By Catherine Anesi, LCSW, RM

I recently saw a Facebook post that pictured a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.  The time-lapse video showed the distinctive phases of the caterpillar growing and shedding it’s outer layer a few times until it was very large and green.  Then it showed the caterpillar eating everything in sight until it finally cocooned itself into its own protective shell, and after some time, emerged from the cocoon a beautiful butterfly ready to take flight.  

It is not a new idea to compare the stages of a caterpillar to a butterfly with the personal transformational process, however, watching this particular video of a particular species that actually shed its outer layer many times before it was ready to cocoon struck me. This particular species of butterfly appeared to labor hard with each shedding of the outer layer, and with each layer that was released, the caterpillar appeared healthier and more alive before it settled in to rest and cocoon and allow the changes to happen. The caterpillar appeared to be struggling with each layer. In our own personal transformations there seems to be endless shedding of old beliefs, memories, and pain that continually lead to the becoming of the new and improved version of ourselves. The transformational path can seem arduous and painful, however, the outcome is truly amazing. The transformational process can be broken down into four phases:

  • Shedding – The shedding phase is where we begin to surrender to ideas, habits, and behaviors that no longer fit for us anymore. We let go of those old beliefs that we hold about ourselves like, “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t deserve”, etc … and with the letting go of these beliefs, we also may have to let go of people places and things that keep us stuck in our old belief system. This can be a painful process and can look pretty ugly and messy. Take heart, you are only given that which you can handle.
  • Nourishing – Self-care is extremely important while the shedding phase is happening. We need to eat well, rest, move our bodies, and partake in things that make us happy. We also need to be with people that nourish us rather then deplete us. Excellent boundaries are in order at this time.
  • Cocooning – We may even find ourselves wanting alone time.  We may just want to retreat and spend time with ourselves, reflecting on our past, healing, and thinking about what we want for ourselves.  This is not the time to push yourself. It’s ok to do nothing for a while.
  • Emerging – In time, you will emerge as a new and improved version of yourself. You will feel more alive than ever and feel unburdened and free from the past. Your feelings about yourself will have changed and your outside will mirror that for you. You will have gained a new relationship with yourself.

The human life cycle of transformation is, of course, much longer then the lifecycle of a butterfly, and we rotate through these phases continually. It takes courage and tenacity to make a practice of the transformational process and it is very important to be kind to yourself while you are shedding. The rewards are as amazing as a simple caterpillar emerging into a beautiful butterfly.