a big change in my life, I bought a butterfly kit. It underscored for me what an active stage the cocoon is. So much is happening inside that tiny space. It has to if the caterpillar will emerge as a butterfly. You are no different. In that cocoon or neutral stage, that reflective and quiet time when things are sifting and sorting inside us, much is changing. Take the time to stay in the cocoon, the neutral zone, and embrace the inner work that needs to happen before you emerge on the other side—and soar!

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