In the early 1980’s William Bridges wrote his first popular book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. His work found wide acceptance and Bridges became an internationally known speaker, author, and consultant advising individuals and organizations in how to deal productively with change.
In the 90’s he published Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, a guide for supporting change in organizations. Since then he has written several more related books with his most profound book on change The Way of Transitions: Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments in 2001.
In his first book Bridges makes some very important points about the human capacity to deal with change and the pattern that basically defines any change process. Bridges early writing significantly draws on studies by renowned anthropologists such as Arnold van Gennep, Victor Turner and Marcia Eliade that highlight the archetypal patterns of change and how these patterns can be so clearly observed in indigenous cultures.
Indigenous traditions show us how we as human beings always have supported significant experiences of change on the individual and community level through rituals of passages such as initiations. Today, however, in our families, communities and organizations we generally lack practices that help guide transition processes across the uncertain territory of change. Indigenous traditions have something to teach us about approaches to cultivating and harnessing the vital forces of change.
Independently from Bridges’ writing, my own passion for understanding and working with change has led me to research indigenous cultures on three continents and dive deeply into anthropological studies and to translate my insights to my work with individuals and organizations.
These anthropological perspectives ought not to be underestimated. My doctoral research re-conceptualizes the three-phased rites of passage process into a more contemporary framework for supporting transformative change and development processes. Van Gennep in Rites of Passages was the first anthropologist to define the three-phased pattern of separation, neutral zone and new beginnings. Bridges and many others whose work with change leads them to research, learn about and build on the three phases of the change process.
In the next several posts I will reflect on a few key insights that Bill Bridges shares in his first publication on transitions.