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Are You Living in the Midlife Land of Liminality?

October '16

I loved the concept of liminal space when I first encountered it while reading the writing of Carl Jung. But I sure didn’t love that place when I found myself there at midlife. Day after day, I remained discontent with my life, yet stuck as to the best way to move forward. I knew I needed to be doing something different, but for the life of me couldn’t determine a clear direction. For an action-oriented gal, this was daily hell.

What Jung gave me was a new way of seeing that confusing space by understanding it as part of the midlife transition journey. He defined liminal space as “the betwixt and between place, the limen, or boundary from one place to another.” I liked being reminded that limen meant threshold in Latin, because the idea of crossing a threshold into new territory was appealing. It changed my attitude toward my daily dissatisfaction from frustration to acceptance and even hope.

Instead of a daily hell, this liminal space now held some potential for the future. In talking about Jung’s liminal concept, one author suggested, “What takes place in the dark phase of liminality is a process of breaking down…in the interest of making whole one’s meaning, purpose and sense of relatedness once more.”(1) So if you’re stuck in this ‘betwixt and between place’, it may be helpful to consider that it serves a purpose. It makes sense that if things are to come together in a new way, they might need to disassemble first and that might take a bit of time and be a little uncomfortable.

If you are a doer living in liminal land, things will be particularly messy for a while. But the knowledge that this liminal phase is a necessary part of your midlife metamorphosis may bring some comfort and lighten your load. In addition, there is one thing you actually do in this stuck place. It’s a perfect time to initiate a program of intense self care, which is the topic of the book I have almost finished called, Midlife Magic: 7 Days of Self Care. I expect to publish it next year. While I just completed a final draft, it needs to go to an editor, find a cover and make its way through a rather extensive self-publishing routine before it’s ready to launch. I’ll keep you posted on its progress.

Meanwhile, Happy Halloween!
Bonnie

(1) Shorter, Bani. An Image Darkly Forming: Women and Initiation. London: Routledge, 1988.

6 Comments

  1. Janet Sedgley said on October 31, 2016:

    Bonnie, you hit the nail on the head for me. I feel as though so much is ending and nothing ahead is clear enough to be comforting. Everything is really fine but I feel all discombobulated and out of sorts. Thanks for clarity … and the idea of intense self care. Just what I need. Thanks!!

  2. Bonnie said on November 1, 2016:

    Hi Janet! How lovely to hear from you! You described that liminal space perfectly with your words, “so much is ending and nothing ahead is clear enough to be comforting.” Hang in there with all the self care you can administer: ) Bonnie

  3. Ellen said on November 1, 2016:

    This description resonated with me! I felt precisely this way when I was in my late 40’s. The transition was messy and painful; my life changed dramatically. But I can reassure those going through this now that there is a wonderful new life on the other side.

  4. Abby Peck said on November 3, 2016:

    I love your inspirational postings Bonnie. I’m not very good at replying. I hope all is well with you and your family. I miss you and the Inger dinner.
    Love Ab

  5. Bonnie said on November 3, 2016:

    Thanks for sharing. Ellen! It’s so good to hear about a “messy and painful” transition that lead to “a wonderful life on the other side!” Bonnie

  6. Bonnie said on November 3, 2016:

    Hi Abby! So good to hear from you, and thanks for your kind words about my postings. Hope all is well with you and yours too. Bonnie

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