On Living in Liminal Spaces

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BLUF – The term liminal space references thresholds or doorways we pass through – physically/mentally/virtually. Transitional and difficult to articulate, we constantly find ourselves passing through from what came before (pre-liminal) to where we find ourselves in our new state (post-liminal). This seeks to eff the ineffable.


With my relative absence in posting (consistently) for a bit, I find myself in the strangest of places. Something akin to transitionally walking through the looking glass, but still between sides. Considered a doorway or a threshold passing through from one space to another – this is liminal space. We all find ourselves in these liminal spaces as we shift in transition from – many bearing varied types and intensities. A sense of uncertainty, tension, discomfort, numbness I find present – but also energy, excitement, and opening worlds of possibility. The following are where I am or have been of late, poor descriptions of experiences without words to describe.

Every time you come to a doorway you’ve a notion of what is on the other side, but only a notion. Perhaps you’re familiar with the place itself, or the architectural design, or persons expected to be inside. Potential familiarity. You imagine a bit of what waits on the other side.

Until you step through, and the imagined space crystalises to real.

If the door or passage is open, you see some of what’s coming. You know what appears in line of sight. The closer you are to the threshold, the more seems apparent. Trouble is you don’t truly know it until you step through – only then will you assess the depth of what you’d seen from the other side. Three dimensional objects could have only two dimensions, the depth of space could be much larger or smaller than perceived, the un-visible corners may have unexpected contents or absence.

What-could-be crystalises to what-is.

Though the example is physical, there are many other liminal spaces we pass through

  • Circumstances – look at the start or stop of an event, a lifestyle adoption or divestment, change in job or school, any changes in life dynamics taking you into new spaces you can imagine, but lack clarity.
  • Environments – similarly we can look at the geography as we move through it. Coming into or going from spaces, moving, visiting, or stopping as you pass through – all these force you to pass through liminal space. Whether subtle or abrupt, physical/climate/cultural differences exist and we naturally feel out-of-sync.
  • Relationships – new people, changes in roles, departures, changes in power dynamics, internal pivots in our interactions – all engagements with other living beings could be considered in this lens. Better or worse, the expectations imagined for the other may/not be accurate and one doesn’t know until we pass through liminal space with them.

Thoroughfare in liminal space can be minor or significant, with varying degrees of intensity. Complex dynamics complicate interpretation – you could be passing through many different thresholds in a single event (ex. moving out of your familial home entails a change in circumstance from where you grew up, leaving for wherever you move to, and shifts the dynamics of dependency with your guardians). It could be subtle enough you don’t realise you passed through until after you are well inside post-liminal space.

Passing through is inevitable, keeping bearing and flexibility is key. It can be difficult as you often will find those two basic characteristics at odds. In looking at the dissonance between our internal frequency from our pre-liminal and the new frequency past the threshold, consider it like tuning an instrument – you are matching the frequency. This should not be mistaken with assimilation, rather tuning in with the aspects of ourselves most relevant to the post-liminal we find. In our different environments we are tuned to bring particular relevant aspects to the fore, becoming an exercise in surveying the multifaceted landscapes we find ourselves in.

And though you may match frequency to the environment keep in mind pearl steps and pebble risks, as this passage is one directional. We might come to the same location, but it will never be quite the same space.


One thought on “On Living in Liminal Spaces

  1. Pingback: On Traversing Liminal Spaces in Emergency – Maelstrom Advantage

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