Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, by William Bridges
Life’s transitions are difficult to navigate. While everyone’s transitions look different, there are some tell-tale patterns that indicate a transition, and there are guidelines to help make a transition smoother. In a transition, a person will feel restless, anxious, and will lose interest in regular activities. Each transition begins with a death of some sort, which must be mourned. In this time, one must separate himself from something, which can be quite disorienting. Only then, can one enter into a fallow time of reflection and malleability. This is where the real work of the transition takes place. Finally, a new birth brings freshness and a kind of new identity. All people experience transitions throughout various stages in their lives, even though it is impossible to make any certain set of stages normal. How we deal with transitions in early life will usually dictate how we deal with other transitions later. Transitions of all kinds deeply affect interpersonal relationships and can even jeopardize those relationships. Many people experience transitions in their work life from a kind of apprenticeship to “householding” to some kind of “final chapter.”
The author spends a great deal of time in the myths of the ancient Greek world. Unless the reader has significant knowledge or great interest in these myths, it will be difficult to understand the (very) extended illustration. Further, the author weaves a variety of stories from his personal experience with students throughout the book. These stories are all similar (since they all deal with transitions), and so only a very careful reader will not be confused. Nonetheless, it is easy to see why this book has sold so many copies. The information is quite valuable, and his exposition of transitions is easy to understand. The practical advice is the most valuable part of the book.
“First, the process of transformation is essentially a death and rebirth process rather than one of mechanical modification. Although our own culture knows all about mechanics, it has a great deal to learn from the past about death and rebirth.” p.140.