First her Mom died. Delia had a tough relationship with her, never feeling like she was wanted and cherished. Her Mom did the usual things like putting dinner on the table and buying her clothes. The bare minimum stuff. She did not, however, do things like come to any of Delia’s softball games in high school or any of her school concerts. This kind of parent-child relationship is tricky. There wasn’t any overt abuse, like being hit, which can be much easier to understand and respond to. This kind of thing — which I call emotional neglect — is was much more subtle and tends to seep into every nook and cranny of a person’s sense of worth.
As Delia sat across from me each week, I could see how painful it was to wade through it all. It was coming off of her in thick mucky waves. The hardest part was the intense heart longing. Even though intellectually Delia knew that her Mom would never be the caring, kind, loving Mom she needed, Delia was also mourning that she would never have this Mom now that her Mom was dead.
Then one day, about six months after her Mom died, Delia’s husband left.
She didn’t see it coming. Already feeling on shaky ground after her mother’s death, Delia reported that her life was suddenly turned upside down by her husband’s departure. For months, nothing in her life made sense or felt worthwhile. She struggled to take regular showers and feed herself. She had trouble staying on top of her stressful job as a lawyer in a large firm in Manhattan. She drifted away from the friends on whom she once counted for support.
Delia was in the midst of a huge transition. I call these times Gate Passages.
Most of us go through at least one of these in our lives. Some Gate Passages are enormous and unwanted, like what Delia was experiencing. Some aren’t. They can even be things that you want in your life, like getting married or beginning a new job. Either way, going through a Gate Passages can be notoriously difficult. We tend to want things to stay the same, because there’s comfort and predictability in it that helps us feel safe. Gate Passages kick this predictability to the curb and kicks you out of your comfort zone.
From a zoomed out perspective, Gate Passages do specific things. They clear out people, things, and circumstances that you don’t need for the next part of your journey. Like Delia experienced, this can be really tough. She didn’t want her marriage to end. The go-to coping skills that worked like a charm for you before can suddenly break down. You feel like the people around you haven’t a clue what’s happening and don’t understand. You can feel panicky and anxious about the changes and uncertainty ahead of you.
Gate Passages require new skills to help you navigate your way through it.
Here’s one to try right now: get curious about it.
Getting curious lets you move through it differently. It gives you a break from the intensity of it and distance. With this distance, you can also begin to make meaning of it and put it into the context of your life so far. I call this being your own sacred witness. Journaling can be a super helpful way to cultivate curiosity. If journaling doesn’t make your toes curl with glee, try something else. Make a collage, bake a cake or do an interpretive dance. See what you notice, as the sacred witness to this part of your life.
Some specific things to be curious about are:
- What’s ending in my life right now?
- Who is leaving?
- Why it is happening? If you don’t know, tap into your inner knowing and guess.
- What lessons are here for me?
- How am I showing up for this change?
- What’s coming next?
- Where and in what way to I need support (see below)?
If this is tough for you, close your eyes and imagine that you are seeing yourself going through this from above. From this zoomed out perspective, see yourself before the change, as the change arrives, and what lies ahead.
Going through a Gate Passage is easier with support. Humans are biologically wired to be in community. Having others to lean on is the soothing balm for your heart, especially when you’re doing through something big. I’ve been guiding smart sensitive people through Gate Passages for nearly 20 years. If you find yourself wanting support through your big change, get in touch. Here's where I tuck in how to find me.