The Liminal Zone

Have you ever had the feeling that you were on the cusp of a huge shift in your life? You may have entered the liminal zone, or liminal space. The word liminal comes from the Latin word for threshold – when you’re at that place, you may be about to enter through a door to a place you haven’t been before. Anthropologist Victor Turner describes it as being between “no longer and not yet”.

Some of the most agonizing moments in our life – the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss – may precede some of the most beautiful times of our life. This may be hard to see when we’re sad or angry. The liminal space may also be of a less obvious nature and may feel just plain uncomfortable. You may have the sensation that something is about to change or that you are awakening to a new perspective on your life. You may notice familiar themes pop up, like when three different people mention the same thing to you. You may find that old friends or lovers reappear, or you may have recurring dreams. You might have a gnawing feeling in your belly. What’s going on?

Learning to cultivate an acceptance of the liminal space is an art. If you’ve recently moved to a new residence, you’ll know what I’m talking about. There can be a great feeling of uncertainty as we look for a way to put down roots: that confusing time can lead to forgetfulness, a short temper, or anxiety. Even though, deep down, we know that things always change, we tend to cling to the old as an attempt to feel safe and secure.

There needn’t be a rush to figure things out. Giving ourselves time to breathe, think, question, ponder, or imagine is a gift.

Psychologist Joan Borysenko calls the liminal space a sacred crossroads.

If you feel that you’re at a crossroads, it may be a good time to see your therapist. Having a trusted person join you on part of your journey is a good way to work through some of the things that are coming up for you. So go ahead – pause in the liminal space, and explore the possibilities!