Tag Archives: vision

Butterflies, Recovery, and The Stages of Change

Do you ever wonder if change is possible for you? If you’re just going to have to be stuck in despair, your eating disorder, depression, alcoholism, or feeling not-good-enough forever?

I have this posted on my office door:

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Butterflies have long been a metaphor for recovery for me. Butterflies (the eggs they start as, the caterpillars they become, the cocoons they build, and the butterflies they emerge into) embody the miracle of transformation that happens in recovery.

In recovery, one model for  change, called the Stages of Change,* divides the gap between thinking-about-change and implementing it into 5 Stages. This model was developed from addiction recovery, but can be used for eating disorder or postpartum depression recovery, or another vision you thought was not possible for your life. As an example (because it clearly embodies tangible hope, which can be hard to do in eating disorder or postpartum depression recovery), I’ll take you through my butterfly garden stages of change. As you are reading, you can fill in whatever vision of yours that you think is not-yet-possible.

  • Stage 1: Precontemplation or The Hopeless-Caterpillar Stage (Not thinking about changing, Do not want to change, or Feel change is hopeless/not possible. This is the stage in which disordered eating, drinking, or depression feels “normal” and/or there is a feeling of resigned this-is-the-way-it-is-and-will-always-be.)

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So with my butterfly garden vision, there were years of thinking about this. (“Oh! I should do this! Oooh what a great way to practice ecological conservation in my own backyard! I love butterflies! I used to study butterflies! What a great idea! Butterflies are deeply symbolic of the transformation that happens in recovery and motherhood!!”etc, etc.)

Clearly, as evidenced by the exclamation points, they were excited, visionary thoughts. They were so excited that they tired me out even thinking them. I went back to changing diapers, trying to survive early motherhood, engaging with my professional work, and maintaining my own recovery self-care.

  • Stage 2: Contemplation or The Asking-Friends-About-Their-Cocoon-Experience Stage (Considering there is a problem, Still ambivalent about changing but willing to become educated about alcoholism/eating disorders)

When I was in the contemplation stage, I would pay attention when my little one and I visited butterfly exhibits in museums or the 12185061_10153638687100120_4790037831536255808_oinsect house at the zoo. I would talk to the butterfly curators. I would get inspired by people planting gardens. I read one blog about a guy who re-introduced an endangered butterfly species just by creating a native garden for their caterpillars. I read educational signs at the museum and zoo and thought “Oh! They’re endangered! I could plant a butterfly garden to help! I could do that thing I’ve been thinking about!” Then I went back to my life and didn’t take any action about it.

  • Stage 3: Determination or The I’m-Not-Always-Going-To-Stay-A-Caterpillar-Because-I-Know-There’s-Something-More Stage (Deciding to stop the behavior such as drinking or disordered eating, deciding to seek postpartum depression support. Beginning to make a plan.)

So in this stage, I was thinking “Well, even though I’m not much of a gardener, I could do this. I could get a book. I could go to the local garden store and talk to the people there. I could start a list of native plants that attract and feed larva, caterpillars and butterflies…” I was deciding that I was going to take action. I was envisioning how I was going to take action. I was less tired about the ideas, more determined, and getting ready to take action. I saved money to buy plants for my future butterfly garden.

  • Stage 4: Action or The Building-Your-Cocoon-Of-TransFormation Stage (Beginning to take actions such as announcing to loved ones they are going to change, seeking support of a therapist or treatment program, beginning to attend eating disorder or postpartum depression recovery support groups or 12 step program)

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    Little one helping me. “Mama, this is actually MORE FUN than screen time!”

So at this point, I told my family I would like a butterfly garden book for Christmas. I started actually writing (instead of thinking about) a list of plants. I bought a guide to local butterflies. I made a place on a shelf for my butterfly-garden materials. I posed on a neighborhood list serve about local butterfly plants. I made a special pile of materials that was designated butterfly-garden research. I looked into local gardening stores.

  • Stage 5: Maintenance  or The I-Now-Know-It-Is-Possible Stage  (An alcohol, disordered-eating, or depression-free life is becoming “normal,” and the threat of old patterns becomes less intense/frequent. Relapse prevention skills and support systems are established.)

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This is the stage that my garden is in now. Though this may sound like an end-point, (Ta Da! We’re Done! Now everyone lives Happily-Ever-After, The End), it’s actually a beginning.  Now I have to water the plants. My husband (who is more of a seasoned gardener) helped to replant some of the plants in wire baskets under the soil so they would be protected from gophers, and in full sun (important for butterflies).

People in this stage of recovery CAN have the luxury of resting somewhat, having done some tough work digging in the soil (therapy, treatment, etc) of planting their garden of transformation. However, the work of continued action is crucial in maintenance. If I don’t water my plants, they might not survive. If you don’t go to your recovery support meetings, or practice the self-care skills you cultivated in your recovery from PPD or an ED, you are at risk of relapse. One of the best ways to prevent relapse/stay in the butterfly stage is to connect with a caterpillar. That is why I work in recovery. So I can remember the darkness of the cocoon AND stay in the sunlight of the spirit.

Here’s to your garden, your butterfly-ness, your recovery. Whatever stage it (You) are in.

*Researchers, Carlo C. DiClemente and J. O. Prochaska, introduced a five-stage model of change to help professionals understand their clients with addiction problems and motivate them to change. Here is one summary article that I referenced in this blog: “Stages of Change” by Mark S, Gold, MD

Vision Collages

Click here for article A Psychologist Shares Her Experience, Strength, and Hope

Many Blessings for 2017!

The Butterfly Effect

Life is short. If you doubt me, ask a butterfly. Their average life span is a mere five to fourteen days.   -Ellen DeGeneres
My vision collage this year emerged in the shape of a butterfly and included images of many fellow people in my “tribe.” So I decided to name it “Butterfly tribe.” I then got to thinking about how I could, like Gretchen Rubin in her Happiness Projects, have themes to focus on each month. This is your cordial invitation to join me in the year of

THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT

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The butterfly effect is a term from chaos theory that refers to a small change resulting in large differences in a later state or place. Each month I will be making small changes in different areas.

Here are the areas:

  1. Vision (January)
  2. Clarity (February)
  3. Make A Plan (March)
  4. Cultivate Creativity (April)
  5. Connect (May)
  6. Honor Sensitivity (June)
  7. Receive Support (July)
  8. Embrace Change (August)
  9. Play (September)
  10. Romance (October)
  11. Health (November)
  12. Release Shame (December)
Each month I will be writing about the small incremental changes I am practicing in these areas and recommending books or action you could try if you would like. Where do you come in? You are invited to join. If each of us make small changes, they MAY result in large differences. Also, in a tribe, people can learn from each other. For example there may be some spring chickens in this tribe that could teach me about how the heck to “tweet” during May.
Change (recovery, parenthood, living your vision) can be hard. It can be even harder when we attempt to do it alone. I have created a few ground rules for myself and you, should you choose to accept, in this butterfly project:
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1. It is ok to choose the level of your participation, to make mistakes, and to change your mind.


2. You do not have to do it alone.

3. Stay engaged with the process (and notice when you would rather not).

Butterflies are fragile. They collapse easily and don’t survive well alone. They need each other, they need heat, and they need light. 4th generation monarchs, the ones that travel to California
and Mexico and live for 180-240 days, travel together for astounding distances. They do this together and then, when they hang in the trees, they do it together. So when you feel alone or collapsing in shame or sick and tired of being sick and tired, Do not give up. In the words of Richard Bach,

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.

Happiness

Although she is not a Psychologist or recovered person (those I often look to for wisdom on recovery or motherhood) I absolutely love the work of Gretchen Rubin. In her Happiness Project book series, she researches and then implements the wisdom she discovers. Though the nature of the topic borders on self-help, I never feel “preached to” (ex: You should take the following steps to get to where you want to be) while reading her work. She is permission-giving. Her main truth is “Be Gretchen”- be YOURSELF.

There is no better recovery guideline than that.

Here are some of her other Happiness Truths:IMG_1486.jpg

  • To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.  
  • One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy;
  • One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
  • The only person I can change is myself.
  • Happy people make people happy, but
    I can’t make someone be happy, and
    No one else can make me happy.

I was so inspired by her yearly themes that I have implemented my own for this year. January was, of course, Visioning.

February is Clarity. Stay tuned for more on this month’s theme as I read about the life changing magic of tidying up.

What are your happiness themes? What makes you happy?

 

 

Your Vision: Don’t give up!

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I see many people coming into therapy in January. It is a time when many are motivated to get into recovery: from disordered eating, alcohol, compulsive spending, depression. The challenge comes when the motivation starts to dwindle.

Here is Brene Brown’s timeline for January:

January 1 — This resolution is going to be awesome!
January 5 — I’m awesome.
January 10 — This sucks.
January 20 — I suck.

Just as people’s resolutions about the vision of recovery and the life they want are starting to fall into the shame-hole of failure, I want to invite you to try a different approach. Allow creativity, love, imperfection, and not-knowing into the mix…vision collage-ing can be a way to do this. (Oh and doing it with support is even better!)

click here to read HuffPo article on Vision collages

“You must give birth to your visions…”

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“You must give birth to your visions. They are the future waiting to be born. Fear not the strangeness you feel. Just wait for the birth, for the hour of the new clarity. ” -Rainer Maria Rilke

Vision:

1. the act or power of seeing something with the eyes
2. the act or power of seeing or anticipating that which will or may come to be “prophetic vision, the vision of an entrepreneur”

     Every year I make, and then facilitate others making, vision collages. What is a vision collage? It is just as it sounds- a collage of your vision. It is a visual representation of what you would like to live your way into.  It can be as literal and/or non literal as you would like. It may include very specific items (a new car or job) or how you would like to feel (safe, loved, free from anxiety). I usually focus on the year ahead to ground it: What is your vision for the next year? However, the Soul works in its own way and its own timeline. There is a 12-step saying about spirituality, which goes like this: God has three answers: Yes; Yes, but not now; and No, I have something better in mind.

Yes:

Although this may sound easy, it isn’t always easy to live your way into the yes of your vision. I often think of vision collages as a map of where-you-will-arrive-after-clearing-the-obstacles-to-where-and-who-you-already-are. For example, four years ago, I put on my vipriussion collage a brand new prius. That year, when my toyota corolla, (which had been going and going and going), died, I went to the car dealer and looked at possibilities. I looked at many cars, including brand new prius-es and another used toyota corolla. That night, when went home to think about it, sleep on it, and talk with financial advisors, I still couldn’t make up my mind. Finally, my husband who who had been talking about how much more long term financially feasible it would be to get the new prius when I was whining about “maybe I should just get another used corolla,” brought me over to my vision collage and said “IS THAT A COROLLA UP THERE OR A PRIUS?!” Suddenly, I realized it was my own fear of stepping into my vision that was the obstacle. The next day I got my prius.
Many years prior to the prius, I put a pregnant woman on my vision collage. At the time I was not in a romantic relationship and was a No-or-ambivalent-at-best on the question of having children.  I didn’t even know if I could have children due to having an eating disorder and the possibility of damaging my fertility earlier in my life. I wasn’t sure why the pregnant lady appealed to me and appeared on my collage, but I went with the intuitive process of putting the image on there without needing to know what it meant. I thought this was more about birthing myself in recovery and my career, which was true at the time and did occur that year.

Yes, but not now:

However, many years later, the pregnancy became literal. I am now happily a mom when I thought I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be.
Another Yes,-but-not-now expeIMG_2066rience was putting “Licensure as a Clinical Psychologist” on my vision collages. All through working at substance abuse rehabs, eating disorder rehabs, hospitals, graduate school, pre-doc, finishing the dissertation process, post-doc, post-baby, post postponing the first licensure exam, post passing the first licensure exam, post starting a private practice, and FINALLY passing the second exam, this was on my vision collages. There were many times I lost faith in the process, but just kept putting 1 foot in front of the other toward the vision and finally manifested it.

I have something better (or different) in mind:

Even before the pregnant woman, a blue-eyed “ideal partner” was on my vision collage. This never came true. I was ok with that. My husband has crinkly brown eyes full of depth. I had actually forgotten this was even part of my vision until a friend and colleague pointed out years later that my child has beautiful blue eyes. When I realized that, tears came to mine because of the mysterious ways that spirit brings our visions true. I never would have imagined that I was to become a mom, nor that my “blue eyed partner” was going to be created inside of me from two brown eyed parents.
Just in case you think visions always come true in exactly the way you wish they would, here is what I had on my vision collage the year I was pregnant:
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Well, he was comfy and dry for the most part, but “like a champion”is most definitely not how I would describe my baby’s sleep patterns the first year!
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The next year I was a bit more realistic about affirming the shadow side, difficulties, and imperfections of mothering (while still loving the miracle and privilege of it).
I didn’t go to Hawaii that first year, but this year we are going as a family.

     For 2014,  I had “Recovery Mama’s” vision statement on my collage. It included guest blogging, creating affirmation cards for new moms, writing my book, and supporting moms recovering from eating disorders in my psychotherapy practice.
The book proposal is being edited, and stay tuned for my newly coming guest blog next month!
Here are the affirmation cards: www.drlindashanti.com
I feel truly blessed to work with the clients I see and witness their growth in recovery and motherhood. It is literally a labor of love and the work I feel called and honored to do.

What are your visions for 2015? There is no wrong way to make a vision collage. Sometimes people I work with use all words, sometimes they use all pictures, sometimes they use a board and sometimes colored paper. Often they will choose magazine images that speak to them intuitively that they don’t necessarily know why. And sometimes they will choose very specific images. One of my favorite quotes is from Meister Eckart and says:

“When the Soul wants to experience something she throws out an image in front of her and then steps into it.” 
That is my wish for you!
To learn more about vision collage workshops, go to:
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