Transition’s pain often sourced from identity crisis
WHAT IS CORE TO difficult transitions is not the change in and of itself, but how closely one’s personal identity is tied to what is changing.
Webster defines transition as “the process or instance of changing from one form, state, activity or place to another.” When an individual’s personal identity is tied to the external world, as so many of ours are, we come to know our Self based on the people, places, and things around us. It is in this state of mistaken identity that a sense of loss and emptiness extends beyond the grieving process—that healing is stymied—and why transition in it truest sense does not occur. Why not? Because you cannot, in a state of external identification, change from one form, place, or activity to another without also shifting your source of identification.
Within the context of internal identification you choose, you decide and you know you have the power and ability to do so. Your source of identification is based in who you know you are and what you are connected to.
In an externally identified state you go to the outside world to know yourself in terms of what you value, your purpose in the world, the choices you make, and how others see and know you. In this positioning you can take on many different identities based on what you attach yourself to. For example, I am Mr. or Mrs. Smith; I am Vice President of Sales, writer, mother etc. You can also attach yourself to where you live, the things you own, your status in the community, or how much money you have in the bank. Life circumstances, social norms, and family history determines why an individual attaches to one thing and not another. Identifying oneself externally is most common in our culture. We are accustomed to knowing each other based on what we do and have, and even know and have come to identify ourselves in a like manner.
When externally identified motivation originates in fear, the driving force is a need to control. Our focus is on the external world; choices are limited and quantitative in terms of do I have less of or more of something. Our choices are comparative as in “keeping up with the Jones’.” Since our experiences are a result of the choices we make they are also limited. One’s purpose in the world is mottled and confusing as it is centered on what do I need to have or do in order to feel safe, powerful, and in control. Transition and or change are natural aspects of life. Transitions include marriage and divorce, birth and death, got fired and got hired. All of these and numerous other examples come and go throughout a lifetime. Do we actually have control over some of this? Absolutely! However, when one’s identity is attached to some fear of what is being lost, the common responses do not reside in faith, courage, or a sense of personal power. The choices we make during these times are based on a need to control. When the change actually occurs, the transition becomes one of transferring identities because the fear of doing otherwise is too great. An individual can move through change in this manner over an entire lifetime. However, for the fortunate, something happens that brings them to their knees, causes them to hit the wall, or when looking in the mirror one day lets them know that they no longer know who is looking back.
True transition is a humbling experience and an identity crisis in its truest sense. You are no longer attached to anything and so for many it also becomes a spiritual crisis. It is a transition from the externally identified self to the internally identified Self which requires a leap from living in a world centered in control and motivated by fear to one centered in possibility and motivated by love, a movement towards having a life that has meaning and/or purpose.
The end result of transition is one of identifying with what is true and core to who you are. The people, places, and things around you become a menu from which you choose to express yourself. Some life changes will involve the human experience of grief and pain, but with no sense of loss of self, or need to control or fear of the unknown. Out of change and the resulting transition in an internally identified state, come growth, understanding, and compassion for oneself and for the world in which we live.
My name is Pam Jensen and my life work is focused on assisting others in their journey in coming to know themselves for whom they are. My belief is that it is in this falsely held external identification that many of our social ills reside and where healing and growth occurs. I do this work via coaching, teaching and consulting with a particular emphasis on working with younger women between the ages of 18 and 35. As women heal so do men and then the world. Pam can be reached at 612.721.0296.