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Understanding Life Transitions: A Therapist's Perspective. Comparing Butterflies & Life Transitions

Updated: 4 days ago

What do life transitions and butterflies have in common? 


Track with me: This might sound so silly, but maybe this is a helpful picture for you as you consider times of life transition. 


I heard this story recently at church, and then, coincidentally, a client of mine literally described the exact same thing as we discussed her current life transitions about a week later. 


Here goes: Most of us know that caterpillars create cocoons, and then, after a period of time, they come out as butterflies. But did you know that caterpillars essentially turn into goo before they come out as beautiful butterflies? 



Butterfly going through life transition


What I learned / probably re-learned (because, let’s be real, I haven't taken a basic science class in a really long time) is that when a caterpillar creates a chrysalis (cocoon), during the process of metamorphosis the caterpillar builds a unique home based on the type of caterpillar that they are. Then, their body literally transforms over a period of time through metamorphosis into a butterfly. During that metamorphosis period, their body is drastically changing; part of them becomes “goo” inside the chrysalis and parts of them are retained during this process. They become butterflies, and then, when they come out, they are still growing stronger and developing. 


Here is a helpful kid’s YouTube video that talks about the stages of metamorphosis, if you are interested in hearing more about the stages.  


This article from "How Stuff Works" reminded me that butterflies are the adult phase in the life of a caterpillar. Whoa! That adds a whole other level to this picture that I am going to utilize to talk about supporting yourself during life transitions. I say this because – if the butterfly is the adult version of a caterpillar and most of us go through massive transitions in our lives when we are moving from teenagers to the more “adult” us – then we can use this picture to help normalize and validate why it is common for us to feel like “goo” during this transition. 


It may not be a pretty picture, ha! But maybe it helps add some context to why life transitions can lead to us feeling so upside down and out of control. Sometimes, it feels like we become literal goo as we are navigating the changes.  


One last note about butterflies and caterpillars: Caterpillars, they are actually unique and fascinating creatures on their own. There are literally thousands of different kinds of caterpillars and they all know how to undergo this process of metamorphosis. It’s like us as kids transforming into adults; we just become adults as we age and grow yet, even when we become an adult, part of the process is learning, evolving, and getting stronger as we are in transition. 



So let’s briefly talk about transition seasons: 


What is a life-transition season? 

Any period of time where we are moving from one stage to another; typically, it’s moving to the start of something new. It could be a major or minor life event that leads to a change. 


Examples of life transitions include changing schools, moving, starting a new job, starting a new relationship, graduating from school, getting married, having a baby, considering getting married or having a baby, parenting, turning a year older, a friend moving away, desiring to be in a different stage of life, etc. 


All of life is filled with life transitions and seasonal changes. I was reminded of this reality listening to Dr. Allison Cook's podcast episode on navigating transitions and agree with her that that, societally, we don’t talk about this enough. We think of the quote, unquote "big" life transitions like moving, graduating, having a kid, etc but we may not consider how much life change happens throughout all of life. I think many of us assume our life “should” be stable unless we are in a big life transition, and we don’t create enough room to validate that often shifts are happening regularly. 

I believe that as we / you and I can begin to notice the season of life transition that we are in, perhaps we may have more compassion for ourselves regarding all the different feelings and thoughts we may be experiencing. 

Examples of common feelings or thoughts during life transitions: 


Some common feelings include:

  • A sense of isolation

  • Loneliness

  • Confusion

  • A sense of being out of control

  • Excitement 


I talk with my clients often about how we can experience multiple feelings at the same time. I explain how both a “positive” and “negative” feeling can coexist and often do in seasons of transition. I love how a therapist friend of mine describes this coexisting as a “yay boo” moment (excited and sad about the same thing). To read a little more about how opposing feelings can co-exist this site from Conscious Healing Solutions, has a good explanation. 


Some common thoughts about life transitions: 

  • “I miss the old season.”

  • “I don’t know what I am doing.”

  • “I can’t wait to be ____.” 

  • “I am hopeful that it’s going to be better when ____.”


A note about life transitions: Some could feel more stressful or difficult than others. 


In the following blogs I will talk a little more about tips for walking through seasons of life transition and share how our team of therapists or other counselors could be a resource during these life transition seasons. 


If you are navigating a current life transition and feeling uncertain of how to make sense of it. Therapy for life transitions can help create a safe and supportive space to talk about it, to develop coping strategies, gain perspective, and build more tools for resilience. Our team would love to support you-- reach out here to schedule your free 15-minute phone consultation.




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