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153 of 160 people found the following review helpful
In a recent survey, people were asked to list the most disturbing and disruptive things in their lives, and rank them according to difficulty to handle. It was seen that the highest proportion of difficulties involved transitions in people lives -- moving, new jobs, divorce, marriage, new child, death, etc. Surprisingly, there is not a great body of work dealing specifically with transitions and methods for coping and dealing with transitions in life. William Bridges provides a useful, accessible, and needed book on this important topic.
The book is divided into two broad topics: The Need for Change and The Transition Process. There is a brief epilogue following.
Part 1: The Need for Change
Americans seem, much more than people from more traditional, more grounded, and more static cultures, to always be in a state of transition, moving from one thing to another, both personally and professionally. This can be seen in the increasing pace of career-change, personal relocation, divorce and remarriage rates (which only scratch the surface of the larger transitional base of undocumented relationships), and so on. One could say that American culture is built upon constant transition (and some Marxists thought they were developing a system of institutionalised revolution -- they could probably never outdo modern American society for that!)
Being in transition is natural, but sometimes a confusing state, not simply because of the situational difficulties, but because they are not supposed to be difficult to handle.
`The big events -- divorce, death, losing a job, and other obviously painful changes -- are easy to spot. But others, like marriage, sudden success, and moving to your dream house, are forgotten because they are 'good events' and therefore not supposed to lead to difficulty. We expect to be distressed at illness, but it is a shock to find recovery leading to difficulty.'
Anyone who has returned from a big holiday trip knows the truth of this -- how often does one feel 'I need a vacation to recover from my vacation'?
Modern psychologists have identified different stages in life -- different psychologists offer up frameworks that vary in the particulars, but what they all have in common is a recognition of struggles and adjustment periods as one makes transition from the various stages, from childhood to adolescence, to young adulthood, etc. These are transitions that underlie the situational transitions. Like the answer to the riddle of the Sphinx, the answer to dealing with transitions depends upon understanding what underpins the human being.
The two greatest areas of transition that are addressed in this text surround those issues involving love and work. Other transitions occur, but few concern us that do not concern one of these issues. All our relationships with others, as well as our internal integrity issues, relate in some way to these two issues. Bridges provides some background, as well as a checklist to follow for understanding the transition.
Part 2: The Transition Process
It seems somewhat trite to say, but every ending can be a new beginning. The essence of the transition process lies in this statement. What most people overlook in making this statement is that most transitions are not smooth progressions from point A to B. There is a disruption, a confusion, often a sadness, sometimes an elation, but in every case some period of adjustment to the positive and negative changes that have occurred. Some cultures have specified timeframes for grief and mourning that assist in times of death; the honeymoon is meant to be a transitional period after marriage (a term co-opted by others who wish to have a smoother period of introduction after a change -- as in political honeymoons after a transition of government).
It is unfortunate that most neglect to properly grieve for things that are important but are not the 'actual death of a person'. We don't allow ourselves to grieve for the lost job, the lost relationship, the lost community when one moves -- we know and recognise there has been a change, but we are reluctant to call it grief, and thus not always able to deal with the issues properly. This is perhaps the greatest contribution of Bridges -- to put processes together to permit adjustment periods. Only when this is done may the truly new beginning be made. The conclusion of Part 2 deals with new beginnings.
The importance of keeping our grounding as human beings is emphasised over and over, so that we don't rush ourselves into a new beginning prematurely -- even if circumstances require the change (your job ended, and a new one starts immediately), you can work through the transition process to internally cope better with the change, giving up the old and embracing the new in a healthy manner.
Epilogue
Bridges uses the story of Psyche and Amor, and the trials of Psyche in her task to be reunited with Amor, to illustrate the power of transitions. There will be help along the way, but the greatest task still remains one of personal responsibility. There are no guaranteed happy endings, either.
This book is an interesting and helpful guide to understanding the constantly changing milieu in which we live from the standpoint of personally coping with change. As a society, we are undergoing various changes, the dramatic nature and radical impacts of which are unlikely to be fully known for years, if not decades. If ever a book on coping with transitions was needed, it is now.
The author, William Bridges, is a writer, lecturer, and consultant on human development. He taught at Mills College (California), and operates transition seminars in the western United States. He was president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology.
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82 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 1999
When I was divorced, I was in a rush to move forward toward -- something. That's how I was raised, to keep on moving even if I didn't really know where I was going! "Transitions" made so much sense. We need time out, an interval, in which to quietly acknowledge what is past, whether it's a marriage, a job, or a home town, a time to simply be. I declared an intown vacation, didn't answer the phone, did no work and, to my amazement, finally met "me." Thank you, William Bridges. I now include personal "intervals" as integral parts of ALL major life transitions!
Linda Senn, author of "Your Pocket Divorce Guide," co-author of "The Divorce Recovery Journal"
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70 of 71 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 18, 2003
I bought this book about five years ago and it helped me make sense of a change in my life. The book is exceptionally well written. The author writes simply and clearly. The text uses plain English, is free of jargon and is accessible to anyone who can read. The book explains the importance of endings and why one should not try to rush through them. Bridges explains about moving from the ending to to a place in between ending and beginning that he describes as the "Neutral Zone" a difflicult period that may seem as though it won't end but Bridges encourages readers not to rush through it and assures them that it too shall pass and lead to a new beginning. He explains that the new beginning cannot be rushed but will happen when you are ready.
This is a thoughtful and very loving book. I have returned to this book several times in the years I've owned it and each time I have found it helpful. The publication date is unimportant as the text is timeless.
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81 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 1998
I've always taken a relentlessly positive approach to losses: if your job goes away (for whatever reason), find a new one promptly; if a romance goes phfft, go out and get involved in some activity where you'll meet new people; etc. I wouldn't let myself feel any negative emotions about the situation, let alone express them to anyone else ("I'm not a whiner," I told myself). However, after years of doing this, I realized that my life seemed to be getting narrower and duller. This book helped to show me why: having never dealt with the pain associated with previous transitions, I was subconsciously choosing the "safer" alternative rather than taking any risks that might lead to yet another painful loss.
Last year I was laid off from my job. This time I let myself experience the anger and feelings of betrayal that this aroused in me, and I expressed those feelings to my family and a few close friends. Interestingly, I found some short-term free-lance work almost immediately, then took a short vacation, and three weeks after I returned I had another job! I don't say it was cause and effect, but this was one of the less painful transitions I've gone through. This is a GREAT book.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 1999
I think it is fabulous the way William Bridges "translated" what happens to all of us as we go through changes, into such an easy to understand model. It immediately made sense to me. As a consultant in Organization Development, I've been able to share his findings with people and organizations, since I first read this book, which was 1988. This is a must for anyone who is going through changes and/or is a change agent. It doesn't matter what country you are working in or where the people you are working with are from.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2002
This book remained a very close 'friend' of mine until I'd read every part so many times that it turned stale and I had to find another source of reassurance during a life change. But that speaks to the book's most challenging lesson: trusting the change we are going through even while others don't seem terribly interested. Two things I liked in particular about the book: one was the use of mythology or literature rather than psychology as source of wisdom and truth (Freud knew where to turn, too). Another was the point that transitions happen again and again over the course of one's life; developmental theories saying that "mid-life" crises happen only at 40 (whatever) are too simplistic and inflexible. Sheehy's Passages was exposed as overly linear and uni-directional in its stages and dated in its conception of gender roles. Both this book and Levoy's make the important point also that the 'change' can take years and may or may not include some kind of godsend or 'sign' of good to come. But they urge you to keep going through the motions to keep the potential for the sign alive.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Transitions by William Bridges walks you through transitions. He makes good distinctions in the differences between loss and grieving, simple change, and transitions. This belongs in your owner's manual for living.

Change has a goal. Transitions don't. In a transition, you have no idea where your path leads. To sedate myself, I often imagine the transition I am in is a simple change. This looks and feels like the denial process of grief.

I say to myself, "We're just moving to a place without stairs." Deep down where I avoid looking, I recognize this simple change is really transition. Our lives will turn upside down and I don't know who I will be or who we will be on the other side.

Transition has three stages that overlap, come and go.

1. Endings: It is useful to identify what is ending in your life. For instance, my life as a father with children living at home is ending.

2. Neutral Zone: This can look and feel like depression. Things go flat, rudderless, ambitionless. Time spent alone in silence, in nature works wonders.

3. New Beginnings: You cautiously begin the new ways of living. The desire, of course, is to leap to the new beginnings before paying the dues of steps 1 & 2. I promise you, there is no short cut. You will pay those dues one way or another before you truly can begin. I suggest you pay them cheerfully and proactively by scheduling the time needed. It goes fastest that way.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 1998
I am a psychotherapist and often recommend Bridges' book for my clients who are in the midist of painful transitions, such as relationship breakup, career change, ending something and uncertain about what's next, etc. The concept of an "empty space" between ending the old and beginning the new is especially helpful.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2000
Not only do I think of this book as one of the all time greats for the subject matter, this book is used as a text in both graduate and undergraduate degree programs at DePaul University in Chicago. Every student and professor with whom I've discussed this publication agrees, whether male or female, young or old. It is powerful.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2009
I found this book to be very helpful and insightful, but overly long and ponderous. Others may appreciate Bridges' style more than I, but I found myself frustrated by lots of repetition (Did you know that ancient and traditional cultures have rites of passage that mark transitions?), and wishing that it had been through some more thoughtful editing to clear away about one-third of the work, parts that more muddy the picture than sharpen or brighten it. Some great content, just too much extraneous and repetitious text.
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