Creating fulfilling relationships

Author Archives: eric

The Wounded Butterfly: An Ongoing Transformation

This article is written with They, Their, Them pronouns out of respect for those who don’t identify with a particular gender.

With a supportive enough environment, children become adults who can create lives of their own. They find a career, a home, and manage their responsibilities. No matter how successful someone becomes at creating such a life, they will reach a point when something in them says that there must be more to life than this. Even those who work at making a positive difference in the world will feel the call to something deeper and more personal. Answering this call can be likened to a caterpillar moving towards its cocoon. The caterpillar is a good symbol for an egocentric approach to life, marching on and on towards the next reward, munching and chewing and trying to satisfy an endless hunger. The cocoon is the symbol for slowing down and doing the inner work that transforms the limited egocentric self (the caterpillar) into a deeper and wider self, a self that feels connected to the web of life and has a purposeful contribution to make to that web (the butterfly). The butterfly is a powerful and captivating metaphor because it can fly, because it is coloured so beautifully, and because it is so different from the caterpillar.


Resisting the Cocoon

Just as some caterpillars get eaten and thus never reach the cocoon stage, so too do some people never answer the call to slow down and do their inner work, even when life circumstances push them forcefully in that direction. It can be (it almost always is) a very difficult choice to answer the call of the cocoon, so I recommend seeing those who don’t answer the call with compassion. If you’ve gone through ego transformation, you’ll know that it’s like dying for the ego, which can feel like a literal threat to your survival. Be a beacon. Be a humble inspiration. Keep your healthy boundaries (don’t try to do the work for them). But steer clear of blame, judgement and coercion. Those expressions will likely be met with an increase of resistance or shame.


Stuck in the Cocoon

As difficult as it is to enter the cocoon, it is often more difficult to leave it. Leaving the cocoon means leaving behind the person you learned to be to cope with your childhood and fit into your environment (hence the sense of a threat to your survival). A transformed you is what emerges from the cocoon. Leaving a career or a spouse or moving to a new city does not amount to self-transformation. Changing outer circumstances can be an important part of answering the call (or it can be an attempt to escape the call), but transformation is ultimately an inside-out process. The caterpillar does not get fitted with wings and painted with colours. It gets broken down and transformed. It’s worth reading about the full process of transformation for a caterpillar as it is richly symbolic. Here is a taste: “First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. If you were to cut open a cocoon or chrysalis at just the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out. But the contents of the pupa are not entirely an amorphous mess. Certain highly organized groups of cells known as imaginal discs survive the digestive process.” Read the full article here. Similarly, our inner work breaks down our false ego and limiting beliefs, but the soul and the parts of the ego that are needed to express the transformed self remain.


Flying Solo

Rather than risk their new wings and colours, some people stay in the cocoon, finding ever more parts of themselves to digest, convincing themselves that they are not yet ready to fly. As dark and soupy as the cocoon is, it’s familiar and seems safer than spreading wings and taking flight in the full light of day. When someone is afraid to leave the cocoon, it might be that a fear of judgement needs more digesting, or a lack of self-worth or of feeling safe still need healing. I have loads of compassion for the trauma we each carry and no desire to pressure anyone to push themselves, but it is important to know that there is healing that can only happen in the leaving of the cocoon, the testing of the wings, the radiating of the beauty. It’s important to know that without the necessary resources and support, leaving the cocoon can be re-traumatizing. We need caring people around us when we set out to share our gifts with the world. Therefore, a necessary part of the inner work includes addressing fears of trusting others and beliefs about having to do it all yourself. In other words, the caterpillar to butterfly metaphor can be a crippling one if it’s viewed as a solo journey.


Ongoing Transformation
The caterpillar-to-butterfly metaphor can also be a crippling one if it’s seen as a one-time process of full transformation. Believing that we need to be fully transformed or attain some high level of transformation before sharing our beauty is part of what keeps people stuck in the cocoon. Finding acceptance for ourselves as we are and letting go of perfection are important pieces to digest in the cocoon stage.
The approach to transformation that I trust is one in which the slowing down, cocooning, and taking flight process cycles around and around with good support throughout our lives. Some cycles are intense and take longer, others are more of a reset and renew. If we view life as an ongoing series of caterpillar-to-butterfly transformations, then we can leave the cocoon as beautiful, wounded, and courageous butterflies that are willing to take some risks, share some beauty, learn, and continue healing. This ongoing process works if there are people we trust helping us slow down, be in the cocoon, and take flight, people who offer a shoulder to lean on, catch us when we fall, and believe in us when we struggle to believe in ourselves. Perhaps there are people who have done it alone, but I believe that most of us will fly further and radiate more magnificently if we allow ourselves to stretch into greater interdependence with all life, again, and again, and again.

Get to Know Your False Ego and Take Back Your Life

Try this experiment: Choose your top three distractions, the things you turn to for comfort and entertainment but don’t feed your soul – social media, TV/movies, comfort food, alcohol, extra hours at work, shopping, etc. – give them up for a month, and replace them with activities that truly feed your soul and let you… Continue Reading

The Ultimate Romance

When most people think of romance, they think of flowers and chocolate, candlelight dinners and sunset walks, dancing, poetry, and diamond rings. These types of romance happen most consistently during the falling-in-love phase of a relationship. Further into the relationship, once childhood wounds begin to surface, the romance often dwindles, and conflict fills in the… Continue Reading

A Story of Successful Relationship

Imagine you are born into a small community in which everyone knows each other. Your parents are valued in the community and are well supported. As a baby and young child, you are often held, carried, or wrapped against your mother or father, and they are very responsive to your cries for connection or comfort.… Continue Reading

Working Successfully Through Difficult Dialogues

A Structured Dialogue Process for Working Through Challenging Issues Inspired by Restorative Circles – This process is designed to build understanding and collaboration while working through important or difficult issues. Practice it with easier issues so that it is easier to learn. This process works best when you are as interested in the other’s… Continue Reading

Somatic Self-Empathy

SOMATIC SELF-EMPATHY If you are aware that your amygdala is activated, that you are in fight/flight or freeze and struggling to stay connected and compassionate with yourself or another, You can connect to your prefrontal cortex, regulate your upset, and find a healthy response to the situation by observing your breath, thoughts, and sensations; feeling… Continue Reading

Increasing Your Capacity to Feel

The following post is an excerpt from my book Meet Me In Hard-to-Love Places: The Heart and Science of Relationship Success Widen the Window Two of the most supportive things parents can do for their children are healing their own attachment trauma (thereby further developing their own neural pathways for emotional regulation and secure attachment) and… Continue Reading

What is a Conscious Relationship?

In an interview with Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix that I often recommend to people, Helen and Harville define a conscious relationship as one in which each partner is aware that the wounds and relationship dynamics from childhood will have a big influence on their relationship. In other words, they are conscious that what… Continue Reading

What is The Shadow

An important part of differentiation for adults involves uncovering and reclaiming the disowned parts that were not accepted or loved by their parents. The term “shadow,” first suggested by the psychoanalyst Carl Jung, is often used when referring to our disowned parts, or to the place in our psyches in which we have hidden them. If disowned… Continue Reading

My Time for Waiting is Over

My first two professionally produced songs are ready! The first song is Our Time for Waiting is Over. This song is a call out to answer the heart and find the courage, humility, strength and support needed to bring love to both the light and dark places. It is the theme song for my Gofundme Campaign… Continue Reading