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  • Helen Cottee

Phantom Pain


We are in a season of 'liminality' - a change between what was and what will be. The liminal space is the dark corridor between the two - the space in between. 

As we are all aware, these spaces are not easy. We are dealing with the death of one thing before the new thing has yet to be born. Life doesn't work like it used to. Things don't make sense yet. We find ourselves grasping for things that feel 'real' and certain - only to find they are as movable and transient as everything else. 

But I say this to every client I ever work with - liminal spaces are the most creative spaces there are. Here we find the space to dream and re-imagine and innovate. Here we let go of things that don't work anymore. Here we get to re - form the areas of life where the old 'form' doesn't work so well.

But in doing so we have to be willing to feel everything that needs to be felt in order to move forwards - or we can get stuck. What we don't want, is to be permanently housed in a dark corridor because we can't take hold of the new thing that is emerging. 

One of the trickiest things to feel is 'phantom pain'. The pain of something that isn't there anymore, or maybe was never there. Whenever we find ourselves in season shifts, we have to be willing to feel the pain of suddenly recognising that the thing we thought was a 'something' actually isn't - and maybe hasn't ever been. 

Liminal spaces are a great unveiling of reality. And that reality can feel hard to accept. 

- the marriage that was never what you hoped it would be

- the relationship you conned yourself into believing was something, when it was, in reality, something else

- the job that defined who you were - and the dawning realisation that's not who you are at all

- the faith structure that promised one thing but never delivered

...the list goes on.

So what do we do when we feel a phantom pain? 

Well, you have a choice. You open your eyes and see the thing for what it is, or isn't. You allow yourself to feel. And you go through a necessary grieving process feeling as much as you need to in order to heal.

Or you close your eyes and carry on conning yourself that everything is fine. You numb the pain.

One moves you forward into the new, whilst the other keeps you in the corridor of the liminal space. 

Let's be clear. In our weird Western system - pain is bad. So we avoid, or numb in one of a thousand ways. But as any midwife will tell you, pain is simply the thing we feel before something new is born.