False Starts

It is important to distinguish between a real new beginning in someone’s life and a simple defensive reaction to an ending. Each may exert strain on a relationship, but the new beginning must be honored. The defensive reaction is simply a new way of perpetuating the old situation and needs to be considered as such.

Unfortunately, there is no psychological test you can take at such times. It is often difficult to be sure whether some path leads forward or back, and it may be necessary to follow it for a little way to be sure. But there are two signs that are worth looking for before you start. The first is the reaction of people who know you well: not whether they approve or disapprove, but whether they see what you propose to do as something new or simply a replay of an old pattern. The second indication comes from the transition process itself: Have you really moved through endings into the neutral zone and found there the beginning you now want to follow is this “beginning” a way of avoiding an ending or aborting the neutral zone experience?

William Bridges, Transitions