3 stages in the Process of Transformation
The following three articles make up the brief series: a Process of Transformation. Each article will elaborate on one of the three main stages than can be identified in a process of transformation of any kind:
- Loss, death, separation.
- Liminality – the in-between space
- Integration – Rebirth
1. Loss, Death, Separation
The first stage in a process of transformation that in its intensity and effect surpasses mere change, is known under many different names: death, separation, loss, feeling lost. Often, what is lost, happens without our consent, as the result of personal betrayal, financial ruin, a chronic health condition, death of a loved one and other traumatic events that most unexpectedly and profoundly undermine our sense of safety, certainty and trust.
Something in our life’s structure collapses, it ends, and our first psychological defence kicks in: denial. After all, we can only let so much new information in, lest we get entirely overwhelmed. But day after day, the unbelievable truth settles into our being – who, or what, once was, is no longer.
We encounter this aspect in stories and mythologies of the lonely, shipwrecked sailors, of being lost in the desert or of the youngster who leaves home and family behind to embark on a quest in the unknown world.
The shock and trauma of this first stage cannot possibly be overestimated. The very fabric of one’s life structure has torn and there is nothing that can undo this. And with it, one’s sense of identity also threatens to come undone, because, consciously and unconsciously, we fully invest our sense of well-being, of life purpose and of meaning into the multiple aspects with which we have built up our life.
*Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost. *
First verse of Canto I, Inferno, Dante Alighieri - 1265-1321
Maybe, a slight insight can be gained from the knowledge that the alchemists of old considered ‘Separatio’ to be an essential part in the process of turning base metals into gold. Maybe something similar can apply to our psyche: certain emotional and mental aspects were too tightly packed, and could not be known in their individuality? Maybe your sense of identity was too tied up with your possessions, your status, your profession or even, with that other person?
Separation from what was ‘inseparable’ before is followed by an existential crisis. Questions such as: ‘What is life really all about?’, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘For what should I carry on?’ rise from deep within the soul to full consciousness.
Whatever the case may be, fact is that part of your world has ended.
*“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” *
Next: Liminality – the in-between space.