We’re not talking about the space separating the Romulans or Klingons from the Federation. It has nothing to do with outer space all.
Instead, the Neutral Zone is inner space and it’s not an easy place to be.
In his book, “Managing Transitions”, William Bridges outlined 3 stages that people go through when experiencing change. As opposed to your typical story structure of beginning, middle and end, the initial stage of the Transition Model is Ending. This stage is marked by resistance and upheaval and involves loss and letting go. Stage 2 is the Neutral Zone, a time of confusion and uncertainty. The final stage of this model is one of New Beginning, when one has finally accepted the change, has a new sense of energy and experiences rebirth.
As its name implies, the Neutral Zone is neither positive nor negative and can feel more dark than light. The Neutral Zone feels something like a forest; a symbol used often in ancient mythology and fairy tales. In “The Uses of Enchantment,” Bruno Bettelheim writes, “Since ancient times the near-impenetrable forest in which we get lost has symbolized the dark, hidden, near-impenetrable world of our unconscious.” In our 24/7 world focused on productivity and doing more, it’s difficult not to get impatient at this point and to want to just get on with it.
But that would be a mistake.
This phase is a bridge between the old that we’ve lost and the new that is not yet clear. As Bridges points out, change is just something that happens – a situation. However, transition is internal. It’s important to stop, acknowledge that transition is not easy and to fully feel it before moving on. Otherwise, we’re not fully open to the new beginning that lies ahead. Transition and transformation share a common root which means “across” or “beyond,” but also implies that we must move “through.”
So I enter the forest unafraid and with no expectations. I stand on the bridge with open heart and beginner’s mind. And I trust that I’ll emerge in a better place.