What is “The Space Between…also referred to as “Liminality” ?(from the Latin word, limen, meaning “a threshold”) Liminality is a psychological, neurological, or metaphysical subjective state, conscious or unconscious, of being on the “threshold” of or between two different existential planes (definition from *Taking Charge of the Change..by Lenny Martin and Pam Jung)
Arnold Van Gennep (and later, Victor Turner) is often credited with inventing the term, liminality. In his work, Rites de Passsage (1909), he referred to “liminality” as “in-between situations and conditions that are characterized by the dislocation of established structures, the reversal of hierarchies, and uncertainty regarding the continuity of tradition and future outcomes”. Liminal Rites (or transition rites) imply an actual passing through the threshold that marks the boundary between two phases; and the term ‘liminality’ was introduced in order to characterize this passage. Imitation is an important aspect of Liminality. Mimesis, or the imitative aspect of human behavior, is an important aspect of liminality. Rational mind often takes a back seat to Emotional mind during these times of transition, as the “structures” on which objective rationality was based have disappeared. Liminality is, by definition, a time of uncertainty; a time when one is standing on a threshold “betwixt and between”. Without stable boundaries, Without stable boundaries/institutions/structures (which have broken down during a liminal period), people will look at concrete individuals for guidance, according to Victor Turner. In other words, Individuals may “try on” behaviors of those they are looking to for guidance during this time. Liminality is often tied to the Trickster Archetype.This notion of imitation closely tied to that of the *Trickster figure. The trickster is a universal figure (archetype) that can be found in folktales and myths of nearly all cultures. All archetypes have both positive and negative charges. The trickster archetype stands between the sacred realm and the profane. Tricksters can be characterized as follows: The negative “trickster” can be devious, and destructive. This negative aspect is the cruel joker, often using sarcasm to poke fun as he rebels against authority. The trickster is a thorn in the side of the overly serious, and creates convoluted schemes, that may or may not work, plays with the Laws of the Universe and is sometimes his own worst enemy.
He exists to question, and urges us to not blindly accept authority. He appears when a way of thinking becomes outmoded needs to be torn down built anew. (*Think of how many systems are breaking down today~healthcare, for example.) When the “positive” trickster appears, the creative “rascal” can be very appealing and urge us to Lighten up!. He reminds us to use our imagination and creativity.
The Trickster can be a humorous creator, and a truth teller, a story teller. When the trickster uses “irony” instead of sarcasm, he is incredibly appealing, and assists us with the transformation that humanity is going through at that time.
Examples of “Liminality”:
1. Twilight: between day and night
2. Equinoxes, and Solstices
3. The top of a mountain: in between the sky and earth
4. The seashore: in between the earth and ocean.
5. Illegal immigrants, and/or stateless people: present but not official; betwixt and between being part of society but not fully integrated.
6. The “accused”: not yet judged guilty or not guilty.
7. Teenagers: neither child nor adult.
8. Wounds, Injury, Illness: there is a constant dynamic process of change-either getting worse or getting better.
9. Sex is a liminal act.
10. Lost(2004–2010) is a U.S television show whose central characters are revealed to be living in a liminal space, between The Island and Reality. >
11. Bluesman Robert Johnson met the devil at the crossroads, where he is said to have sold his soul.
The importance of Liminality:
1. Major transformations occur at crossroads and other liminal places, at least partly because liminality—being so unstable—can pave the way for access to esoteric knowledge or understanding of both sides.
2. Liminality is sacred, alluring, and dangerous.
3. According to Jungian Psychology, the individuation process of self-realization takes place within a liminal space. (Victor Turner’s concept of social liminality does for status in society what Jung does for the movement of the person through the life process of individuation.
4. “We seem most accessible to the synchronistic gifts of the Trickster when we ourselves are at or near boundaries or are experiencing transition states (liminal periods), periods of major life transitions seem to be occasioned by an abundance of meaningful coincidence. Personal growth sees not only to facilitate synchronicity, but in turn to be facilitated by it. As an archetype, the Trickster, the boundary dweller, finds expression through human imagination and experience.” http://www.crystalinks.com/trickster.html
5. What takes place in the dark phase of liminality is a process of breaking down…in the interest of “making whole” one’s meaning, purpose and sense of relatedness once more. 6. Jungians have been explicit about the ‘need to accord space, time and place for liminal feeling’. Two associated dangers associated with Liminality are 1. staying in it too long; and 2. when we provide no ritual space, time, place at all.
I suppose I am writing about this concept, because I recognize the “liminality” in my own life. As a woman in her mid 40’s, I’ve hit that “no longer young, not quite old” space. It’s a time filled with uncertainty…for some, chronic illnesses begin to rear up; peri-menopausal hormonal swings can wreak havoc with sleep patterns, and emotional stability; we may be having to take care of parents who are ailing, and aging. If we think of perimenopause as a period of liminality, we can start to view this transformational time as a time of self-discovery and reinvention. It’s hard to look at this side of the coin, and kind of easy to focus on uncomfortable symptoms: increased risk of heart disease, hot flashes, deterioration of muscle and vision; poor bladder function, difficulty sleeping, irritability, etc…
By your 40’s, your initial dreams for your life may have been accomplished, dropped, or seem no longer relevant and…this can be a wonderful time to explore, and begin to define new dreams. It also can be an absolutely magical time, particularly if the (positive) trickster archetype pays a visit, beckoning you to express your true self, have more fun, use your imagination & creativity more fully. You can say what is on your mind and truly experience that freedom of no longer caring, or being fueled by how others may or may not be perceiving you. For some, it’s the beginning of the end of people pleasing. Its learning the power of “no!”. It’s about allowing yourself to dream again, visualizing possibility.
Are you in a “liminal” period in your life? If so, are you conscious of the significance of this space, time, and place? Can you allow yourself to stay open, allowing of the synchronistic gifts during this time of transformation? Are you standing on the threshold betwixt and between two different planes of existence in your life? Can you listen to the music between the notes during this time of uncertainty?
When we choose to honor ourselves during these transitional periods and go through them consciously, we can find enjoyment, appreciate the inherent blessings of this space, time, and place, and stay conscious and open to allowing the synchronicities to flow through our lives in the “liminality”!