Cocoon. Struggle. Butterfly.

If you remove the middle, you kill the butterfly. And, so it is…with life.

Some struggles are necessary for our growth and learning, for developing personal strength and perseverance, as well as our independence and self-reliance. In other words, helping us to become functional adults.

A very good friend of mine inspired me to write this piece because she kept pestering me to listen to audiobooks instead of reading them. You know, like looking at and interpreting words on a page? I’d given myself a goal of reading 12 books in 2022, and so far I have read two. Well, more like 1.8 books since I skipped some sports stuff in the first one [my eyes glazed over and I started nodding]. It felt really good to finish the second book, reading every single word on each page. I’ve often envied avid readers who truly enjoy the physical act of reading books. I wish I’d inherited that trait from my father. I didn’t. But, maybe I’m a little closer now.

While listening to a book, especially when it’s narrated by the author, is great and entertaining, and frees up your hands to do other things (that whole multitasking thing and all), doing so at this time would rob me of meeting the challenge I set for myself. It would effectively kill the dream (goal) because I wouldn’t endure the struggle required for me to achieve the coveted avid reader status. So, I politely declined her urging. At first. She was not relenting. During our chat (debate?) I sent, “Cocoon. Struggle. Butterfly.” No response. Hmm…I’ll just give that a few minutes to sink in.

In the meantime, I went to take a shower (I shaved my legs and everything!). When I returned to my computer, I had this message waiting for me: “Sometimes that butterfly is a pain in the ass.” Well, I laughed my ass off after reading it, and responded, “Cause it won’t do what you want it to, what you think is best?” I can’t share what her response was, she can be so graphic! I still love her.

While it is very difficult to watch those we love and care for struggle, we have to be careful not to help them too much, essentially robbing them of their development and killing the butterfly. So, how do you know if you’re helping “too much,” you ask? Well, that’s not an easy answer. One clue could be that they run to you with every problem they encounter, seeking advice, guidance with their “Tell me what to do” pleas. They may be used to your removing their struggle(s) and are now dependent upon you to help see them through it, every time. They have no strength or coping skills of their own.

Then, there are those compulsive helpers, the ones who feel they must help others, at all costs, and that it is their duty to make sure their loved ones/friends do “the right thing,” or the “best thing,” as believed/felt by said helper. These helpers can be very pushy, overbearing, and, well, you get the picture. These types may also get very irritated when you don’t follow their advice and do exactly as they recommend. I believe that these helpers have some kind of history or experience that causes them to be an over-helper to others. Maybe some sort of trauma that has turned them into a more controlling person. I don’t know.

If you are a compulsive helper, and often feel frustrated when people don’t do what you suggest, I invite you to ask yourself why. What is it within yourself that is satisfied by people doing what you suggest they do? Is your aid truly helping them flourish, or is it hindering their growth and keeping them dependent on you? And, do you have a need to feel needed, for someone to depend on you?

Butterflies must go through the struggle of shedding the cocoon in order to fly.


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