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Bonnieby Bonnie Katz, MA


Why do we have such a hard time with transitions when they are a natural part of life? Last month, I had the privilege of witnessing a life being born. I can’t imagine a harder transition than a tiny, brand new baby being born and leaving the bliss of a continuous food supply, perfect temperature and soothing rhythm of a mother’s heartbeat. Birth is one of the most traumatic transitions we must encounter as humans; all other transitions pale in comparison. Going through birth should make every transition thereafter feel like a walk in the park. Right? You’d think so, but most people try to avoid it any way they can.

Most individuals need some ground beneath them in order to feel okay. They find comfort knowing who they are, where they are going and what to expect in the morning when they wake up. If any of those elements get pulled out from beneath them, insecurity can set in and make them feel as vulnerable as a newborn baby. Can you recall an occasion when you felt that way? Lost, unsure of what the next step should be? Maybe you had a plan, and were going along your way when all of a sudden something unexpected happened and changed everything. You lost your job, didn’t get the part you were so right for, came up short on funds, found yourself breaking up with the person you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with. Now what? Sometimes you have to take your expectations, open the window and throw them all out and begin again. That’s what the beginning of a transition looks like. It’s when your inner and outer landscape changes dramatically. Most people go through transitions kicking and screaming trying to hold on to the familiar; feeling that life isn’t fair. But, the harder you try holding on to the shore rather than jumping into the flow of life, the more miserable you will be. Life is like a big weather system. It continuously changes; sometimes sunny and other times stormy and dreadful. You can’t control any of it, but you can learn how to ride out the storms until the Sun appears or better yet, a rainbow.

Transitions, as difficult as they are, don’t have to be traumatic when you understand that they are inevitable. They are the labor pains of transformation. Ask any successful person, and they will tell you that the road was not a vertical path going upward. It had a lot of zigzags and maybe even a few spirals straight down. It’s unrealistic to think that your life will be one smooth ride upon which you will finally arrive to your “destination.” One thing you can count on is that nothing and no one is fixated. Things, people, circumstances, feelings, views are constantly changing. That’s what it means to be alive. You know what happens when they hook you up to a heart monitor and there is one straight line with no zigzags? That’s right, you’re no longer alive. So, when change occurs, rather than saying, “Why me?” say, “Yes, of course, this is what it is to be alive, living my life.”

As tough as it is to go through transitions, remember, obstacles don’t have to be treated as impossibilities. Here are some views that can help you handle transitions with grace and ease:

  • Befriend change rather than make it your enemy. Know that it carries the seeds of transformation. It’s part of moving forward.
  • When your anxiety kicks in, use these simple steps to calm down and find balance:
  1. Breathe slowly and deeply. This sends a message, from your lungs and your heart that you are safe and out of danger. It turns off the chemicals that are released in your body when you go into fear response.
  2. Relax your tongue. This also sends a message to your brain that everything is okay and kicks in the parasympathetic nervous system, which will soothe you.
  3. Open your mouth slightly. A relaxed jaw signals safety to the brain and stops it from going into panic mode.
  4. Imagine warmth in your hands. When you’re in fight or flight, the blood rushes away from your hands to your legs so that you can run. Imagining warmth in your hands also sends a message to your sympathetic nervous system to relax, everything is under control.
  • Obstacles + Courage +Transition = TRANSFORMATION. When you avoid transitions you avoid the opportunity for transformation to unfold.
  • When faced with a challenge instead of white-knuckling it, go with the flow, rise to the occasion and know that you will come through it better.
  • Instead of commiserating with friends about how unfair life is, surround yourself with positive, supportive people who decide to “Light a candle rather than curse the darkness.” Find inspiration from those who have turned obstacles into opportunities. Start with this group of people and continue adding to this list:
  1. Marlee Matlin, an Academy Award winning actress with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Matlin not only worked through the hardships of a tough industry, but she also had the challenge of being deaf. She shattered peoples perceptions of deafness and paved the way for others like herself.
  2. Jim Carrey, a successful actor and comedian, when 12-years old, his father lost his job and the family lived in a van for a period of time. Carrey took a job, working 8-hour shifts after school. Today he is one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood.
  3. Hilary Swank, an Academy Award winner who was so determined to be an actress, that at age 16, convinced her mom to pack up their car and move from Bellingham, Washington to Los Angeles. Without a place to stay and very little money, the two lived in their car until they saved enough money for an apartment.
  4. Stevie Wonder, received 22 Grammy Awards, the most ever received by a single male recording artist. Stevie has been blind since birth, but that didn’t stop him from becoming one of the greatest, most influential artists of our time.
  5. Ludwig van Beethoven, composer began to lose his hearing at the age of 26, but went on to compose the Ninth Symphony, which is regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces ever written.
  • Growth only occurs when you stretch beyond your comfort zone. “A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships were built for.” Learn how to calm your body and mind to handle the rough waters more easily. Try this special meditation when going through difficult transitions.
  • Stop wasting your time trying to control the uncontrollable and start investing your time in learning how to control your mind. Become the master of your thinking. Know which thoughts are helpful and which thoughts are harmful. Learn and practice mindfulnessMindfulness is “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgementally to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.” – Kabat-Zinn
  • Become aware of when you say “no” instead of “yes.” Saying yes is a way of keeping your heart and mind open instead of shutting down in fear. “Yes” helps build mental muscle and inspires growth and confidence.
  • Move towards your difficulties rather than backing away. You can use everything that happens – whether good or bad to promote awareness and self-growth.

“Just when the caterpillar thought it was the end of the world,
It became a butterfly.”

Bonnie Katz is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. One of her specialties is working with artists in the Entertainment Industry. Her skills and training as a psychotherapist and mindful meditator enable her to work with clients in an atmosphere of warmth and understanding. For more information on Bonnie’s psychotherapy practice,visit her website.Follow her on Twitter and Facebook

Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.