Musings on Metamorphosis: the Complex as Chrysalis

Years ago I learned a beautiful Butterfly chant and felt inspired to create a simple ritual with the intention of entering into an experience of the energies of the egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly stages, in my life. This conscious symbolic action was helpful in supporting each of those present to reflect on the ways we all have something going on with each of these stages in any given moment.

From Wikipedia, “Metamorphosis is a biological process by which an animal physically develops after birth or hatching, involving a conspicuous and relatively abrupt change in the animal’s body structure through cell growth and differentiation. Some insects, fishes, amphibians, … undergo metamorphosis, which is often accompanied by a change of nutrition source or behavior. Animals can be divided into species that undergo complete metamorphosis (“holometaboly”), incomplete metamorphosis (“hemimetaboly”), or no metamorphosis (“ametaboly”).”  wiki/Metamorphosis

Notice nature’s variations on this theme: complete, incomplete, and none.

Merriam-Webster offers this simple definition of metamorphosis: “a major change in the appearance or character of someone or something.” M-W/Metamorphosis

How might the image of metamorphosis contribute to our dance?

I want to begin an exploration of the idea the magnitude of the midlife shift in dynamics from ego-Self axis separation to ego-Self axis reunion represents a metamorphic level transformation. For ego consciousness, encounters with the Self are experienced as a dying to one’s self, a symbolic death. Edinger on Mortificatio

Goethe’s “Holy Longing” comes to mind.

What do we know about the conditions conducive to enabling this transformative dying to one’s self?

Inner work starts with reflection. As we begin to sort through inner and outer conflicts, it becomes clear there is a part of us that carries the details of our early childhood conditions. Every story leads back to earlier experiences of emotional overwhelm and return; symbolically, these are death and rebirth or life – death – life cycle origin stories. Stories from the ancestral realm.

The early conditions provide the “design build” requirements for our character. These defenses bring us through, enabling us to move into our adult lives and solider onward as best we can. However, at some point we may be fortunate enough to notice our best is no longer good enough. This sets up the opportunity to consider our way of being in the world reflects what has been called the partial cure.

As one begins to turn inward in an effort to better understand why one’s intimate life has become burdened with some dis-ease, the plot thickens. Life offers many distractions, and troubles out there can be very compelling. (see Exteriorization of Inner Antagonist) The partial cure dilemma reflects the problem of the life saving defenses: while they support us, the price we pay is we’re denied the memory and direct access required to heal the original wounds. At this time we are internally drawn to begin to put together the story of how we came to be divided within; the story of our origins.

It is likely this is the midlife developmental imperative at work. When I see this in younger people, I suspect a degree of split off trauma which cannot be effectively repressed, thereby necessitating a precocious relationship to the Self. With the help of the Self, psyche is calling the ego to submit to a metamorphosis, known in the analytic community as ego-Self reunion.

At this time, some precious parts of our experience need time in the depths, undisturbed by outer influences. The chrysalis offers an image of protection and containment in support of this organic, phase specific, going within process. How much consciousness of such depths is possible? It seems the hard wired mystery of metamorphosis is by design hidden behind the veil; help from consciousness may not be a requirement for the success of the transformation. Behind the veil, the caterpillar will essentially turn to mush before evolving into its adult form, and its internally timed emergence.

This process takes the time it takes. The mystery is present here. In the waiting period, in the spirit of at least do know harm, one can endeavor to practice the art of alert reflection with, borrowing from Jung, those memories, dreams, and reflections which do come into mind.

A big idea: Is it possible complexes, with their hardwired, biological substrate, provide a primary chrysalis function? If so, this is the teleology of the complex. Wikipedia offers: “Teleology is a reason or explanation for something in function of its end, purpose, or goal.[1] … It is derived from two Greek words: telos (end, goal, purpose) and logos (reason, explanation).” wiki/Teleology

I have pages and posts dedicated to  describing and diagramming ways we might understand the depth psychology underlying all manner of presenting problems. The D. H. Lawrence poem “Healing” suggests it is all about wounds to the soul, the deep emotional self.

The singularity of the “mistake” referred to by Lawrence suggests to me the workings of a complex in the background. It is the nature of the complex to drive the “endless repetition of the mistake, the mistake which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.” As Perry observes, in their favorable aspect, complexes, via the repetition compulsion, keep us connected to our missing links, in order that we may at some point find the connection that heals us, in some happy moment. Complexes as Components of Development

In followup posts, I will be exploring the role of complexes in bringing us through and never giving up on us. Perhaps their teleology is to support healing our splits in the service of recovering our wholeness, to the degree such is possible. (see Sandner and Beebe, paragraph 2)

For a beautiful artistic representation of metamorphosis, see Alex Grey’s work. I just learned about his art and work with the subtle body from Monika Wikman. Very amazing!













Explore posts in the same categories: Complexes and More

3 Comments on “Musings on Metamorphosis: the Complex as Chrysalis”

  1. […] in the Psycho-Educational Symbolic Overview, or my exploration of the teleology of the complex in Musings on Metamorphosis […]

  2. […] is still needed. I have played with this in thinking about the function  complexes serve in my Musing on Metamorphosis: the Complex as Chrysalis post. I have to confess for me, teleology is a big word! But, I believe it […]

  3. […] the repetition compulsion or re-enactment of the wounding, is a time transport. In my post on metamorphosis I postulated the teleology of a complex was to preserve access to the original episodic memory of […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: