Creativity and the Liminal Space
Tolerating the transition can take you to a better place.
Posted June 4, 2013 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
What happens if you lose what appears to be your “everything” and you do not know what to do next? If you feel that you are anxiously floating in the in-between, perhaps you are in The Liminal Space.
The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word limens, which means, "threshold."
Explains Richard Rohr:
… It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.
There's also this definition on Wikipedia:
Participants "stand at the threshold" between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way. Continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt.
People lose jobs they held for decades, get divorced after many years, or have to walk away from family due to a lifetime of little assaults that became too much.
Though depression and anxiety can abate when one is removed from a psychologically grueling situation, loneliness might set in. Your sense of belonging, purpose, and identity can be compromised if you have to change your job, leave your mate or create a new circle. Waking up with no clear plan or having no holiday ritual can be disorienting and agitating.
Sometimes it can cause shame. The thought might be, "If I were worthy, people would want me, reach out to me, ask me to stay, or try to work it out."
When things do not work out, it is hard not to take it personally. As psychoanalyst Adam Phillips says, “The art of family life is to not take it personally.”
Be careful not to let your self-esteem slip because things did not work out. A poor fit does not indicate that you are flawed, but rather a sign that you have not found the right fit.
“Goodness of fit,” a term coined by researcher Stella Chess, is a great boon but it doesn’t always occur. If the fracture was because you erred, forgive yourself and move on. Sometimes we err because unconsciously we want a way out. Tripping ourselves up is a way of escaping.
If you are in transition, and floating in the Liminal Space, trust that answers will come. You will feel better. You can change and find new answers.
Once I was really upset about something that happened to me, and all kinds of people offered wonderful insights that helped me through. My oldest friend said, “You were really battered. Time heals,” which gave me, strangely, an instant sense of relief. (One psychoanalytic professor told me that a really simple interpretation can be much more helpful to a patient than a profound, deep one if it is the right timing and offered with empathy.)
Living in the Liminal Space can be challenging. But one can learn to tolerate the anxiety and develop the faith that things will take shape.
The good news is that if we wait it out and let time heal, we figure it out. We can find a better place, we understand what we are searching for or trying to express. Belonging, according to Maslow, is a primal need, so natural instincts will lead you to create another life for yourself.
Sometimes your resourcefulness can surprise you.