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Transitions: The Body Remembers

By Sheryl Paul
December 28, 2009



My clients are often befuddled about why they would be remembering past significant events, especially transitions, during their engagement. The reason is that transitions trigger the memories of other transitions; loss touches off old loss; endings ignite the re-living of past endings.



It’s autumn, the season that epitomizes transitions. The leaves are turning brown, then falling, revealing birds’ nests in the trees’ bare limbs. The sun’s golden light infuses everything, from the expanse of cottonwood to the wide swaths of green lawn to the creek’s babbling waters. The world is aglow with the interface of life and death, an exquisite beauty that inspires us to inhale deeply as we attempt to grasp on to the last warm days before the silence and cold of winter sets in. It’s an ineffable beauty, bittersweet in that we celebrate the richness and yet know its temporality. It’s the season of melancholy and memory, of family holidays and outdoor play, of bright orange pumpkins and amber fires.

As soon as the first autumn rays appeared, my body remembered. It was as if it was last year at this time when my husband’s work took him out of state, leaving me, newly pregnant, and my four year old son behind. For two months, I battled the debilitating nausea that overtakes me during pregnancy while parenting my son and maintaining my work schedule. Without my husband’s support, it was almost too much to bear. We made it through, and I haven’t thought much about it since, but on the morning of the anniversary of his departure, I had a dream about that time and woke up nauseous. When I checked the date on my calendar, it turned out that my body had remembered his exact leaving day before my conscious mind had. And for the next two months, I was aware of a faint, shadow nausea that mimicked what I had experienced the year before. It was as if the combination of autumn and the one-year anniversary prodded me to process the challenge of that period in our lives.

My clients are often befuddled about why they would be remembering past significant events, especially transitions, during their engagement. The reason is that transitions trigger the memories of other transitions; loss touches off old loss; endings ignite the re-living of past endings. When we subscribe to the cultural propaganda that the wedding transition is supposed to be only a happy time, we attempt to push these memories and feelings of loss aside; there’s no room for loss in the busy schedule of the unconscious bride. But the conscious bride recognizes that the engagement is the time to process old losses and unfinished transitions. She learns that the wedding, alongside being a beautiful affirmation of two people’s commitment to one another, is one of the most significant transitions in a person’s life. And transitions, by definition, are a time of loss, uncertainty, and letting go – the autumn before the silence of winter and the rebirth of spring.

The same applies to every transition and time of loss in our lives. I recently worked with a man who was confused about why he would be remembering a traumatic event in his childhood while driving to the funeral of a lifelong friend. I explained to him that the death of a friend is not only a significant loss but is also a transition, and that as his mind slowed down during the long drive, the memories of past loss surfaced. My client had been subtly berating himself for “dwelling” in these old memories, thinking that he had healed them already. But the truth is that trauma heals in layers and spirals – it’s not a linear event where we work it through and then it’s done forever – and with each transition we’re offered an opportunity for a deeper layer of healing.This paradigm turned the man’s thinking on its head, and what had been a source of self-criticism flipped over into an opportunity for growth.

And therein lies the potency of transitions: they always provide an opportunity for growth. They’re times in our lives when we’re rendered more vulnerable and raw as we shed a layer of our familiar skin and open ourselves to a new stage of life and identity. When we shun the painful memories and avoid processing the unfinished transitions that emerge during an engagement (or pregnancy, autumn, buying a house, ending a relationship, attending a funeral, etc), we not only miss a chance at shedding that which no longer serves us but we actually carry it into the next stage. This clutters our ability to embrace the new stage with clarity and confidence. And when the next transition occurs, we find ourselvesthat much more weighted down by unshed pain and stuck memories.

So if you find yourself immersed in memories of your deceased grandmother or you awaken from a dream about an ex-boyfriend and realize it’s the date of your anniversary, take time to welcome in the memories and process the associated feelings. The more you allow them in, the more easily you will move through your engagement and open to the possibility of marrying on clear, solid ground.

 

Sheryl Paul, M.A., pioneered the field of bridal counseling in1998.  She has since counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her best-selling books, "The Conscious Bride" and "The Conscious Bride's Wedding Planner," and her website, www.consciousweddings.com. She's regarded as the international expert on the wedding transition and has appeared several times on "The Oprah Winfrey Show", as well as on "Good Morning America" and other top television, radio, and newspapers around the globe. Phone sessions available worldwide. 310 382-0048 



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