The Psychology of Liminal Spaces

The Psychology of Liminal Spaces

Liminal Space

We often encounter liminal spaces and these are some places that are around us in our daily lives. For some of us, it could be a new term, therefore in this article, we will shed light on liminal spaces and how psychology works with it. Liminal spaces are places that are in between or transitional and are often not noticed or acknowledged in our daily lives. These spaces are located between two distinct areas, namely waiting rooms, airports, and train stations. These places can be something that is unimportant and hence, the reason behind such places is often unclear. Moreover, liminal spaces can raise the feeling of disorientation and uncertainty because they are not associated with any specific place or time.

Navigating Between Comfort and Discomfort

As mentioned earlier, these spaces exist in transitions, and therefore, they can make us neither feel present nor absent. Therefore, as we know these places are somewhere that exists ‘in-between’ states, therefore, they have the ability to Struggle with our perception of familiarity and comfort. Since we are all very familiar with spaces that have a clear purpose and function, liminal spaces are something that misbalance our whole perspective. One prominent example of transition spaces could be the hallway of a hospital because It serves as a gateway between various rooms and spaces and as a result, it may make us feel a sense of discomfort and anxiety.

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However, liminal spaces can also make individuals think differently and creatively. One such example could be the airport waiting room, as this place can make us think about our journey and what are the places we are traveling to.

Lastly, these places can also cause different psychological reactions because it can make the person feel that they are detaching from their surroundings and themselves.

Characteristics of liminal spaces

In this section, we will understand what the characteristics of liminal spaces are.

1) Thresholds between two areas or states of being:

Firstly, the transitional nature is one of the characteristics of liminal spaces. Their existence lies between established boundaries, whether physical or metaphysical. The moment between day and night, the time between wakefulness and sleep, or the period between childhood and adulthood are possible options. The reason that these moments often exist as liminal is because time seems to be stagnant, and reality becomes subjective.

2) Lack of clear purpose or identity:

Liminal spaces also carry a lack of clear purpose or identity. As we have a habit of dealing with a familiar situation that serves a clear purpose, liminal space stands out as a place with no clear purpose and specific set of rules. Individuals can project their own meaning onto them because they are open to interpretation. The uncertainty can be both liberating and unnerving, as it forces us to question our assumptions and confront the unknown.

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3) Foster transition, passage, change:

Another characteristic of liminal space is the fostering of transition, passage, and change. This space acts as a bridge for different stages of life and gives the people to build a new personality. It also encourages personal growth and makes people face their fears. Moreover, this space also encourages a person to embrace transformation, makes people look for the future, and releases themselves from the past.

3) Ambiguous, disorienting, abstract:

Lastly, ambiguity and disorientation are some of the characteristics of liminal spaces. This disorientation often defends against established norms and thought patterns. It is because of this misbalance in these familiar situations, that these spaces can create a space of new perspectives and that is how individuals are encouraged to explore something new and out of the box from their existing beliefs. Moreover, liminal space is abstract in nature, intentionally blurring boundaries in these spaces leads to unconventional thinking and novel approaches to problem solving.

Psychological effects of liminal space

1. Detachment from identity/roles:

Detachment from identity and roles is one of the common psychological effects of liminal space. As when you encounter these ‘in-betweens’, the individual often gets detached from their usual identity and roles. This gives an opportunity for people to explore more aspects of their personality without the restrictions of their typical identity. On the other hand, this can put people in a disorientation state and can create dilemmas for their purpose and role in the world.

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2. Heightened suggestibility:

Heightened suggestibility is another psychological effect of liminal spaces. This unfamiliarity can make an individual more susceptible and vulnerable to external factors and influences. This suggestibility can have both positive and negative effects on individual minds and how people critically evaluate them. If this susceptibility is taken positively, then it can be seen in therapeutic settings like hypnotherapy. On the other hand, If it goes into negative hands, it can result in manipulation and exploitation.

3. Changed perceptions of time:

A change in perceptions of time is also a common psychological effect of liminal space. A sense of timelessness or feeling like time is standing still can arise when the usual linear concept of time is distorted. These changed perceptions of time could create misbalance and a sense of liberty for individuals as it makes people break away from their usual time-bound routines. Moreover, it can also make people feel that time is moving slowly or fast or has stopped. This also contributes to personal growth and self-discovery as A high level of awareness and introspection can be experienced due to this disruption.

4. Contemplation and introspection:

Another psychological effect is contemplation and introspection. These unfamiliarities can give rise to deep thought which leads to a great and better understanding of past, present, and future. Introspection acts as a tool in individual personal growth and development. Moreover, this introspection can make people understand their beliefs, values, purpose, and emotions. These liminal spaces can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing because of their inherent uncertainty.

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4. New perspectives

Liminal spaces give rise to new perspectives which lead to development in one’s life. A greater understanding of change and life’s inherent uncertainty can be facilitated by the experience of being in a transitional state. This transition state can make people come out of their comfort zones which can give them a broad worldview. All this makes people come up with innovative and unique ideas. When people are exposed to these transitional states, they encounter new ideas and experiences and as a result, people can challenge their existing beliefs and perspectives.


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