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I Couldn't Wait For This So Why Am I So Bummed Out?



Did you have an unexpected sadness when your kids started back to school? I knew it was coming of course, and I planned for it. I even had my first 2 days totally scheduled. My thinking, “I finally can get back to my work and I should be productive all day.”


I was looking forward to it.


But when the first day of school arrived, I found myself feeling down. Just generally blah. With vaguely negative thoughts. “What are you doing with your life? Your time? Who do you think you are to believe that your coaching business will thrive?” On and on.


My knee jerk reaction was “Why am I feeling blah and having so many negative thoughts? I shouldn’t be having these thoughts.”


It took me a bit but then it hit me – oh I’m in square 1. (Maybe just a “mini” square 1.)


Martha Beck explains human change cycle using the metaphor of a butterfly. It has 4 squares.


Square 1 happens when there is a cataclysmic change in your life – either externally or internally - good or bad. Some examples - divorce, new baby, new job, death of a loved one, moving houses or gaining internal wisdom or insight i.e., “leveling up.”


For the caterpillar the change is that they are finally fat enough to go into their cocoon. But they don’t just go into their cocoon and grow wings. In Square 1 for the butterfly, they totally dissolve inside their cocoon before their cells come back together to form a butterfly.


Square 1 for humans is like a death and rebirth. A dissolution of the identity and rebirth of a new one. My “mini-Square 1 event” was the kids going back to school and my identity of being constant caregiver mom changed because the kids were taken care of in school all day.


Once I caught myself and realized that I was in square one I immediately felt so much better. Oh, I’m just grieving my change in identity – I’m not going into a self-destructive depressive downward spiral. It’s ok. I just need to take care of myself. Just that realization was huge to transform how I felt. I let go of the resistance. I realized that what I was feeling was totally normal. And I questioned my thoughts. “Is it true that I’m a total loser?”



The recommendation during square 1 is to allow yourself to dissolve and support yourself in the process by cocooning and nurturing yourself. Do what makes you feel good. Wrap yourself in a blanket, drink your tea, read your book, call a friend, or go for a walk. Whatever nurtures you. `


Unfortunately, you can’t rush this process. It takes as long as it takes. But if you resist it, you slow it down. I was resisting it by saying to myself, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way. “I shouldn’t be having these thoughts. I should be more productive.”


Eventually like the butterfly you will move into square 2. For the butterfly the cells of the caterpillar reconfigure into the butterfly. For humans we start “dreaming and scheming” about our new identity – our possible future. You’ll know you are moving into square 2 when you start having more vivid dreams at night, or you find yourself wanting a change in hair style or changing the way you dress or moving furniture around in your house.


If you are in square 1 just know that it doesn’t last forever. Your mantra can be “I don’t know what is happening and that is ok.”


Here’s my suggestions of what to do if you are feeling down because of a change in your life

1. Stop and notice what you are feeling, thinking

2. Realize you might be in square one and what is happening is totally normal (try to stop resisting what you are feeling)

3. Give yourself “radical self-care” - whatever that means for you

4. Let yourself grieve

5. Talk to others who have gone through something similar

6. Question your thoughts “Is that really true?”

7. Know that “this too shall pass” and that when you are ready you will find yourself moving into square 2 where there are no rules, and anything is possible!

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