Midlife and Beyond: Change vs. Transition

Midlife and Beyond:  Change vs. Transition

FROM:  Suzanne & Steve

There is no doubt that we face changes when we get to midlife and beyond.  What was once known as “retirement age” seemed to be the watermark for the changes of growing older.  But nowadays changes related to aging and health (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) can happen earlier or much later.  And it is best to be aware, if not actually prepared for whatever happens.

In his book, Managing Transitions, William Bridges distinguishes between “change,” which he describes as external and public, and “transition,” which is internal, private, and psychological.  He claims that change is relatively easy but transitions are more difficult and emotionally demanding.  He states “Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation….and, it is these interior processes of learning and adaptation—not the external facts of change—that are underestimated and can be treacherous to one’s health and happiness.”

Bridges claims that in our highly mobile society, where change and ambition are considered coin of the realm, people fail to recognize that any transition process—in life, in love, in work—not only requires adapting to a new situation, but it means letting go of old habits. 

If we take traditional retirement as an example, there is a distinct “ending” followed by a challenging “neutral zone,” a kind of no-man’s-land between the old reality and the new where a person wrestles with issues of personal and professional identity.  How a person manages the fears and inhibitions, the ambivalence and ambiguities of this period determines how healthy, happy, and productive the “new beginning” that the rest of one’s life will be.

 Take care with the transitions of midlife and beyond to make the rest of one’s life the best of one’s life!

Suzanne Kilkus, PhD

Suzanne Kilkus, PhD believes that being open to learning defines the ease of our lives. And that our capacity for giving and receiving love defines the depth of our lives. She delights in assisting couples and individuals in creating greater ease and more love in their lives and relationships. She lives, laughs and loves with her husband, Steve, in Madison, WI and can be reached at heartspace@charter.net.