What do we all want – and resist?
We want to leave what is not working. Maybe it did work, but we reached a point where it is no longer working. It could be the desire to leave home, a relationship, or a job.
The deeper question is, what are we leaving beyond the physical? What is it about the current situation that you do not want? How much of it is the external situation(s), and how much of it is you?
Often, we do not realize that the most consistent variable in life – change — often finds us. We rarely initiate the process with clear intent. It appears that as circumstances no longer fit us, change must occur. Our first response is to escape. Our second is to fight. Our third is to deny. That flight, fight and freeze sounds familiar.
The question becomes not just, “What is your first action?” but “Where you are acting from?”. Are you reacting, i.e., a survival response, or are you responding from a deeper felt sense or need? Are you escaping, or are you on a journey of discovery?
Arnold van Gennep (1873-1957), the French ethnographer, in his work Les Rites de Passage (The Rites of Passage) described the three core stages that deep change incorporates. The first stage is separation – leaving the current situation. In this Guide, we will cover this process; the next two Guides will dive into the remaining two stages.
With a Les Rites de Passage, van Gennep speaks about psychological or existential separation. He delves into how societies create practices that foster the departure from the “ordinary world” — as Joseph Campbell described when expanding van Gennep’s three stages into thirteen for his The Hero’s Journey, which I’ve mentioned previously.
Any significant separation will evoke grief from the loss of what was. Even if that past was unpleasant, it was still a part of you. Separation may also evoke fear of an unknown future and maybe shame from the judgment of failure. We all avoid those feelings for good reason. Yet, as we learned, feeling them allows us to let go of what held us in an old limiting pattern or a space that no longer works for us.
So how do you escape with all you want to take? Or better yet, how do you leave with more than you had while in the old state or place?
Adapting the ROC Formula’s (Relax, Open & Connect) R of relax, you slow down to feel what you want to escape. You allow the pain to be felt. This is not a masochistic act; it is a mindful act of accepting the experience in the moment. That does not mean you need to accept the circumstances; it means you allow unfelt physical and emotional experiences to be felt.
If you are like me, there were few times, particularly during childhood, when grief or fear was felt or expressed when leaving a situation or relationship. I “manned up,” repressing my vulnerability and needs. I might have left a situation, but much of the pain and fear of leaving stayed to be felt the next time I was in a similar situation.
Being left at college by my parents was scary and sad… and, yes, liberating. I did not show or say anything about how I felt. Nor did I fully feel or express what I felt when I lost my first love. The first time I slowed down and dropped down into my feelings, it was overwhelming. There was a lot of water behind my dam.
Name the thing you are currently leaving in your life. If there is not a current situation or relationship, what is the one you will leave or have recently left?
As you speak, name what your body and emotions are feeling. Allow yourself to feel some of the pressure of the backup water behind your dam.
Dive into what unconscious, deeper emotional themes are being established with this separation. In other words, what keeps repeating itself? What keeps following you from one separation to another?
One thing for me was that I needed others. My self-reliance was a fraud, and I did not want to feel how I missed and needed others.
As we explore our incomplete separations, what did you not fully experience?
One of the gifts of our work and community is that we learn and heal through others sharing their experiences. So often, when a man shares a vulnerability, it triggers one in us.
Check out the next post here.
[…] In the previous post, we discussed separation, the first of three stages of change. Here we will move into the second stage, transition, or as others call it, liminality[i]. […]