Saturday, January 09, 2010

What We Can Learn From the Wizard of Oz

I have just finished a book called “The Way of Transition” by William Bridges.  There is a part of the book where the author refers to the story of the Wizard of Oz and how Dorothy’s journey is a symbol of how we all go through transitions.

I wanted to summarize it for you because it is such an interesting way of looking at the story.


“The trip becomes “a journey” after you have lost your luggage.”


In the Wizard of Oz, we find Dorothy in a flat, dry land where the earth is dying.  The dusty land represents something in your life that has come to an end.  Whether you are ready or not, it is time to let go.  

One day, Dorothy is playing and she sees a tornado coming.  She knows she must run and hide in the cellar if she is to be safe.  The tornado symbolizes an event which shakes you out of where you have been and forces you to find yourself in a new place, one that feels strange and as William Bridges puts it, “adds a whole new dimension to the experience”.

Dorothy only cares about one thing:  fix things, get them back to the way they were, get back to Kansas.  Dorothy begins her quest to return to Kansas by finding the expert who can quickly solve her problems and send her back home, the Wizard of Oz.  Dorothy goes through various disasters in her journey, but when she finally makes it to the Wizard, she finds out he is a fake and that he doesn’t have the answers.  The answers are actually within Dorothy.  Bridges alludes to the concept that we always feel that “only if” some particular thing would happen, all our problems would be solved.  As we all know, that is not true and the issue is figuring things out in our own hearts and minds.  No one thing or one person can make us happy.  We have to do that for ourselves.

For Dorothy, the ruby slippers are the answer and they have been on her feet the whole time (of course, they represent the notion that the answer is always within us).  But, the question is if the slippers were the answer, why couldn’t she just have clicked her heels at the beginning?  Why did she need to go through the whole journey?

Bridges says that journey is critical.  It is the “transitional experience”.  Without it, Dorothy would have returned back home and things would have been as dry and dead as when she had left.  But because of the experience of the journey, Dorothy returns to Kansas and the rain has fallen and the land has been renewed.  Dorothy is not the same person when she returns and neither are you once you have been through a transitional experience.   Dorothy discovered what she needed to know to take the next step in her development.

Though we always hope for the easy way out, like the Wizard giving us the easy solution, we need to go through the difficult journey to learn more about ourselves and how we want to live the rest of our life.  In order to start the new beginning, we need to end the old stage.    Though, as Bridges says, “the wisdom of the everyday world always calls on the traveler to keep to the straight path and persevere toward the intended destination, the Way of Transition heads off in another direction”.

Although I have never been a fan of the Wizard of Oz, reading this interpretation was helpful to me because it helped me understand better the way many, if not most, transitions flow.

Dorothy would never have chosen to be whisked off to the Land of Oz, but when she returned, she had new life and energy and she had begun a “new chapter of existence”.

According to Bridges, “It isn’t the events that make a period of your life transitional.  It is the deeper shifts that take place, the inner turnings that you may not even recognize until you can look back.”