3. Pulled in Different Directions
You can expect to get pulled in different directions and often feel like you’re rafting in whitewater, on an emotional roller coaster or in a crazed game of bumper cars. You will feel connected and at times disconnected. You will sometimes feel confident and sometimes insecure. Your world will at times seem to come together and at other times seem to fall apart. Sometimes you will be ready to engage and other times want to withdraw.
This is the world of “inbetweenity.” Going through a journey of change includes learning how to deal with the forces that pull in different directions. They will be doing their pulling throughout the journey and sometimes you will get pulled one way and sometimes you will get pulled another way. Part of the challenge is there are a bunch of these dynamic tensions at work at the same time. Welcome to the journey.
Order and Disorder
Major change implies the ending of one form of order and a transition to a new order. In between is the inevitable disorder, sometimes defined by such terms as confusion, irregularity, disturbance, or interruption of the normal functions. As a verb "disorder" is even more unsettling; to break the order of, to derange, to disturb the regular order of, to throw into confusion, to discompose, to jumble.
Order, in some dictionaries, has over twenty definitions as a noun. One definition is "a sense of peace and serenity". Other definitions include "a fixed or definite plan; system; law of arrangement", "a state or condition in which everything is in its right place and functioning properly.”
The tension between order and disorder is part of the journey, part of change, part of the normal life process. It is also very uncomfortable.
Place and Displacement
"Place" is another term with over twenty definitions as a noun, another term with immense importance to people. "I/we have a place" is a profoundly important statement or belief.
Not having a place, a place to be, a place to feel known or valued, leaves a person without reference, without a sense of belonging, without connection. And yet, that is exactly what must be experienced to some degree in cases of major change, in heroic journeys. Again it’s a question of degree and that will vary. Sometimes you will feel strongly that you have a place. Sometimes you will wonder and sometimes you might feel displaced.
Connection and Disconnection and Reconnection (break - establish - mend - maintain)
Connection is about relationships. Disconnection is about the loss of relationships. Reconnection is about the mending of relationships.
The connection may be to other people or groups, to a geographic place, to ideas and values, to ways of doing things, to technologies, to "things" or to possibilities.
The danger is not so much in losing forms of relationship, but in losing too much relationship for too long. There will be some loss of relationship in the journey just as there will be a loss of order, a loss of place, a loss of meaning, or a loss of orientation.
People and groups are most vulnerable when their connections are too few or too important. Too few connections means that fewer losses can be sustained and attaching too much importance to any one connection means that the loss of that one connection can be extremely threatening. It’s really about having a network or web of connections that provides flexibility and resilience with all the changes that are possible.
Courage and Lack of Courage
Courage comes from Latin and French roots, meaning "heart". In its simplest form it has to do with an attitude or response of facing or engaging with something that is perceived as dangerous, painful, or difficult. It is engaging in spite of fear, anxiety, doubt, or despair not their absence. It is in contrast to withdrawing or refusing to engage.
Heroes, however, do not leave known worlds, travel the "trail of tests", and reach completion without at times losing their courage. It just isn't human. This is one of the reasons why heroes do not go alone. Sometimes courage is recovered without help, but often it is the intervention or support or belief of others that enables an individual or group to rediscover their courage. At other times it is a matter of acting courageously even when the feelings of courage aren't present.
Hope and Belief and Doubt and Despair
Much of the time in periods of major change hope and belief exist together with doubt and despair. Their relative strength may vary greatly over time and may be influenced by many potential factors.
The definitions of "doubt" are familiar to any who have experienced significant transitions or lived heroically; "a condition of uncertainty", "lack of conviction", "to waver or fluctuate in opinion or belief", "to be inclined to lack of belief", "to withhold assent from". Despair is even more troubling as it is simply a lack of hope.
In contrast "hope" is defined as "to wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment", "to have confidence, trust", "to look forward to with confidence or expectation.”
There will be times for almost everyone on the journey when doubt and despair seem to be winning. The key then is to remember that this is a dynamic tension and it will inevitably swing back the other way – particularly if you have some helpers, healers, mentors or companions to help it along.
Excitement and Anticipation and Fear and Anxiety
Excitement, anticipation, fear, and anxiety are all forms of energy, although the experience of them is certainly different. Excitement and anticipation often feel like forces that pull or push forward, while fear and anxiety often feel like forces that argue for stopping, going back, or changing direction.
Excitement and anticipation also tend to encourage contact and engagement while fear and anxiety reinforce the desire to withdraw or disengage. Sometimes fear and anxiety motivate engagement, but not usually with the intent of ongoing contact, more in the nature of an attack.
Although often used interchangeably, it is helpful to differentiate between fear and anxiety to help in managing them. Fear can be seen as having a more defined source or object ("I'm afraid of..."). The source(s) of anxiety is less specific and often hard to describe. It is more generalized and, therefore very often more difficult to manage.
Whether fear or anxiety, the energy attached to their feelings of uneasiness, agitation, and apprehension often interact with the energy of excitement and anticipation. The energies of excitement and anticipation have more of a confident aspect, an expectation of success or of something good happening. Their energies tend to flow "out and toward".
Two Gravities and Dynamic Tension
A different way to look at being pulled in different directions or the concept of “inbetweenity” is to think about adolescence as a time when there are two forces of gravity acting on you.
- Gravity of childhood—strongest early in adolescence and declining
- Gravity of adulthood—weak at the beginning and stronger as the teen years
This is a big dynamic tension—tension between the two pulls of gravity where sometimes the gravity of childhood pulls you back and sometimes the gravity of adulthood pulls you forward.
It comes with the territory—it’s natural and inescapable. Everyone experiences it, but everyone will experience it in their own way. It’s one of the reasons that being a teenager can be so confusing. It’s also one of the reasons that the teen years can be so confusing and frustrating for parents.