Renaming The Neutral Zone

Image of Bridges' Transition Model, showing Endings, Neutral Zone, New Beginnings, with overlap between the three phases

William Bridges’ model and his book label the phase between Endings and New Beginnings, ‘The Neutral Zone.’

‘The Neutral Zone’ is such a clean and clinical term, midway between positive and negative. I think Bridges wimped out by giving such an innocuous label to such an amorphous time, but maybe he had to. Maybe it was necessary language for book sales or speaking engagements.

Many times Bridges refers to The Neutral Zone as ‘the wilderness,’ but he shies away from labeling it ‘The Wilderness.’

Here are some ways Bridges describes this phase:

  • a time ‘between dreams’
  • a place without a name
  • an empty space in the world and the lifetime
  • a gap in the continuity of existence
  • the time between the old life and the new

I’m going to give The Neutral Zone my own label. Not ‘The Wilderness,’ because even that is too certain, the ground is too firm. I’m naming it:

‘The Swamp’

Have you ever been in a swamp? Not have you ever seen one on a screen. Have you walked in the boot-sucking muck, surrounded by reeds taller than you are, wondering if you are moving toward anything or merely going—slowly—in circles?

I have.

Trent had sixty acres of swamp behind his house at Mud Lake. I preferred the high parts of his land, the places where dogwoods bloomed.

Trent preferred the swamp.

I asked him about it once. “How come you love the swamp so much?”

He looked at me, looking surprised that anyone could possibly have such a question.

“Sweet Baby! The swamp is where life begins!”


Chewing the Cud of Good

Closeup of Trent getting ready to release Ernest, our small turtle, into the swamp
Trent releasing Ernest into a small pond in the swamp near our house in Newaygo, MI.

Thankful that I can remember Trent and feel happy.

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