If you have kids, or young family members, you may well be aware of the ‘caterpillar kits’ that have been doing the rounds during summer time year over the last few years.
A few weeks ago, at my mum’s house, I found myself sat in front of a tiny tub containing baby caterpillars, no more than a few millimetres in size, wriggling around eating so much food as they prepared for their transformation.
As I sat there it occurred to me the incredible magic that is involved, the mind-blowing transformation that takes place in order for them to become a beautiful butterfly.
There are so many 'inspirational' quotes bounced around on the internet about this transformation, but to be honest, they had always just seemed like words to me:
"What if the change you're avoiding is the one that gives you wings?"
"Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly"
"Your time as a caterpillar has expired, your wings are ready"
I'd never really thought about it to the extent I did as I sat there that morning, staring through the sides of the little plastic tub.
What made me laugh as I thought about it some more, is that when the caterpillar wraps itself up in it's chrysalis, attaches itself to a solid surface and hangs there for a couple of weeks before emerging as a butterfly... what is actually happening on the inside!
It practically liquefies, by releasing enzymes to digest its own body. The caterpillars 'dissolve' before rebuilding themselves into a beautiful butterfly!
It felt like a powerful metaphor to me; that in order to undergo this incredible transformation, first we have to have a 'meltdown'.
How true is this in life, when we are going through our own transformation. When doing the work on the inside first, it is almost inevitable that we are going to have a meltdown somewhere along that process.
In that moment I realised it's about embracing this process because that is where the biggest gifts lie. It's the shift that happens during the meltdown where we become stronger and more beautiful as a result.
It's the allowing of that that state of letting go of who we once were, even it might feel like the worst thing in the world at the time, but is actually necessary in order for us to become the person that we have the potential to be.
What's more important as I thought about it again a few days later, as I looked across at these now tiny rugged suspended chrysalis forms, is that there is this outer protection against the world.
The chrysalis shell is the only thing that allows the caterpillar to do the ‘inner work’; the only thing that allows the transformation to take place. There is no way they could have their 'meltdown' without that protective barrier in place.
I think we all need to create a ‘chrysalis’ in our own lives.
If we are to accept that at some point along the process of our personal growth we are going to have a meltdown, then we need to be better preparing ourselves for that protective container. Having the people, the resources and the tools in place that allow us to fully embrace that.
It's not pretty, it's actually pretty messy in there. But if we haven't got the resources in places to best manage that state whilst we are in it, we are likely to struggle.
Ultimately, I think there are two key learning points to this caterpillar-butterfly process, way beyond the fluffy inspirational quotes...
One is in accepting that it is likely we are going to have a 'meltdown' as we do the inner work to become our biggest, brightest, best self. In order to truly fly in this world we are going to first have a meltdown.
Secondly, in knowing this, it is about putting the people and the resources in place to support that transition and help it run it’s course as smoothly as possible.
It's not going to be pretty, but with awareness and support we can make it through the process and out the other side to emerge in full glory.