Once upon a time, somewhere deep in a forest, a small caterpillar chewed on a leaf. Because she was quite small, the trees and animals of the forest appeared quite huge and terrifying. For as long as she could remember, this caterpillar had been alone. She had no family to give her a sense of belonging and value. In fact, because she had never viewed a reflection of herself, she was unaware what she looked like and even that she was a caterpillar.

Her world was quite limited; thus, she had little understanding of what was near and what was far or what was possible and what was not. If she had been able to use words to explain how she felt, she would have said “insignificant” even “worthless” and “very, very small”.

She noticed that the birds which flew from tree to tree seemed to group together, calling to one another in song. She watched squirrels as they ran and played and wrestled with each other, communicating with sounds and chatter. These animals seemed to find joy in being together, a feeling she had never experienced, because she was always alone. Although she spent much of her day looking for food, she also spent a lot of time and energy hiding from birds and other animals who viewed her as a meal. Perhaps, because being alone was so difficult, the caterpillar concluded she was being punished or rejected for reasons she could not understand. “No one is here for me,” the caterpillar said to herself, “There must be something wrong with me. Why would I be here all alone with no one to love me or teach me or to keep me safe, if this were not true.”

As the days continued to go by and the caterpillar continued to eat leaves and grow, she continued to feel insignificant and worthless.

There are many paths that lead to a belief that there is something wrong with you and it is difficult to be in a place where you feel you are less than and no one cares.

One day, for reasons the caterpillar did not understand, something deep within her began to encourage her to act in very different ways. As this urge became stronger, the caterpillar began to spin a cocoon. It is likely that she had little awareness of the source of the drive she was experiencing or the name of the structure she was creating. Perhaps she never questioned “Why?” or perhaps she wondered as she continued to spin. Nevertheless, it wasn’t long before the caterpillar found herself in total darkness, nestled within the cocoon she had created for herself.

Although being alone in the forest had been difficult, it was nothing compared to the darkness and isolation of the cocoon she had created. As she lay imprisoned in darkness, she continued to wonder, “What is wrong with me? Why is no one here for me?” As she listened for answers, but heard only silence, the caterpillar was sure that no one heard, and no one cared. Although she continued to feel quite sad, she also began to sense, even in this darkness, she was changing, but wondered if she was just imagining this. The caterpillar was not yet aware that the changes she was experiencing were directed by the wisdom she held within.

As time went on, her sadness seemed to lessen as more and more changes seemed to be taking place. Perhaps a voice within the caterpillar had whispered, “Allow the darkness to become a teacher.”

Then one day, when the time was right, the caterpillar was aware that it was time to move out of the darkness and into the light.

Finding what she needed to break free of her cocoon, she began to shake as she emerged, feeling cold. Confused, she asked herself, “What is happening? It wasn’t long before the caterpillar realized she could now move in very different ways than she had in the past. Amazed to discover that she had wings, she wondered if they were new or if she had never noticed these wings before.

Listening to the voice within, the caterpillar began to move her wings and soon discovered she knew how to fly. As she flew, the caterpillar experienced a freedom that was new to her, a freedom that transformed her sadness into joy and expectation. Flying over a clear stream and catching her reflection from the surface, the butterfly suddenly understood who and what she was. She was a spectacular butterfly with brilliantly colored wings In the days that followed, the butterfly flew high and low, seeing for the first-time many things that had been closed off to her in the past. She found herself in the company of other butterflies, as well as birds, moths and other things that flew. “Interesting,” she noticed, “I no longer feel alone; I feel light and free.” And, of course, the butterfly with colored wings that could fly high and low, realized she was no longer insignificant and perhaps had never been.

One night, as the butterfly nestled into the safety of a secluded plant, she reviewed her transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly, experiencing a sense of freedom she had not known was possible. Remembering the caterpillar who had believed herself to be alone and insignificant, she whispered, “Sometimes you must travel through darkness to move into the light.” Then, as she felt her heart smile, the butterfly drifted into a deep and restful sleep.

Nancy Davis, Ph. D.
© 2006; 2017