person to recognize these stages, terming them se´paration, marge, and agre´gation,
which may be translated as severance, threshold, and incorporation. As Hine and
Foster (2004) emphasized, however, the incorporation stage is really a reincorpo-
ration, marking a return to life again after being severed from it in some way.
There will not necessarily be an orderly progression through the threshold
stage. As Stroebe and Schut (1999) pointed out, a grieving person (in the
threshold stage) needs to look backward and forward, focusing on both loss
(toward the severance stage) and restoration (toward the reincorporation
stage). The threshold stage can be likened to a journey through the no-man’s-
land that once separated nations and tribal regions (van Gennep, 1909/1960).
Often the journey is a long one through constantly changing terrain. Neeld
(1990/2003) has described this changing terrain as consisting of seven stages or
choices. The threshold stage comprises the choices of second crisis, observation,
the turn, reconstruction, and working through.
our ordinary life and the ground on which we stand are no longer there. In the
nadir event, we suffer ‘‘the loss of a predictable and safe world’’ (Kumar, 2005,
p. 7). Often, as in an accident or the death of someone close to us, the nadir event
is external. At other times, however, the nadir event may be an internal one, such
as a mental illness or a person questioning his or her long-held religious faith.
The literal meaning of the Greek word trauma is ‘‘wound,’’ and that wound may
cause, so too does a psychological injury. Bereavement, rape, or assault can all
create profound psychological trauma, but there is a danger in viewing such
nadir events solely as trauma. As Stroebe and Schut (1999) pointed out in the
context of bereavement, it is not enough for a bereaved person to do grief work
that focuses attention only on the loss and the circumstances surrounding it (a
loss orientation). The nadir experience continues long afterward, as these authors
noted. The bereaved person has important secondary tasks involving a
restoration orientation, such as learning how to handle finances, doing cooking,
selling a house, or relating to a new identity such as widower or parent of a
deceased child. In short, a restoration orientation addresses the entire nadir
experience, which includes building a new life in the aftermath of loss.
In some cases the nadir experience may be the result of an internal event such
as the onset of depression, anxiety, addiction, or other mental illness. Such an
The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 2014, Vol. 46, No. 1
formal assessment tools. Although psychological crises are not generally
viewed in the same light as trauma, some (such as depression) may be
devastating or even fatal. Clients recovering from such psychological crises
often have the sense that they are building a new life, a life (in the words of
one of my clients) ‘‘that I never thought I would have.’’
Sometimes a nadir experience takes the form of a spiritual crisis confronting
an outwardly religious person. Assagioli (1978/1989) described such a crisis as
beginning with a sense of dissatisfaction, a sense that something is missing.
Ordinary life comes to seem empty, unreal and unimportant. The person
begins to question the meaning of life and of suffering. This crisis of faith
brings into question the very things the person previously took for granted.
Another form of spiritual crisis may be a fear of the afterlife, as in the case of
a client of mine who felt her guilt was unforgivable and that she would ‘‘burn
in hell.’’ Extreme spiritual crises are traumatic for the sufferer, but are often
difficult to observe or measure. A counselor dealing with a client undergoing
a nadir experience needs to be alert for references to God, spiritual matters,
meditative practices, and questions about meaning, and to respond in an
affirming way. The counselor may even need to make a passing mention of
God, and see if the client responds.
process may nonetheless be ‘‘one of the most meaningful tasks you will ever
do’’ (Kumar, 2005, p. 70). When our old life is destroyed, the nadir experience
of grief gives us the task of rebuilding a new one. To convey this sense of
destruction and rebuilding, Foster and Little (1989) expanded the meaning of
the term threshold to include a threshing place, where the part of the grain that
is no longer important falls away.
Dabrowski (1976) saw the threshold in somewhat similar terms to Foster and
Little (1989), although he termed the threshing process disintegration. He
believed that, in order for a person to develop psychologically, the aspects of
personality based on instinct and socialization had to disintegrate in order to
make way for something better. However, this disintegration contains positive
elements which help an individual plot the course of his or her psychological
development. Dabrowski created an entire theory of psychological develop-
ment based on this concept of positive disintegration.