Altered States

by | Aug 16, 2018

The butterfly has long been seen as a symbol for transformation and change and seems mystical and magical. But if you really study the process of that change you will find that it resembles much of how we as humans experience major life changes.

Once the caterpillar has spun their cocoon, they dissolve into liquid substance that contains all the cells for a magnificent change, but there very defined stages that it must go through to emerge in its fullest function as a butterfly.

As humans we too have stages or phases that we go through when faced with life changes. Some may be more profound than others, and how we deal with the change can depend on which phase we are experiencing.

Like the caterpillar, the first stage is often that “dissolving”, or falling apart, because it is usually unexpected and we are unprepared. For some this can mean the dissolving of their identity and trying to hold on to the person they thought they were or waiting to “get back to normal.” Some strategies for getting through this stage are:

  • Live one day at a time. (or sometimes just minutes at a time) Focus on the here and now.
  • Actually, “cocoon” yourself. Wrap yourself in your favorite blanket, have a soothing cup of tea. Do what feels comforting.
  • Find someone to talk to – a friend or therapist. Someone who will be reassuring.
  • Let yourself grieve. Yes, through all major changes, we experience a sense of loss. Let yourself experience those emotions. Acknowledging them will help you move through this stage.

The next stage in the caterpillars metamorphosis, in that liquid substance, are these imago cells that contain all the instructions for the creation of the butterfly. The word imago is the root word for the word imagine. For us, this is the stage where we can begin to see what the life ahead of us might look like. We begin to reorganize our thinking for new possibilities. To encourage that imaginative thinking, you might want to start a discovery journal or vision board. Cut out pictures you find interesting and appealing and let them begin to illustrate the life you are trying to create. You can also start a written journal of your dreams, schemes, and aspirations – planning to bring your vision to fruition.

Next, we enter the stage of reforming. This is where you stop dreaming and start implementing. Your vision starts to take shape and become more substantive. You feel a new sense of motivation. Sometimes, this stage needs repeating as you continue to re-form and refine your new life. So, expect there to be some failures and be willing to start over. Persist and persevere.

Now, finally, we are reaching the last stage. As you leave the stage of reforming you are like the butterfly just emerging from the cocoon. Don’t rush that stage, as like the butterfly, you must let your newly formed soggy wings have a chance to dry and strengthen before you are ready to fly.

These last strategies are the fine-tuning. First, just enjoy your new existence. Spend time every day focusing on gratitude. Find small ways to add pleasure to your life. And know that the next time change occurs, and it will, you have the skills to make it through.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes about change. “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin

Until next time…