‘Watershed Moment’ Analysis through Bridges’ Transitions Model


A ‘watershed moment’ regards a point in time or a period in life which marks a significant, frequently historical alteration. This moment can also be characterized as a critical turning point. This is the time when everything changes while marking the beginning of the period when nothing will look the way it looked before. A watershed point actually divides time. In a technical manner, watershed is known to be the whole drainage location feeding a river or other water system. However, in a metaphorical way, this term can regard a decision, some experience, or an occasion which has a critical and intensive effect. It is obvious that each person encounters a watershed moment in his or her life; however, not all of these moments are extreme. Nevertheless, the majority of them appear to be gut wrenching and seem to be catastrophic. A person can feel that the world shifts on its axis. Sometimes watershed moments are acute shifts and alterations which can lead people in a different direction in their lives. The current paper will demonstrate a personal watershed point and analyze it through the lens of the Bridges’ Model of Transitions.

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Situation Description

I encountered a watershed point when I first discovered that my parents had to divorce. This situation completely disrupted my personality together with professional and academic interest. My family seemed to be ideal and example-setting one. There were minor issues and quarrels; however, they did not imply anything serious. It was morning when I awoke observing my tearful mother sitting on the edge of my bed. I do not remember any other situation when she demonstrated the analogous behavior, which implicated that something horrible had happened. Nevertheless, I could not believe it when she told me that my father admitted that he loved another woman and asked for a divorce. My father had always been the pillar of my life, formulating my principles, ethic and moral conduct. I was going through an excruciating pain, and no words or pleads would make it disappear during several following months. I used to be highly dependent upon my parents. This situation, especially the morning when I experienced a watershed point, was considerably different from all other meaningful or momentum milestones of my life as the majority of the latter were positive and encouraging. I blamed myself for inability to re-establish and reunite my family, and my overall behavior changed. I changed from an active, energetic, and spirited person to a recluse and unsociable individual. I learned to be two-faced, being tired of constant compassion demonstrated by teachers, friends, acquaintances, and group mates. Therefore, I attempted to appear as a happy, frequently joking and laughing person for the public, hiding genuine feelings deep in the soul.

Situation Analysis

The situation demonstrates that I was unable to accept the change that negatively influenced all other spheres of my life. People frequently feel uncomfortable with changes for all kinds of comprehensible reasons. Therefore, this non-acceptance can provoke the situation when they attempt to resist the change and even oppose it. This is a major reason why it is highly crucial to understand how people feel during the change process, and how they can guide themselves through it (or other people can direct them) in order to accept the change and even support it. The facts demonstrate that the Bridges’ Transition Model can help in this process. The principal potency and advantage of the model concerns the fact that it concentrates on the transition and not the change itself. The discrepancy between the two is slim but crucial. Change is something that happens to people, even if they do not agree with it. On the other hand, transition appears as internal since it happens in people’s minds when they actually accept the change. Moreover, changes typically appear rapidly, while transition occurs more slowly. Therefore, the model distinguishes three stages of transition, including “ending, losing, and letting go,” “the neutral zone,” and “the new beginning”. Bridges demonstrates five aspects of the first stage experience, incorporating “denial, shock, anger, frustration, and acceptance”.

Therefore, when I first heard about the possibility of my parents’ divorce, I experienced the stage of denial. Even though I perfectly understood that parents’ relationships were over, I could not actually believe it. I remember that I used to entertain fantasies of things by some means finding resolution while seeing concealed glimmers of hope interred in obvious signs of the end. I constantly asked my mother to talk with my father and try to reconcile. I took part in all possible performances, musicales, and theatrical shows, knowing that my parents might meet there as they never missed my performances. Nevertheless, they did not talk to each other. That was the major reason why I experienced the second stage, shock. I understood that all the attempts failed. I started feeling tired all the time, having no desire to do anything, feeling and behaving disconnected from all other people even while actually being with them. My shock experience resulted in hopelessness, which appeared as the most penetrating and depleting. I believed that nothing would ever change and I would never feel different in the future. After a couple of days, I awoke with a strong and overpowering feeling of anger. I felt angry at all people surrounding me, including my mother, father, friends having happy families, father’s friends, who did not persuade him to stay, etc. This was the period when I seriously and deeply quarreled with my father, using rude words (for the first time in front of him) and cursing his new ‘girlfriend,’ I did not want him to think that I could ever excuse and accept his action, demonstrating all of my pain and grief through anger. Nevertheless, it did not help, and I experienced frustration. I felt confused, lost, and insecure. My mother gave me as much of extra support as possible, sharing all her feelings too. This was probably the most fundamental factor that helped me during this stage. Her support actually opened my eyes and allowed me to put myself in her position. This led me to the acceptance of the situation. This is the final stage of the “ending, losing, and letting go” stage. I was finally able to make peace with the loss. This understanding happened gradually. Nevertheless, this phase did not presuppose that I felt harmonious as all of my feelings were mixed with the lingering sadness, grief, and loss combined with some relief or anticipation regarding the possible new future.

The second stage of the transition process concerns “the neutral zone,” which can be regarded as the crux of the whole situation. This stage is known to be the in-between place, in which people lose their sense of connectivity, goals, and intensions. The facts demonstrate that people’s identification of who they are is closely connected to the old way of life. This stage of transition does not provide anything new to anchor a person or provide him or her with any additional context or meaning. Bridges demonstrates that numerous people literally escape into the “wilderness” during this stage. The stage is characterized by the desire to be alone, think, and regroup.

I remember that regardless of the fact that I had to get up early in the morning, I used to awake in the middle of the night, practically every night, in order to think and analyze my situation and the future. I started practicing meditation as it helped me stop the inner dialogue and constant complaints. I started to go for long runs and walks on my own, just to be alone and stop listening to everybody lamenting that I did not behave in a usual manner and did not seem to be myself. The stage was not comfortable for me at the beginning as I was caught between demands and conflicting expectations. Nevertheless, later I understood that this stage stimulated me to search for something new, for fresh and innovative ways of dealing with the situation and my life. I started dedicating more time to studies, professional development, and sports, which provided me with a possibility to meet new people and get distracted from my parents’ divorce.

Finally, after the ‘endings’ stage and the overcoming of the neutral zone, a re-birth occurs, meaning the stage of ‘new beginning’. Bridges assumes that this stage appears as a result of an exterior sign or internal indication; however, when it occurs, this signal or indication will definitely resonate with the person. This stage demonstrates how neutral zone formlessness changes into a systematic shaping of a new form. It allows a person to start building a new reality with a fresh and innovative sense of self and probably new concepts, reliance, and values. Bridges also assumes that the attempt of transiting to a ‘new beginning’ without undergoing the hard experience of ‘endings’ and neutrality is a pointless action, which will eventually guide to a higher level of frustration. The previous stage of transition allowed me to meticulously analyze the situation and completely accept it. This helped me dedicate my energy to professional development and studies. I understood that parental divorce should not change my attitude to parents and affect my individual and professional life. I decided to start building the capabilities that I would require in my future professional life in order to study and work successfully and achieve the desired goals and objectives. In an attempt to follow my academic and professional goals, I created a specific step-by-step plan. My serious and solid dedication to and engagement in studies assisted me in observing early wins resulting from my committed efforts. I started to feel a high level of energy, receptiveness to learning, and regenerated commitment to my individual and group roles and functions. Therefore, the stage vividly demonstrates that I was able to shift from family problems to professional and academic development, which turned into my new future.

Reflective Analysis

The analysis of my personal situation seriously assisted in understanding how individual response to change can aid in facilitating the change in the workplace. The first stage assists in learning how to respect and accept the past. I have understood that one of the most spread issues with shifting to something new regards the fact that people are connected with the past, associating themselves, their capacities, and skills with it, criticizing and non-adopting to innovation. In fact, criticism of something old or a person’s past can appear as attacking them. Therefore, it is much more important to concentrate on how the old assisted in laying the foundation for the next step into the new. It is important to concentrate on capabilities and values obtained from the old, which will be changed into the new. This actually highlights the continuity and not the lack of control over the new future. Secondly, my personal experience helped me understand that the ‘neutral zone’ was an obvious period of confusion as the old methods did not work, while new ones have not been applied yet. A person appears to be caught between the demands and conflicting expectations. The main thing in regard to this stage and workplace concerns patience. The person’s condition during the stage can be facilitated by providing people with the sense of direction and guidance. It is also crucial to encourage employee involvement, providing the possibility to give feedbacks and voicing to concerns and expectations. All of these attempts can result in individual desire to search for innovative methods of solving problems, which is significant for transiting through the phase. Finally, it is vital to present a picture of what the new future will look and feel like during the last stage of transition. The person has already accepted the new situation, which helps him or her feel confident and attempt to reinforce the feeling. This can be performed by outlining a specific step-by-step plan, which will demonstrate the purpose behind the desired outcomes. It is also necessary to equip individual and team trainings in new conducts, skills, and values. Moreover, the leader of the group can even celebrate the change with the help of public displays, which acknowledge both the group and individuals.

The current paper has analyzed the personal ‘watershed point’ event through the Bridges’ Model of Transitions. It vividly reveals how all of the stages have been experienced and what conclusion has been made at the end of each stage. The paper also demonstrates how individual experience and response to change can be used to facilitate the change in the workplace.

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