White butterfly

Who do you choose to be?

In Coaching, Counselling and Personal Development, Insight and Experience, Mind and Movement by Leon VanderpolLeave a Comment

True human transformation is not merely change, which we all do, it is a complete renewal of our understanding of who we are. We’re potentially a lot more like the caterpillar than we realise.


How exactly does a caterpillar transform into a butterfly? I admit, for most of my life I was utterly misinformed. I had this image that inside the chrysalis the caterpillar morphed into a butterfly; that through shape-shifting wizardry the caterpillar sprouted antenna, longer legs and wings, and tadah! a butterfly was formed. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

What actually happens is that the caterpillar dies and disintegrates into a blob of primordial goop. Then one-day, in the midst of this puddle of ooze, a new cell pops up – ping! The dying cells take it to be some enemy form and they attack and kill it off. But then another new cell pops up – ping! – and the death cells trounce it. Then a bunch of new cells pop up – ping! ping! ping! – and again the death cells do their deed. In short time, however, the new cells pop up faster and in greater numbers than the death cells can kill them off. These new cells keep showing up until there are enough to form clusters. The death cells keep on attacking, but clusters of wing cells and antenna cells and digestive tract cells, and so on, are now forming. The butterfly eventually emerges as a completely new entity from the original caterpillar.

Human transformation is in many ways analogous to that of the caterpillar: in order to transform, both caterpillar and human must undergo a death or dying process and a renewal or rebirth process. The difference is that while a caterpillar’s death and renewal is primarily physical, for the human being it is primarily a deep inner process: a revolution of your understanding of who you are and your purpose and place in this world.

Transformation is marked by an awakening, a realisation that there is far more to who you are than you have come to believe, and is followed by a heroic journey where your ego-based, limiting self concept passes away so that more of your true self can emerge. Like the caterpillar’s death cells, your old self concept will cling to its existence and rage, rage against the dying of its light.

At the same time, something of a higher order is emerging – ping! ping! ping! – a renewed self, born of the ground of Being that is the essence of who you are. In any situation you can strengthen this emerging self by asking the great transformational question: Who do I choose to Be?

The caterpillar does not have a choice, but we always do! In time, with perseverance and dedication to the path of Being, the light of your true self will prevail and you will BE.


Leon VanderPol is the founder of the Center for Transformational Coaching, the creator of the Deep Transformational Coaching approach, and will be leads  retreats for coaches.


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