Are you having a difficult time navigating the dating scene day in and day out? Do you find it is especially difficult during the holidays? If so, you’re not alone. For many, the holiday season is just another reminder that you are alone and not where you want to be – celebrating with a special someone.
It can be easy to allow this time of year to get to you, but it’s important not to let the fact that you are alone affect your sense of self-worth. If you are feeling anxious about where you are in your life, you may be in liminal space.
What is Liminal Space?
Liminal space is a space between what has been and what is to come. It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing. Liminal space is not talked about often, but it is a necessary part of the journey to your next adventure. If you short-circuit this phase or try to avoid it, it could add more difficulty to your life in the long run. If you embrace liminal space and are patient, you will see a transformation begin to take place.
Author and theologian Richard Rohr’s definition of liminal space explains it perfectly:
“It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run….anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.”
Liminal Space in Real Life
Chances are, you’ve probably never heard of liminal space before. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! I had never even heard of the term until I spoke with my friend Adrienne Kijak who is a psychotherapist and art therapist in California.
We were catching up when she began telling me about her experience at a recent Art conference. She was working on a painting project called “progressive painting,” where she combined paint, objects she had found, and collage to create a piece. She picked a jagged piece of black glass and a smooth aquamarine piece of beautiful sea glass. During our conversation, she shared the painting process with me, explaining that she spent several days working on layering the paint and objects through all of the phases from the initial “ugly” phase to the finished piece. She explained that at times it was difficult to look at the art project because she hated being with that “ugly” part of the painting and seeing it over and over again. She didn’t want to feel what it was eliciting in her and wanted to cover over it. In her own words, “it was on the page. I couldn’t cover it over, couldn’t make it work. It was there, I couldn’t hide it.” She hated the feeling of not knowing, and more than that, she hated the fact that showing that part of her art left her feeling exposed.
As she spoke about her painting, I realized she was describing exactly how many of us feel about dating, or any other changes we may experience in our life. Whether it be divorce, a job change, or the death of a loved one, we have all experienced those exact emotions she described. That feeling of not knowing, feeling unsafe, exposed, and even “dumb,” is exactly what liminal space describes. But the important part of Adrienne’s story is what she took away from it. In the end, the black edge of “ugliness” she saw and felt in her art ended up being an integral part of the painting that brought the entire process together.
How Have You Experienced Liminal Space?
Often when we date, we experience liminal space.
Many of my clients struggle to move through the dating process. They want to be with their ideal partner already and don’t want to have to go through the trials and tribulations of dating. This is because it feels too hard, too exhausting, and too all-consuming. But dating is a crucial part of the relationship process. It is where you truly discover who you are and what matters most to you in a relationship. Dating can be uncomfortable because you may feel it is taking too long, going too slow, or not really getting you anywhere.
But, next time you are being hard on yourself and feel like you should be further along in your journey, take a second to stop and think about liminal space. Remind yourself that this phase of your life is important and try to have patience with yourself.
Don’t let liminal space put a damper on your holiday cheer. Allow yourself to reflect on your journey and embrace where you are in life and where you are going. If you trust in yourself and where you are on your journey, things will fall into place.
We often need a roadmap to help us navigate the changes in our life. If you’re struggling with liminal space and need some support throughout your journey, I can help! Contact me today to learn more about my relationship coaching program. I look forward to speaking to you about your journey and helping you through this time of liminal space.