Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Caterpillar Days

As clinicians, we often use the image of a butterfly to symbolize the course of psychotherapy. What other creature demonstrates the miracle of transformation to intricate beauty and freedom? Butterflies hovering and gingerly lighting upon a wave of open blooms seem to have the full aliveness and joy we will do nearly anything to even temporarily experience. We use material possessions, achievements, sex, alcohol, drugs, food, and wisps of external validation to feel good. Yes this works for awhile to numb the pain of loneliness, or feelings we can’t express, but when this method of operation takes root, we end up creating even more misery.

Staying in this stage of gorging on what we hope will fill us, leads to trouble: screwed up relationships, failed marriages, neglected kids, depression, you name it. These are our caterpillar days. Caterpillars are struggling to get by, inching their way from here to there, hoping to find enough to fill their insatiable needs. Did you know that in just two weeks the caterpillar will shed its skin five times? In other words, the insect must wear and outgrow five skins. We too must outgrow our skins, those defenses we’ve used to survive.

The very things we learned as children to adapt in our family systems become skins we will either shed or shrivel into. For instance, I learned to be dramatic and exaggerate as a kid, in order to try and get what I needed from my mom and dad. Drama queen was the only way to be seen and heard—and Hollywood wasn’t calling. Unfortunately, strident and theatrical aren’t the most desirable traits for an adult who wants healthy relationships. A total stranger once looked at me in Jason’s Deli as I stood at the coke machine, and said “You’re exaggerating”, as he rolled his eyes. I wasn’t even talking to him. That guy had his own problems which had nothing to do with me, but the point is, this tendency to exaggerate had become a thick skin of mine, hidden from no one, comfortable but worn out. Letting it go was hard work.

Back to caterpillars: The impulse to transform lies within all of us. Our spirits long to be free and to experience joy. Shedding old ways of protecting ourselves, old defense mechanisms that no longer serve us, old negative beliefs that are getting in our way-- shedding these will allow us to create the life that we want. We don’t have to be stuck in our caterpillar days.


Bridging Harts Institute & Psychotherapy
203 S. Alma St. Suite #300
Allen, TX 75013
T: (972) 562 5002
Email: info@bridgingharts.com


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