You’re Not Going Crazy. You’re Just In Square One.
How To Navigate the Vacuous Stage of Crisis
I was in my late 30s when I first read about the 4 stages of Psychological Metamorphosis.
At the time, I was going through a painful separation from my husband and was watching the slow demolition of the dream life I had worked so hard to achieve.
The grief was immense.
Not that this was my first encounter with the Wrecking Ball.
By mid-life, it had swung into my life so many times I was beginning to see it as a possible friend.
Life, after all, is a series of good-byes and hellos. Endings and beginnings.
My eyes were opening to the profound cycle of creation. The decay, the decline, the death, the loss—always followed by a powerful surge of renewal—fresh beginnings, rebirth, and incredible personal growth.
Still, I was having a hard time letting go.
I'd made my husband my higher power—had used him to fill the dark cave of my unworthiness in an attempt to feel whole.
Losing him knocked me right back to where I started—alone at sea, in the dark, without a lifeboat or compass.
Outwardly, I appeared courageous, still moving forward with life. But inside, I was slipping, falling, waves of uncertainty crashing over me.
It was in this shipwrecked state that I found Martha Beck’s book Finding Your Own North Star.
I read each page with a sense of tearful relief.
Martha understood things I couldn't articulate. She had a grasp on the cyclical nature of Life—the constant breaking and rebuilding of things in a endless spiral of growth.
She talked about the empty void of the unknown in a way that made it feel less threatening. Natural, even. Logical.
I studied her map of change, and was surprised to see that it moved in a circular motion through four predictable phases. She calls this map The Change Cycle and it became my constant companion during the long journey back to my essential self.
Of course, you may not need a survival guide like I did. But if you're struggling right now, and are interested in seeing change through a different lens, then I offer you the same gift that Martha gave me.
THE CHANGE CYCLE: The Four Stages of Psychological Metamorphosis
It's important to note that it takes a CATALYST (whether an inner prompting or an outer event) to kickstart the transformational process.
The current pandemic is the largest we've ever seen, but any event that rocks your world and changes your identity will do.
loss of a loved one, a job, or a dream
an unexpected love affair
illness, injury, tragedy, crisis
The list goes on, but you get the idea. Something happens and BANG! You're knee-deep in Square One.
If you've begun to suspect this is exactly where you are, keep reading.
Understanding this stage can help to reduce your sense of trauma.
SQUARE ONE: Dissolving, Melting Down, Death & Rebirth
I'll be blunt. Square One sucks.
By this point, the Wrecking Ball has swung and the demolition is well underway. Life as you've known it has been smashed open and everything's falling apart.
Don't expect this to feel good because it doesn't.
Instead, it often feels like the earth has cracked open and is swallowing you whole while you say good-bye to everyone and everything.
Suddenly, you're inside out. You can't find your edges. Because the edges that gave you a sense of self aren't there anymore. They're changing.
Without the structure of your life around you, holding you tight, you're exposed to the emptiness of the unknown. This is known as the Vacuous Stage of Crisis—the void you can't find yourself in.
This can be terrifying. But when you understand you're in a necessary stage of the Change Cycle, it makes the process more manageable.
Remember, change hurts, but it runs a predictable course.
Square One is temporary.
Allow that to give you relief. Then brace yourself. Because it's not called the Melt-Down Phase for nothing.
Consider the caterpillar. When it reaches the full-fed state (aka: catalyst) it knits a little cocoon and prepares to dissolve into a cellular soup.
Instead of resisting what's happening, it lets go of everything it was, so it can become something else.
Humans, on the other hand, tend to fight like hell to keep their identities from disappearing.
No one wants to let go of who they are or what they thought their future was going to be.
SQ1 gives you a choice. Go deeper into unconsciousness, or wake up to a greater version of yourself.
So what do you do when you decide to accept that you're turning into a warm bowl of human soup?
You take a breath and build a cocoon.
SURVIVAL GUIDELINES FOR SQUARE ONE - AKA: The Vacuous Stage
One of the biggest mistakes people make in SQ1 is to focus on the things they can't control at the expense of the things they can.
So here's a CAN DO list that you can tape to your mirror.
When you're feeling overwhelmed, take immediate care of yourself in healthy, physical ways (wrap yourself in a blanket, make yourself a cup of hot tea, exercise, take a bath, sit in the sun).
Keep bringing yourself back to the present moment. This isn't the time for your 5 year plan. All your guidance exists in the NOW. Forget about taking it one day at a time. Just go moment to moment.
Pull your mind away from a terrifying future, and put your focus on what needs you RIGHT NOW.
Allow yourself to grieve.
Allow yourself to feel what you honestly feel (EFT or tapping allows you to express your emotions as you tap them out of your body.)
Nurture your relationship with your essential self. You may not be the praying type (I'm not) but meditation or quiet time with yourself is fortifying in ways that can't be quantified.
Acknowledge where you need to grow. Life will make this obvious.
Take action where you need to take action while relaxing your idea of control.
Ask for what you need. Cancel what you need to cancel. Get support from people who can actually help you. Avoid those who make you feel like crap.
BREATHE. I'm not meaning this in a cliched way. (ie. Stay calm and carry on) I mean get serious about slowing your breath and bringing yourself back to it. Again and again and again.
If this list annoys you (or makes you feel like smashing glass) join the club.
When something breaks, we want to fix it. When things go sideways, we want to get it back on track. We want to DO SOMETHING, damn it!
And certainly, there will be things you'll be called to do.
But don't do "all the things" at the cost of your own transformation. The Change Cycle isn't about DOING. It's about necessary CHANGE.
You're in the void for a reason. And there's opportunity there if you're willing to trust the process.
Instead of fighting or fearing the emptiness, start listening to what it wants you to FILL it with.
You are becoming something new.
And there's a promise of rebirth on the horizon.
Sending you so much love,
PS. All references to The Change Cycle have been adapted from the work of Martha Beck or reprinted with her permission. Martha Beck, Inc /Copyright Martha Beck/ www.marthabeck.com
PSS. I love helping people connect to their inner wisdom so they can find their way in this wild new world of uncertainty and change. If you want to navigate this change consciously, and are feeling a call to do some deeper internal work, let's have coffee together by Skype! You can book a free consultation HERE