Do you ever feel out of sync with your surroundings? Maybe you're anticipating something, but you just can't put your finger on it. Other times, you might feel like you're on the verge of something. For some people, this "out of sync" feeling can be described as discomfort or uneasiness. For others, it can be an unprecedented comfort.
This weird sensation is present when you're in, what's called, liminal spaces.
Before I explain what liminal spaces are, let's see if these places or situations evoke any feelings:
1. Airports early in the morning or late at night (midnight - 6 a.m.)
2. Beaches late at night
3. Empty museums
5. Hospital waiting rooms or hospitals late at night
6. School buildings on the weekends or summertime
7. Rest stops on the side of the highway8. Empty highways
9. When you're the last car in an empty parking lot
10. Playgrounds when there are no children
11. Post offices
12. Office supply section of your local grocery store
13. Your friend's house in the middle of the night when you wake up to get water
14. Your room at 5 a.m. (or when it's raining)
15. Elevators when you're alone
Feeling nostalgic yet?
If thinking of these places evokes any anxious feelings, you've probably experienced being in a liminal space. Liminal is derived from the Latin word "limen" which translates to the threshold.
A liminal space is essentially a transitional threshold. These places have no purpose on their own, their existence is not about themselves. Rather, they exist entirely to be a waiting place from one point in space to the next. Simply, their purpose is based on what comes before and after them.
Liminal spaces like waiting rooms, rest stops, or airports make you feel "off" or uneasy if you spend too much time in them because you're supposed to keep moving through life. When you don't, reality feels altered.
Liminal Spaces are throughways from one place to the next.
Another explanation of an altered reality is because of the incapacity of our brains to process these liminal spaces as individual entities. Our brains react to context, so when a space lacks context or we experience it out of context, we feel uneasy or anxious.
On the one hand, an empty school on the weekends or during the summertime can be described as a liminal space. The reason for this is because of the context that our brain has assigned to the specific building or hallway. What you usually see as a busy, loud, or hustled hallway is now calm and serene. Since the hallway lacks the context our brain normally associates with it, it begins to feel "dangerous" because it is unfamiliar. While we can override this feeling of "danger" by not doing anything irrational, the feeling of uneasiness or anxiety remains.
On the other hand, while your bedroom during a storm can also be considered a liminal space, it may cause a different reaction. As I mentioned before, for some people, liminal spaces cause uneasiness while for others, they evoke a feeling of unprecedented comfort. This comfort seems foreign or unknown and maybe you're not sure why it feels comfortable, nevertheless, it does.
Whichever category you fall into, whether these spaces make you feel uneasy or comfortable, we can all agree that liminal spaces are extremely fascinating. Maybe the next time you're in one, you'll be able to recognize it and have more control over your feelings of uneasiness.
Reality feels altered because we're not supposed to spend too much time in these places.
But what if we do?