The forest near where I live is a massive, lush, green playground for dik diks (think tiny Japanese anime-like antelope), duikers and monkeys. When the season is right, it’s awash in colourful butterflies flitting about, creating whorls of colour in their wake.
So I was intrigued to learn recently why it’s not helpful to assist a struggling butterfly out of its chrysalis or cocoon. I wouldn’t ever interfere in the process but it was interesting to know why it’s a terrible idea and what we can learn in the meantime.
Butterflies, as it turns out, release a chemical when they’re getting out of their chrysalis, a chemical that strengthens their wings. Their movements inside the chrysalis pump fluid into their wings, which help the wings expand.
Their Houdini-like escape act helps them build the necessary muscles to do all things butterfly related.
Plus the timing of their emergence from the chrysalis is key; too early and they’re doomed because they won’t have developed enough.
So if a well-meaning human interferes and tries to ‘help’ the butterfly with its struggle, it likely will doom the butterfly to weak wings and lack of development.
Turns out their ‘struggle’ is key to their development.
Which brings me to Brene Brown’s book, “Rising Strong; how the ability to reset transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead, “which I’m thoroughly enjoying reading at the moment.
She writes about our ‘Reckoning,’ which is when we face a problem or a challenge. We are awash in feelings, feelings which our society tends to be allergic too and sees as entirely unhelpful.
The next step is the ‘Rumble,’ the lowest of the low when we’re wrestling with those very emotions.
It’s not pretty and it’s not fun.
It’s the critical step before the ‘Revolution’ or redemption.
Recognize the steps (reckoning, rumble and revolution)? They’re part of any good story, which Brene realized when she worked with the creative folks at Pixar. The Pixar team confirmed that these steps are critical to any and all of their movies.
Back to the butterfly.
The butterfly’s ‘rumble,’ aka its struggle to escape its chrysalis, is critical for its development and its freedom (its escape from the chrysalis).
Here’s the thing; while it may be tempting, while it may sound like a good idea on the surface, neither us nor the butterfly can skip the icky stuff, the rumble. There’s no bypass, overpass or underpass – we gotta go through the rumble to develop our wings and fly.
Just like the butterfly.
Here’s the good news.
We can move through the rumble in a healthy way. Brene recommends we simply get curious about what we’re thinking, feeling and behaving like. She likens it to a three-legged stool – pay attention to each one and the path to redemption will become clearer.
Bringing our attention to our thoughts, feelings and behavior will give us a new perspective. It’s like my lifelong fascination with perspective and worldview and why I designed the Life Lenses™ tool. The more we shine a light on other perspectives, the more we can bridge and build connections.
The perspective of being in the swamp or the pit of despair, while certainly not fun, is like the butterfly’s struggle to escape its chrysalis. The struggle strengthens us, builds our muscles, helps our wings expand and ultimately lets us fly.
Yes, it’s tempting to skip, but it’s not possible without damage. The best thing to do is focus on your feelings, thoughts and behaviours and you’ll move through it to redemption.
So with the butterfly wings at your back, go on and learn, laugh and lead.
Learn more about Rising Strong with this 1-minute summary.
Look what you can do with all that wing, errr, wind power.
Today, October 15th is the last day for Read4Refugees. Pick a book like Brene Brown’s Rising Strong (which helps us rise up from when we fall) and donate what you would have spent on a night out to the campaign.