There are three stages to any life transformation:
- The descent – what’s called by psychologists a “significant emotional event” in life. Loss of a loved one through death or separation. The loss of a job, leading to depression and an unfulfilling search for the next job. The onset of a chronic disease. A midlife crisis. It leads us into a dark, scary place from which no path to return is apparent. We fear that this heightened level of suffering has become our new normal. In Christian terms, this is the crucifixion of Jesus.
- The ordeal – the struggle to deal with this aspect of our life, to escape our misery. This may take days, months or years. It seems the best we can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other, living one day at a time. You may occasionally get a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. It’s said that “when you’re going through hell, keep going” – in the direction of the light. In the Christian story, this is the death and burial of Jesus; and the huge sense of loss felt by his disciples.
- The emergence – The point at which we emerge from our suffering; and realize we are renewed as a much greater version of ourselves. We start a new chapter in life, considerably more fulfilling than prior to our fall. This is Jesus arising from the dead, and presenting to his followers as a living, breathing spirit.
My favorite analogy for this is one we all know from nature: The transformation from ugly caterpillar to beautiful butterfly, where the caterpillar must first die a horrific death in the chrysalis.
Most people I know have had at least a few such transformations in life. It’s a natural, character-building phenomenon. What I’ve found is that it helps to recognize these three stages. Know where you’re at all along the journey. Be aware that it’s not the new normal; that the inevitable emergence is just ahead. Bringing this awareness to your transformation brings hope and faith into the process. It seems to reduce the amount of cocoon time; and accelerate the emergence.
And when you emerge – acknowledge and celebrate the new YOU. Own the courage and determination it took to ride out the storm – perhaps more than you ever realized you had. From this place you are better prepared for your next transformative process.