Life Coaching: The Anatomy Of A Great Life Transition

Honor the space between no longer and not yet – Nancy Levin

internal change

Once the caterpillar hatches from the egg, it begins to eat. The caterpillar eats as it grows until it gets too large for its skin. This outgrowing of the skin triggers molting. Molting signifies a shedding or throwing away to get ready for new growth. After molting several times, the caterpillar stops eating. Its' body releases hormones that make it stop feeding. One significant thing to note is that inside it are imaginal cells. These imaginal cells are crucial in the caterpillar's soon-coming remodeling to become a butterfly. They symbolize the prospects of a life transition.

When the caterpillar stops eating, it makes the trek up to a secluded branch or leaf to prepare for the process. The ideal location for the transition is a spot where the activity will not be disturbed. The caterpillar hangs upside down and spins itself into a chrysalis. The hard case encapsulates the caterpillar.

What we don't see with the naked eye is a marvelous metamorphosis that occurs inside the chrysalis. There is a breaking down; the caterpillar becomes liquified except for the reusable imaginal cells to form its new body parts. Within the liquid is a rich protein that rebuilds the cells. Chemical catalysts regulate but also speed up the process. The remade cells form the butterflies head, legs, wings, and other features.

The entire process can last from weeks to months. A process that cannot be rushed and has to take its course. There is a reorganization, a reprogramming of the old into the new. When it's time, the butterfly pushes through the chrysalis. The pushing through requires some effort as its wings are still fresh. A red liquid waste falls out as the butterfly pushes out. Once out, it takes time to shake its body to pump blood to its wings before its first flight.

In Transit

A life transition can be like a transformation - a metamorphosis. It is a passage from one thing to the next. It can be easy and one that brings pleasure or difficulty and brings pain. It involves moving forward or through. The movement is meant to be toward a transformation, a positive growth in life, and not staying the same.

Remembering the process of going through life transitions can help ease anxiety and despair.

  1. Let go and accept - the Latin word for molt is mutare - to change. It means to alter. Molting means shedding, letting go. Like the caterpillar that outgrows its skin, it's time for you to begin letting go of things that do not serve you. It means giving up false beliefs, ways of thinking, or acting that limit you. Letting go often is uncomfortable and can intensify the feelings of loss. The caterpillar stops eating - a symbolic sacrifice, of course, meaning that there will be "hunger pangs." There is no sustenance, so these "pangs" compel it to move forward. To seek what's next - it physically positions itself for what is to come. Staying stagnant is not an option.

  2. Hope - in science, imaginal cells have the potential to become something new. In the caterpillar, they are dormant until triggered. Being in transition signifies potential. There is a possibility that potential can be stirred up and awakened. There is hope. It reminds me of the Latin phrase, "Dum spiro, Spero," which means "while I breathe, I hope." The idea is that you keep hoping as long as you are alive. The concept that imaginal cells embody renewal calls for hope and gratitude. Being grateful opens the door for flooding hope. Whatever your transition, expected or unexpected, hope exists. The word imaginal comes from the Latin word imago. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, there are two meanings. A) an insect in its final, adult, mature, and typically winged state and B) an idealized mental image of another person or the self. Choose to see what's possible.

  3. Stillness - chrysalis in literal terms means "gold sheath ."A sheath is something that protects another—a covering or case. Inside the chrysalis, a delicate process is occurring. Science tells you not to disturb a chrysalis if you find it. During the transition, it's appropriate to take on a sheath. The sheath connotates either a time of withdrawal or reflection. A time to be peaceful and encourage yourself. A time to nurture yourself and to be in a sanctuary. This time of tranquility becomes an oasis. Even amid unrest, find serenity and divine provision to push you through. Look after your psychological and emotional well-being.

  4. Rebirth- Metamorphosis means to alter or modify significantly. The most grueling growth comes when you think the hard part is over. Here, the breaking down happens. The old ways of thinking, feeling, and acting begins to crumble. This melting away does not occur randomly. In the chrysalis, the chemical catalysts regulate and speed things up. For you and me, the catalyst means actively investing in this process. It involves tearing down or pulling apart the obstacles. It's learning how to guide your emotions and thoughts while taking in "protein,"; things that build up and provide a healthy foundation. Tap into your inner strength, throw away what's not serving you, and embrace or anchor what does. A sound and firm foundation are necessary for the next stage.

  5. Shed frameworks that weigh you down - let me guess, you thought this stage would be the one where the butterfly breaks free? Not yet. The transformation takes time, and with it comes "waste." The butterfly has to get rid of this waste made in the chrysalis. Waste is not helpful and can manifest in fear, hesitation, procrastination, perfection, self-doubt, uncertainty, comparison, self-judgment, and so on. Even now, when the time comes, "wasteful behaviors and feelings that steal your energy and time" can crop up against potential. So, it will take some effort to push through. At this point, you might feel compelled that you need let go of this burden. You must resolve to release this opposition and let the waste cascade off you. Move toward ease - to spread your wings.

  6. Cultivate helpful mental attitudes and habits - when the butterfly's wings open; it pumps blood by moving its body. It is aware that it has a new ability now to use its wings but to tap into it, it has to take action. One must prepare to experience this newfound freedom, explore new territory, and find opportunities. Moving its body is a crucial step in preparing it for flight. In transition, that final release requires you to be aware. Aware that you can move toward calm, joy, motivation, momentum, and possibility. Just like the butterfly pumping its wings to induce blood flow, a physiological response, when you engage your mind and body in activities that support your growth, you deploy hormones to fortify your mood, calmness, and motivation and reduce stress and anxiety. Your mind and body are linked. Adopt a morning ritual or routine that supports your physical and mental well-being, practice how to respond and not react, and surround yourself with people who are cheerleaders - not naysayers. Peaceful and encouraging people who will help look out for your well-being.

A life transition can be planned or unplanned and include going through adolescence/high school, immigrating, adopting a healthy lifestyle, going to college, moving out on your own, exploring dating/relationships, motherhood, starting a family, and so on. Transitions might go smoothly but sometimes adjusting is unbearable, puzzling, exhausting, and stressful.

Nevertheless, transitions can be a bridge toward transformation for the better. If you can choose to see the possibility, you can capture the hidden gems at the core of transitions. What matters is that you have awareness. Awareness to let go, to expect good, to allow compassion for stillness, a firm, healthy attitude seeking growth, commitment to self toward insight and joy, and rich moral support.