One thing is certain in life and that is that nothing stays the same. We are all constantly having to face up to changes in ourselves and the world around us. Right now, the world seems more uncertain than ever, whether you look at global or domestic politics, over population or the crisis of the changing climate. Living with uncertainty presents us with certain dilemmas, but it depends on how we view those dilemmas and respond to them, as to whether we cope well or badly.  Life transitions such as leaving school, finding a life partner, starting a career and starting a family, all involve uncertainty about the future.

Most of us have a need for constancy in our lives and a sense that certain things will never change. Even nomads who are constantly on the move, rely on certain aspects of their lives staying the same i.e. weather patterns, seasons, food sources and freedom to move around.  Learning to live with uncertainty means accepting that there are always going to be factors which are outside our control. None of us can predict the future; we don’t know how long we will live, or whether our partners/children will survive us or us them.  We can make predictions about the world around us based on past experience, but no one really knows what will happen.

We’re all familiar with the expression “in limbo” and if asked, most of us would recognise this as a feeling of being stuck in a position or situation, where we are waiting for others to make decisions which directly affect our lives, or perhaps we have been through a life event and feel unable to move forward.

The Oxford Dictionary definition is: “Any unfavourable place or condition, likened to Limbo; especially a condition of neglect or oblivion to which persons or things are consigned when regarded as outworn, useless, or absurd”.  We can all certainly relate to that feeling of being forgotten, dismissed and or ignored, when dealing with government bodies, Utilities etc.  These are all states of mind which are challenging to say the least. We all like to feel that we matter to others and at the very least need to know that they acknowledge our existence and care about our well being to a greater or lesser extent.

When clients present for therapy, they are often in a state of limbo. Being in this state can cause distressing psychological and even physical symptoms. The most obvious symptom is that of anxiety, which can lead to depression if the limbo continues for any length of time. If the anxiety becomes severe, then it can lead to full-blown panic attacks and /or the client starts to find it difficult to function on a day to day basis.

The issues which most often cause the feeling of being in limbo are:

  • bereavement
  • chronic illness
  • relationship breakdown
  • redundancy &
  • retirement.

All of the above have two things in common: Loss and Separation.  The thing about Loss is that it  involves us going through a grief process, which can be painful, slow and lonely sometimes too.  Although we all experience loss throughout our lives, our own process will be unique to us. No two people will ever have quite the same experience and that is why clients often talk about feeling alone during life transitions.

My next blog talks about what we can do to mitigate the impact of life transitions.


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