What Do Butterflies and Relationships Have in Common?

podcast relationships Oct 15, 2019

 Can't listen? Here's the transcript: 

Hey dethroners!  I have been seeing so many butterflies around me lately--it’s insane! I mean, they fly right up to me while I’m walking. I have seen them come right up to my car window. And one day when I was sitting on a beach, I swear there were at least 10 different times that butterflies flew right up to where I was sitting. 

Now, I tend to look for spiritual meaning in my life, so I did some research about what it means spiritually if you see butterflies all around you. And basically, the spiritual meaning of the butterfly is all about personal growth, transformation, and paying attention to the areas in your life where there is a need for transformation. 

I found this beautiful quote that said, “Just when the caterpillar thought her life was over, she began to fly.” And this quote is SO important in allowing us to remain in a space of calm, peace and surrender as we are dealing with challenging circumstances in our lives.

In my own life, I am working hard on my own personal relationships with my kids. Many of you know that I have three kids, and my oldest is taking his third and final SAT exam and getting ready to finalize his college applications. My middle son just started his sophomore year of high school and is confronting the reality that he better stop slacking off and pay more attention to his school work. And my daughter just began middle school and is dealing with the stress of change that comes with a new chapter in her life. 

So needless to say, my house has been a bit tension filled. At times it feels like I am not sure what mood I’m going to come home to with any of my kids. And as I am watching all of them in each of their stages of life, what my Inner Critic really wants to do is force their transformation into the butterfly.

When I see them struggling in to break free from their cocoon, I want to rip it open so it’s easier to fly. But did you know that when a butterfly is struggling to break free from the cocoon, if you open up the cocoon to make it easier for them to emerge, the butterfly dies. He can’t get the gunk off of his wings and so is unable to fly.

I have been really paying attention to my Inner Critic thoughts of fear and “what if” and resisting my Inner Critic's urge to try to fix some part of them or their lives. This creates a ripple effect of agitation within me that gets all over them and gets all over my husband.

Instead, I am building the muscle to catch my Inner Critic trying to whip up her “what if” drama and stay a place of love and trust. I'm doing the best I can to stay calm and loving towards my kids as they sort out their fears, their insecurities, and their self doubt, which can often result in me being an emotional punching bag. 

So, my Inner Critic wants to get whipped up into the drama of feeling disrespected or taken for granted or unloved. My Inner Critic would love to blame my kids for my feelings and then go to work to try to figure out how to change their mood, fix their fears, and stop them from being short or grumpy with me.

But what I am committed to is having ALL of my relationships be loving and connected. Now, my Inner Critic would say that what that is supposed to look like is that a loving and connected relationship is one in which the other person is also loving and connected. However, many of you who are raising teenagers and pre teens, know that that is sometimes impossible.  

So many of us have people in our lives that we wish we could change. But what if the fact that they don't change isn't the problem? Our Inner Critic convinces us that if we could change THEM, that is the key to feeling the way we want to feel.  And for some of you who are dealing with conflictual relationships that go way back, like with a parent or a sibling, you don’t only want to change who only who they are being now, but who they were in the past.

But here’s the reality:  You can’t change any of it. Now your Inner Critic has been convincing you for a very long time that if you just get angry enough, if you talk to them enough about what you’re upset about, or maybe if you just take your love away entirely, like those of you who have been living in a loveless relationship for a long time, that will be the thing that will eventually change the relationship. 

And this is why human beings are insane.

We keep doing the same things over and over again and expecting that at some point, you will get the relationship you want. You’ve heard that one before…. Definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and START expecting different results. 

And when you are swallowed by your Inner Critic, and you are using your old, habitual and conditioned mind to think for you, you don’t recognize it that it’s really your problem of thinking. You think it’s them.

Remember one of our Inner Critic’s favorite pastimes is to compare ourselves and other people in our lives to an ideal version of the way we think they should be. What we don’t recognize is that ALL of our relationships serve as mirrors to show us a part of ourselves that need to heal. 

When we are acting from our Inner Critic thinking, we are NOT our best selves. And most people don’t even know that they have this habitual and conditioned thinking that occupies their minds all day everyday. So for all of us, when our Inner Critic is ruling our thoughts, we’re not behaving in a way that is aligned with the lives we really want to be living. And that goes for the people you are in relationship with, too. 

Now the question is: Can you have room for their humanness and also for yours?

We don’t recognize how much we judge ourselves and criticize ourselves and feel like we’re not doing a good enough job at this thing called life. And when we are listening to our Inner Critic tell us this, then we are in a perpetual state of self judgment. And when we judge ourselves, we are also judging other people too.  

Now, let’s talk about what it really takes to transform your relationships.  I want to talk about the butterfly again, because it is one of the most profound symbols of change and self transformation. To transform from a caterpillar to beautiful butterfly, the key is that the caterpillar doesn’t fear or fight against it. To become a butterfly, the process is actually really gross and ugly. A caterpillar has to first digests itself and become a soupy mess. Eventually the gross soup of cells transform into the eyes and wings. And if you were to look at this metamorphosis as it happening, it is extremely disturbing. And then watching the butterfly emerge from the cocoon looks painful. But this is exactly what the caterpillar needs to do to get the soup off of its wings so that it can fly.  

 So If we are looking at what it really takes to have the delicious relationships that we crave in our lives, we have to stop looking for anyone else to create it except ourselves.  I know that many of you listening to this want to fight against this. You are probably saying, “Why the hell do I have to change? Why doesn’t the other person have to change?”

The answer to that is, you have zero control over how they behave.  You only have a choice about how YOU behave. And you may find that when you change your behavior, it has an impact on how the other person behaves. (Not always, but sometimes.) When it comes to my kids, sometimes if I remain loving when my kids are grumpy, sometimes it changes their behavior...and sometimes it doesn’t. But I have to manage my own thoughts, especially when it doesn’t.  

And for those of you who are in romantic relationships, you may work on remaining loving and changing your behavior and then find that because the other person is stuck in their conditioned and habitual thoughts, they are not capable of change. 

The key is not to fear or fight against the possibility of change in your relationship but rather to see it as a tool to release some old patterns in our lives so as to give way to the new, emerging part of life that could be the most beautiful new chapter. 

But when we are facing the possibility of a change or an ending in our relationship, or something that we know needs to transform, we can’t listen to our Inner Critic hustle us into believing that it is something to fear, fight or avoid. Because just like the butterfly, as the old cycle ends, even if it looks disturbing, what is on the other side is an entirely new self. 

It is the thoughts we are going to choose to think when we are faced with these transformations in our relationships and in our lives that is the key to our experience of ourselves and our lives. Whether we are relating to change with a feeling of trust, surrender and acceptance, or whether we are relating to change with a feeling of struggle and suffering, all depends on whether we are consciously, deliberately and intentionally choosing thoughts that leave us excited about what is to come in the next chapter, or whether we are holding on for dear life to the familiar and known life as the caterpillar we’ve been.  

Fear, doubt, regret, resentment are the habitual thoughts that hold us back from our ability to change and grow. But we want to hold on to these thoughts, because even if they keep us stuck, our Inner Critic keeps them in place because it is a familiar way to think.

It keeps us stuck exactly in what we already know. It keeps us staying the caterpillar because we’re afraid to turn into the yucky soup that has us grow into the butterfly. Instead, we cling to being a caterpillar.

We don’t turn towards the unknown and embrace the unfamiliar process of transformation. We don’t want to be in that in-between stage of NO longer and not yet. And it takes courage to stay in that cocoon of thoughts and emotions and to do the work to create new habits of thought that will get us to spread our wings and fly. Because the in-between is definitely messy and can even be disturbing!

There is this phenomenon in science called “the Butterfly effect”.  And basically, it is a concept that describes small events having large, widespread impacts. It comes from an MIT meteorologist named Edward Lorenz, who said that if a butterfly flaps it’s wings on one side of the planet it can create a massive storm on the other side of the planet. 

So what this means is that we don’t have to make huge changes if we want to transform our lives. Sometimes, small shifts in thoughts can create a slight change in our negative feelings which can create small changes in some behaviors. And if we practice this every day, over time this can create ripple effects that can cause unforeseen changes.

Sometimes it’s just changing one thought. For me, the change in thought is every morning, I say out loud “I am committed to loving and connected relationships in my life.”  And because I take the 10 seconds every morning to say this out loud, I change the automatic way my Inner Critic would have me react to my kids. This has created a change in the tension in my home which has created more love and connection with me and my husband. And when my Inner Critic has sabotaged this commitment and I am in my automatic reactivity, I recognize it easier.  And I forgive myself and get back to my commitment.  

So just like the caterpillar goes through stages of development to transform into the butterfly, let’s look at the different stages of Dethroning Your Inner Critic as it applies to relationships. 

You may notice that you are in a different stage in different relationships. In the first stage, you are still the caterpillar, crawling along the ground, oblivious to anything but being a caterpillar. I call this the sleep stage of DYIC. When you are in the sleeping stage, you are numb to your own personal power and responsibility. In this stage, you:

  • Are blaming someone else (and are saying “It’s THEIR fault”)
  • Have a loss of hope (and are saying “I don’t care” or "This is as good as it gets")
  • Have high overwhelm, stress and anxiety (and are saying “I don't have the power, strength or skill to make things better")

It’s all the places you are being a victim to other people and not owning your power to transform your thinking. Don’t overlook this stage - it’s a normal and necessary and HUMAN and we HAVE to be in this stage in a lot of areas of our lives before we can wake up.  We can even bring humor to this stage if we let ourselves, especially looking back to see what we were blind to in our past but now see clearly. 

Stage 2 of the DYIC Transformation Cycle is the Waking Up Stage, which is when you recognize a new aspect of your Inner Critic that you didn’t see before - where you have those “Aha” moments of seeing that the story you’ve been living and telling yourself, is just ONE way it could go and that you have a choice about how it goes. 

And I want to talk about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable because this stage sometimes has that groggy, icky uncomfortable feeling of wanting to go back to sleep, back to stage 1 of sleeping and victimhood.

With regard to your relationships, this is where you begin to see YOUR responsibility in what you are thinking about this person, where you are judging, where you have expectations that you are comparing this person to, and what you are doing or not doing that is having the relationship look the way it does.

For instance, you may notice that you have thoughts that make you angry towards your partner and therefore your way of being is cold and distant.  Or you may have resentment towards your mother and so everything she says is heard through the lens of resentment.  

Stage 3 of the DYIC Transformation Cycle is the separating Stage. This is where you’re actively walking out of your old story and INTO the new one, shedding the beliefs and habits of your Inner Critic that were keeping you small and stuck.

This is the stage where you begin to try on new thoughts, like my partner is behaving this way because he or she is sad or scared. Or thoughts like, my mother didn’t know any other way to live her life. This is where you begin to wake up to other people’s Inner Critics and how it is always THEIR thoughts that are causing their behavior...and it’s not personal to you.

The waking up stage is also where you begin to notice the emotional energy you are putting towards things that don’t really matter or no longer serve you and you might begin to prune your life of the things that are no longer needed - like habits or people or commitments. It’s the letting go of the old stuff that creates SPACE for the new. 

When you are feeling like there is an area of your life or a particular relationship in which you are suffering, you can kickstart the transformation cycle by asking yourself,  “What story am I choosing to believe in?” or “Who would I be without this belief?” 

The fourth phase of the transformation cycle, the stepping up phase, is the phase of being in a committed relationship with your Authentic Self. You step up to aligning your thoughts, feelings and actions with the life you SAY you want. 

It doesn’t mean you’ve dethroned your Inner Critic forever and she’s gone. No, no, no. It’s the phase of taking radical responsibility and knowing that YOU have the power to transform your life by changing what you think, which over time changes your beliefs. 

It’s the phase when you can trust that your struggles are actually stepping stones to access your Authentic Self, the part of you that accepts you as you, no longer looks for people or circumstances to determine your feelings, are begin to practice being the best version of YOU!

The process of transformation is not a linear one, where you get to the end ‘one day’ in the future.  It’s actually cyclical. We are always being invited to take our Inner Critics off her throne on a deeper level and in new areas of our lives. 

When you take even small steps to create new thoughts, which allows us to make even the smallest of changes in our lives, you never know how much these seemingly insignificant moments can contribute to altering who we are and shaping our own personal destinies. 

So the butterfly transformation is really a profound metaphor of the constant threads of cause and effect in our lives that might seem obvious looking back, but we can’t see how they will impact our lives in the moment.  

The only thing there is to do when you are in the throws of change and uncertainty in your life, is to have courage and trust. To empower yourself to have trust in who you are, and trust that life will take you where you need to go.

You don’t have to white knuckle your life and force it to go where you think it should. 

That is nothing more than your Inner Critic’s fear. You can surrender to whatever the change is, let go of the old, and trust that when you emerge from the depth of your cocoon, you will open your wings and take flight. 

In order to truly change your life, you need to be willing to think differently from how you feel.

That's why I collected some of my favorite resources and trainings to create an owner's manual for your mind. Want access? Tell us where to send your log-in details! 

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