Here's a stupid question for you:
How have you been feeling lately?
I mean, c'mon, right?
After I physically recovered from COVID in early February, I started noticing that I felt less emotionally okay than I thought I was. Like the weight of it all had finally caught up to me. And then... the war happened.
And I’m noticing it around me, too. People are struggling. We’ve been through so much, and new tragedies continue to pile on. Two years ago, I thought we would be back to “normal” long before now.
This weekend, I got words for what I’ve been feeling. I saw Suzanne Stabile, a master Enneagram teacher, speak on tour for her new book, The Journey Toward Wholeness.
I went expecting Enneagram talk - and there was definitely that; Suzanne is truly a master teacher and it is a gift to hear her speak.
But what totally took me by surprise was the real topic of her talk (and her new book - which I highly recommend!): liminality and transformation. Here is what I heard her say:
Liminal spaces are the in between spaces - the place in between where you were and where you're going. You're on the threshold of something new. And they're uncomfortable! You've left your old comfort zone and it's not clear what the future holds. Of course, the future is always uncertain, but in liminal spaces, we feel this uncertainty and lack of control more than other times.
As a society, we've all been in a liminal space for the past few years. We're definitely not where we were. And we're also not yet where we're going. A new normal hasn’t taken shape yet.
It's uncomfortable. We're realizing things can't go back to the way they were. The fact that the world shut down overnight two years ago makes us acutely aware that anything can happen. Control is an illusion - it always was, but here in the liminal space, it's staring us in the face.
We may be noticing changes, bad behavior, anger, etc... in ourselves, and in those around us. Because we're uncomfortable! And afraid! And over it!
We're ready to move on. To get busy. To find whatever this new normal is going to be.
But we can't just pretend that we're going back to the way things were, or rush forward into some new normal using only what we knew before.
This is an opportunity for transformation.
Liminal spaces are where transformation happens. The old has fallen away, making room for the new. But for transformation to happen, the discomfort and loss of control are necessary.
We have to sit in the discomfort of not knowing what's next instead of numbing it out or avoiding it. The suffering is necessary for growth. If we stop the suffering prematurely, we miss the growth.
So what have we learned from our time in this liminal space? What are we willing to give up to be transformed?
Transformation occurs when something old falls away - usually, this is beyond our control. This opens space for a transformative experience to occur.
In the dark night god moves in and takes from us what we're afraid to let go of. - James Finley
Have you allowed those things to fall away, or are you holding on for dear life, unable to see what life could be like if you let go?
Suzanne explained that it's tempting to think we can have transformation without letting go of anything. I know this is true in business - it's so hard to let go of what is to take the leap to something new. We want to certainty of what's to come before we fully let go of what is. But the irony is that without letting go of what is, we'll never have time or space for what's to come.
The Discomfort is Part of the Process
The talk was exactly what I needed to hear. I've been feeling the discomfort of this liminal space so distinctly lately.
I feel it in the communities that I'm a part of, that look and feel nothing like they used to, and haven't fully taken a new shape yet.
I feel it in the process of training my new rescue dog - we're not where we were three months ago, but we're not yet to the well-trained dog I hope is in his future.
I feel it in changes in my business, both desired and undesired.
All are sometimes frustrating and definitely uncomfortable.
It was helpful to hear that the discomfort isn't some problem that needs to be solved. It's an essential part of the process. We're just in the messy middle right now.