At The Edge of The Neutral Zone

Over the past few weeks and months I have been reading and writing a lot about transition and change, mostly the work of William Bridges. You may recognise his name I have quoted it a few times on various blogs. He is a Professor, writer and consultant on Transition and his model on transitions is widely used and very easy to follow, and that is why I use it a lot, as it seems to make perfect sense. His model consists of 3 parts: ending, losing and letting go; the neutral zone; the new beginning.

The three phases of transition: William Bridges (2008) Managing Transitions. Nicholas Brealey Publishing , Boston USA

So I have been doing a lot of thinking about change and the amount of change we are going through, right now. We are all used to change to some extent, most workplaces go through change on a regular basis, so the discomfort and confusion caused by change are emotions we are used to. However what is different this time is the global nature of change we are experiencing. Change has permeated into every aspect of our lives. Some of the changes we have created, some have been started at work and other have been initiated by government, but they are all driven by one huge change that is happening everywhere to to everyone. The problem with this change is, that we have no idea what the new beginning is going to be like, and we are not sure how much of a say we have in what it will be. This change comes with a massive dose of uncertainty. Feeling uncertain makes us feel unsafe. Certainty, along with options, reputation and equity are core social needs, when any of these are missing or threatened we can feel very unsafe.

The pattern of our lives has been disrupted we are in grieving for the certainty we once had. We keep on trying to apply the patterns of our old world to the world we are currently in, but it does not fit and that makes us feel more unsafe. If we apply Bridge’s transition model above, that is why I think we are just at the edge of the neutral zone. We are still coming to terms with the loss of the old ways of doing things, some of us have let go of some things and are struggling with others. We are all trying to decide what we can take with us and what from the old way of doing things we have to leave behind.

This morning I was listening to Brene Browns wonderful podcast “Unlocking Us”, in this episode she was talking about what she calls Day 2. Day 2 is the neutral zone, she describes it in terms of a three day training program that she used to run, where day 2 was always the difficult day, you were passed the excitement and enthusiasm of day 1 and too far away from the satisfaction of completion on day 3. Nothing ever seems to make sense on day 2. There is a lot of information being thrown at you that is difficult to understand, that will all make sense on day 3. I can relate to this, the Clinical Supervision Course that myself and Janis run has that very same difficult day 2, where everyone is huffing and puffing and trying really hard to make sense of it all. The thing is to complete our Clinical Supervision course you have to do day 2. What we are going through at the moment is that difficult day 2, but without the choice of dropping out.

We are in this neutral zone whether we like it or not. Our lives will never go back to the way they were. Somethings we will be able to take with us, but at the moment we are not quite sure what they are, not until we have traveled further through this zone. So how do we keep ourselves safe whilst travelling through this?

  • We have to accept that we are in transition and not try rush our way out
  • Be honest with ourselves and name the emotions we are feeling
  • Build temporary structures that we know our temporary, to replace old rules and ways of doing things to keep us safe
  • Be purposeful in everything we do (be clear as to why you are doing what you are doing, for instance working from home to keep your family safe, or going into work to support your community)
  • Be creative with what you have, ad stop chasing things you don’t have.
  • Accept that things will go wrong, that you and everyone else will make mistakes, so be kind to yourself as well as others.

I suspect that this neutral zone is very wide and that we will be in it for a long time, that is why it is so important to recognise where we are and not force the new beginning until we are certain we know what that is.


Published by Matt Smith Personal and Professional Coach

Performance and Life Coach

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