Karen Herold – Wise Transitions (Part 1)

During this episode of the OXYGEN Show, host Noel Meador talks with transition counselor Karen Herold. Karen has a Master’s in Interpersonal Psychology and was previously a successful business executive. She has three daughters and two grandchildren. 

During today’s podcast, you will learn:

  1. What core issues come up during transition?

The words change and transition are often used interchangeably, but they are two different things. Change involves the external circumstance—the end of a deployment, for example. Transition is the emotional process you go through in reaction to a change. Some changes are simple and easy to work through, but others can knock you off your feet and leave you feeling stuck. In those times, the biggest challenge is recognizing that you are in transition and then honoring that process by allowing it to do its work in your life. 

  • What are the stages of transition?

The first stage of transition is the ending—you sell a house, or your job ends, or you move. An ending usually has many little details to take care of and consider. Then, one day, it’s all done and quiet, and you begin to wonder, “What’s next?” The second stage of transition is the neutral zone. The best thing to do during this stage is to acknowledge the discomfort and grief and to sit with them for a while. Many people are afraid to do this, and so they make change after change in an attempt to outrun the negative feelings; however, sitting with those feelings for a time is the only way to get to the third stage: a new beginning.

A new beginning means a new job, a new way of being in your life, a new passion or purpose, a new vision of your future, etc. For example, perhaps you were a soldier for most of your adult life. After that chapter closes, what do you call yourself? What does your life represent? How do you show up in the world? Taking the time to let go, grieve, and say goodbye to your old life is the only way to move forward.

  • Why is it crucial not to skip over stage two?

Stage two, the in-between stage, is uncomfortable. It involves loss and grief, and those are difficult feelings to take in. Then, after loss and grief come feelings of not knowing what’s next, which can be somewhat culturally unacceptable. It is crucial to give yourself time to sit with these feelings, to be intentional as you allow the uncomfortable feelings to happen. Avoid turning to things that will numb the discomfort, such as drugs, alcohol, working too hard, or exercising too much. Do not bury these feelings and prematurely jump into the next stage, because if you do not address them now, they will come up later in life. Pursue soul-healthy activities, like meditation, prayer, contemplation, time in nature, and creative practices.

  • How can you identify your subpersonalities as they transition into something new?

Before you can embark on a new beginning, you must intentionally recognize what you’re saying goodbye to, the image you had of yourself. Perhaps you were a soldier or a single parent and now those identifiers are no longer accurate. Giving up those identifiers may be positive, but it involves an element of sadness because you invested a lot in that image, you were successful at it, and it defined you to an extent. Say to yourself, “That was a part of me that isn’t going to be a part of me in the future.” Next, you can think creatively about what you want to be and begin to create what your new image and your new life will look like. Perhaps you want to be an artist or a businessman or a professional coach. 

  • How do you deal with a family in transition?

Most of the time, transition does not happen in isolation. Unless you live alone, you have a spouse or children or other family members to take into consideration as you try to transition in a healthy way. If you’re married and your spouse wants to move forward quickly into the next step, and you’re not quite ready, be honest and communicate with your spouse. Perhaps your entire family is going through a major transition, and each member is transitioning at a different pace. Lean into your community or seek professional help, if that is what’s needed. Transition opens the door to say, “This is what each of us wants, and let’s take the time to make sure we can all get there,” and move forward as a family. 

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The Stronger Families Team