August 9, 2013

All about liminal stages

Filed under: Sacred Wilderness — Ann @ 11:01 am

In the musical “Gypsy,” the newbie stripper is advised by her seasoned colleagues that she has to specialize, has to claim a niche — or, in their words, “You Gotta Have a Gimmick.” And this is true for all professionals. Everyone specializes these days and generalists get lost. I’ve been pondering for some time what I want to specialize in when it comes to my counseling work. For over a year I’ve counseled trauma survivors and that’s one area I can call mine. In my new job, I’m working essentially as a “life coach” to those who are starting over from homelessness. I’ve been thinking about what these jobs have in common, and the big draw for me. And I realize that they both activate my long, long fascination with life transitions, and what I like to call “liminal” or in-between states. This morning, for the first time, I researched the background of the term “liminal states.” I learned that a liminal stage is an anthropological term (“limin” means “threshold”), and it’s a stage of a ritual. Specifically, it’s that state of ambiguity or disorientation that happens in the middle stage of rituals, when those involved are no longer their pre-ritual selves, but not yet their transformed selves. During a ritual’s “liminal” stage, participants are standing at the threshold between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and their new way of life. They are no longer who they were when they began the ritual, nor are they the person they will be when they emerge from the ritual. And thus my specialty area was born. I plan to do therapy with individuals, couples and families in liminal states, in very specific places of transition. This could be adolescents emerging into adulthood, couples planning marriage (or divorce); those starting or finishing school, or jobs, moving, experiencing midlife changes; in recovery from substance abuse, grieving — any and all transition work. Transition counseling isn’t new, but transition counseling grounded in ritual/stage work is very specialized. We don’t have enough rituals in our culture; my transformative counseling work will focus on ways we need to acknowledge, grieve and/or celebrate change through ritual. So excited!

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