Posted by: Botolff | May 29, 2009

“Liminal Space” can be great place to hang.

I had a first time meeting with someone last night who I can already tell is a kind soul.  It’s rare to run into someone that I can discern so clearly so quickly that they are on a path to pursue authentic and holistic healing for all of humanity.  This woman seems to embody that Spirit.  It was a pleasure to sit with her. 

In our conversation, she introduced me to a concept that I wanted to pass on to you.  The concept is “Liminal Space.”  If you wonder what those words describe, like I did at first, maybe a video will help to explain them better.

Liminal Space is the “gap created by the dissolution of the old and the yet-to-emerge new.” – The Discerning Heart by Au and Au.  In other words, this space is created when we choose, or are forced, to let go of something without definitive awareness of what to grab hold of next.  Kind of like a trapeze artist.  They must let go of the bar or hands they have held on to so securely, and risk falling, before they are able to reach for what is next, sometimes when they can’t even see what’s coming.  The gap between the two is Liminal Space.

When one  finds themselves in Liminal Space, there can be a lot of fear and pain involved.  A few examples might be a loss of job, death of someone, a break up, or even something like a broken car or computer (like has been the case for me lately).  However, when one is unexpectedly and intentionally thrown into Liminal Space by people entrusted with that person’s care, it is almost always violent, traumatic, and more often than not abusive.   

A lot of forced terminations throw ministers into Liminal Space.  Hence the theme of betrayal that has come up in so many forced termination stories.  The reason why they are often thrown into that space is because the people who threw them there were too afraid of the invitation they had before them to enter their own Liminal Space themselves.  They chose to sacrifice someone else so they didn’t have to let go of what they’ve always held on to; a system, an ideal, an image, a pseudo relationship, a defense mechanism, a lie, etc. 

As a counselor, I believe Liminal Space can be a very hopeful place where some of the most dynamic and beautiful change can occur in someone’s life; if we are willing to risk letting go, and wait for the mystery of the unknown to clear some so we can grasp something new.  However, Liminal Space can be incredibly frightening.  Hence the reason why few spend much time there.  It can also be incredibly damaging when some are pushed into it by others who are too scared to let go themselves.


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