In the intricate tapestry of human experience, there exists a realm often overlooked yet profoundly influential – the liminal space. This ethereal terrain asks us to reflect on the very essence of who we are and what we know about the world. In this time of great revealing, many people question what they thought was Truth. And are learning how to navigate uncertainty in many areas of their lives. In this article, we will explore what a liminal space is, why it is so important, and ways to be okay with not knowing.
What is Liminal Space?
If you are unfamiliar with the idea, it is a transitional space that arises on our passage through something. Usually brought on by a crisis or major life change, it is a time that forces us to be introspective and reevaluate our values, goals, beliefs, and life trajectories. Because of its destabilizing nature, it is a time often characterized by ambiguity, uncertainty and disorientation.
A Rite of Passage
Most rites of passage are all but forgotten in these modern times. While we have retained some of them like, baptism, confirmation, or marriage. we have forgotten the value that these ceremonies and traditions once held. Helping individuals to embrace change, growth, and the pursuit of a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in the world. That passage between the acceptance of the call to change and the awakened transformation is the liminal space.
Liminal spaces are the in-between spaces where an older version of ourselves becomes increasingly ill-fitted and yet the new version has yet to emerge. Because of the malleability of this time, it can be challenging to navigate. Part of this is because what we thought we knew no longer seems to fit and feels increasingly inauthentic. And partly because shedding old identities and stepping into new ones is, by its very nature, a destabilizing process. The ground is shifting beneath our feet and without a North Star to point towards, it can be a difficult time.
Think of this time as the pupal stage in the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. A caterpillar is born with imaginal cells that remain dormant until the onset of the transformation process. Once the caterpillar starts to undergo metamorphosis, the imaginal cells begin to awaken. But if you interrupt the process mid-way, it is neither a butterfly nor a caterpillar, just a big pile of goo.
Space For The Extraordinary
Traversing this space can take a few weeks to a year or more depending on the precipitating factors and how a person deals with the unknowing. In this liminal space, we need to allow ourselves to awaken what lies dormant within us and not rush the process. What’s inside of us might not yet be fully formed, and to push ourselves to figure it out, we risk settling for the ordinary. Pushing ourselves back into the status quo or not giving ourselves enough time for discovery. Shouldn’t we give ourselves the space to make way for the extraordinary?
Tips For Navigating Liminal Spaces
- Acknowledge the liminal space: Recognize and accept that you are in a period of transition and uncertainty. Surrender to it and understand that is normal to feel disoriented, anxious, or confused.
- Stay Curious: Instead of resisting – Embrace ambiguity. Stay open and learn to play with ideas, thoughts, and visions without needing them to be the answer. Try them on, like you would a jacket, and see how they feel on you. Do they feel expansive or contractive? How much energy do they hold? Try to resist the urge to make them concrete but rather let them float in and out without attachment. There will be a time to take action, but that isn’t this moment.
- Use this time to explore new perspectives, interests, or pathways. Take a class, read a new author, and learn something new. Engage in novel activities. If you’ve never considered yourself an artist, take an art class or try your hand at writing.
- Seek support and connections. Invite your friends and family with you on some of these excursions. Explore new terrain with people you love. If you feel stuck seek out the support of a therapist or support group.
- Cultivate self-care. Take care of your physical, emotional, and mental health by engaging in activities that bring you joy, relaxation, or a sense of meaning.
- Set small goals: Think about what you want to do for the day and set out to attain that. Having small, attainable goals can bring a sense of direction and accomplishment during a time when life may seem unpredictable or uncertain.
- Don’t compare yourself to an older version. You are moving toward something new. This means new habits, new mental constructs, and new ways of being. That means that things will change. Comparing yourself to how you used to do things will hamper this process and increase suffering.
- Be kind to yourself. You are in the process of awakening something very special.
In the intricate dance of life, the liminal space fosters the metamorphosis of the self. It is a realm where identities are shed, and we make way for the emergence of the extraordinary. As we navigate this terrain of uncertainty and transition, let us embrace the inherent ambiguity, stay curious and be open to possibilities. And in the midst of this profound transformation, be okay with not knowing. It’s not going to last and the experience itself is part of our journey.