Managing the gap: the psychology of personal transition
Halliday, Deborah H
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Change is an increasing factor in our daily lives as well as in our life stories. "Change" can be distinguished from "transition;" change denotes an alteration, or perceived alteration, in a condition or circumstance. Transition, on the other hand, refers to the process, or the result of the process, by which an individual adapts to change and re-establishes a sense of stability. Change is a catalyst for transition; transition re-aligns the self in relation to the environment. This dissertation proposes a new theoretical model of personal transition based on concepts of self and identity. The model, referred to as The Gap Management Model, is proposed as a tool for both applied and theoretical use. It explores how people cope with change and why some responses are functional while others are dysfunctional. The model accounts for factors that have been identified by others as influencing the difficulty of transition such as timeliness, desirability, scope, etc., and is consistent with the phases of transition described in existing transition process models. Although existing models are useful, none thus far has been applicable to all types of transition (driven by changes that are internal or external, expected or unexpected) while at the same time explaining why people react to change the way they do and how they attempt to regain a sense of normalcy in their lives. The proposed model will link existing, well-accepted theory and research in creating a unified model of personal transition. The three-part ritual structure of stability-liminality-stability is mirrored in the psychological processes of transition as they have been observed. The model explores the middle phase of liminality as an important step in psychological realignment. The central concept of the model is that people strive for a sense of congruity between their internal sense of self and the roles and relationships they maintain. Lack of congruity creates uncertainty and distress, feelings characteristic of the liminal experience. Three different applications of the model are presented: adolescence, the college to post-college transition, and WWII-era Civil Resettlement Units for ex-POWs. The author's own research data is employed for the college to post-college example.
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