Image courtesy of Clarita.
This week, we looked at how every transition in your life begins with an ending. Today, we’ll build on that idea, looking at how each transition takes that ending and goes to a new beginning. But before you get to the beginning, there’s an empty place in between. And now we reach Rule Number Four of transitions:
There is an ending, a beginning and in between, there is a Neutral Zone.
Neither here nor there
Welcome to what psychologists and sociologist refer to as The Neutral Zone. The Neutral Zone is a cocooning phase, where you are absolutely NOT where you were earlier, nor are you where you’ll be by the time the transition is over. It’s a completely distinct area that goes in between the two.
In fiction, when the hero breaks (or is forcibly thrown into) the world of act two, he’s often disoriented. That’s because when we’re disorientated we’re also highly suggestible. And open to suggestion or drunken acts in some cases. But good or bad, if we’re suggestible, we’re open to something new. And it’s hard to be open to something new unless we’re pried away from the familiar.
It’s long. Unbearably long.
If you’ve ever timed a theatrical movie, you’ll see that out of a typical 120 minute film, 60 minutes are devoted to Act Two, the Neutral Zone. For the audience, it’s lots of fun, but for the hero, it’s the worst torture that he’s ever experienced. The same goes for all of the transitions that you go through in your own life. They’re so unbearably long that you spend much of your time wishing they’ll be over already.
Not only are they long, you go back and forth, one day improving and the next everything goes wrong for you. So it’s never a clean, linear time for you. You make the majority of your mistakes during the Neutral Zone, because you’ve never done this before.
It’s the time you can start to let go of the past.
In the ending part of a transition, you still had some unfinished business to take care of. Now in the Neutral Zone, you can start to let go of it. It’s a great time to let go of all those old habits and ways of doing things that you wanted to get rid of. And to get rid of the things that weren’t working for you (like going to Chipotle for a 1000 calorie lunch every weekday and never exercising). Don’t get the idea that it’s all pain and confusion. It’s also a great time of refining and renewing yourself. You really get to grow now
But very few of us totally let go of the old. Some things will still stay with you, including things that you need to or would rather let go of. That’s okay, as long as you don’t waste time beating yourself up.
It will be over at some point.
I can remember the day I got out of graduate school to the second. I turned in my thesis to the Dean and ran like hell to the parking lot. I felt like an inmate making an escape for it. I really couldn’t believe they were letting me go. But the sense of relief I felt was incredible. It will be for you as well, one you get to the point of making a new beginning.