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The Way of TransitionReview - The Way of Transition
Embracing Life's Most Difficult Moments
by William Bridges
Perseus Books, 2001
Review by Margo McPhillips
May 20th 2001 (Volume 5, Issue 21)

This is a very helpful book about personal process; what it is, how it works, how to conceptualize and use it to one's advantage. It is also an enormously personal book; the author uses two of his own major life transitions and process as example. One of Bridges' transitions was the dying of his wife over the course of several years, the aftermath of her death, and then his passage through this change into a new sense of life, self, and remarriage. I found much of the book emotionally painful to read but the author's honesty and wonderful style as well as the benefits of experiencing his transitions with him helped me better understand my own.

The first bit of teaching the author does is to explain the difference between the concepts of "change" and "transition". A change is an outward, physical event; you change residences or jobs or get fired or divorced. Often as the result of a change, we are thrust into transition. Transition is a process with a beginning, middle and end. It may or may not be the result of a change. Vague dissatisfaction with one's life or situation, the beginning of letting go of a current way of being, may occur before any change is on the horizon. Or, in the case of being fired from our job or a sudden death of a loved one, we may be forced into transition by a change. Transitions involve letting go of the old, living in the neutral zone while we discover what comes next, and then embracing the change in life, self and the new.

The book is only loosely structured; it is more a telling of Bridges' story with comments and helpful asides. Reading the book is almost a transition in itself. There are wonderful quotes by various other authors and social philosophers sprinkled about to help create natural breaks within the story but they do not intrude or interfere in any way.

The author spends a good bit of time discussing and trying to help illuminate the most difficult and confusing period of transition, the middle or "neutral zone". This is the period when the old way of life is no more but a new way has not yet been discovered and one feels they are languishing in a sort of no-man's-land. Bridges points out how important it is to stay with one's experience during this time, instead of trying to escape it or numb one's self and how to work with one's process to move forward instead of derailing or having to spend more time than necessary in this uncomfortable state.

I think anyone could benefit from reading this book. Before Bridges became a transitions "expert" he was a professor of literature at a California university. This is the second major transition he relates, going from professor to business transitions guru to personal transitions sage. The transition through his wife's death is very painful to read and everyone might not be able to stand reading such emotionally difficult material. But, if one can, this book is well worth the price.


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