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How To Cripple A Butterfly January 4, 2015

Posted by nrhatch in Mindfulness, Nature, People.

Mickey-DiverIf we rush to comfort a baby every time he cries, he doesn’t learn to comfort himself.

If we toss a “fish” every time someone’s hungry, they won’t learn to fish for themselves.

When we rush to empathize or sympathize every time someone has a “hang nail,” we are training them to look to OTHERS to meet their needs rather than looking WITHIN for guidance.

We are encouraging them to share every minor annoyance and aggravation in their lives because it “feels good” to get attention from others . . . and we can give ourselves a pat on the back for “being there” for them.

We need not refrain from helping others when they really NEED help, but we may do more harm than good if we rush to help without allowing others the time needed to process things.

ButterflyThe best way to cripple a butterfly is to interfere with its efforts to emerge from the cocoon.

Our struggle to emerge is part of the path.

 Aah . . . that’s better!



1. Grannymar - January 4, 2015

I so agree with you Nancy. As I often say if we sit in a room with our troubles, they grow to fill the space. If we get up and go out, we meet others with larger crosses to carry through life. I’m sure if asked to switch, we would happily skip home with our own little gripes.

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

Absolutely. Before I throw myself a Full Blown 3-Alarm Stop the Presses No Holds Barred Pity Party, I shift perspective by playing the “It Could Be Worse Game.”

I imagine a few situations that are FAR WORSE than what I’m dealing with ~> as a result, what I’m dealing with shrinks. Big bad boulders become mere pebbles in the path, easily kicked to the curb.

Most issues we deal with are “not the end of the world.”

2. Silver in the Barn - January 4, 2015

Wow, I really like Grannymar’s saying too. I couldn’t agree more with this point of view, Nancy, and think our current fleet of helicopter parents could learn from it. A powerful analogy, the crippled butterfly.

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

Yes. Helicopter parents constantly hovering overhead need to give their little butterflies a chance to stretch their wings.

Part of the issue is that kids are overbooked . . . so parents have to be the ones to remember the backpacks and the soccer balls and the baseball mitts.

As kids, we had more “free time” to plan activities with our friends and to learn to gather up what we’d need for baseball or basketball or heading to the pool or beach.

“Oh, no . . . where’s the sunscreen?” 😎

3. Val Boyko - January 4, 2015

I must admit … I’m more of a “you can do it!” than a “let me help you” person too.
For me, the learning later in life is to be more giving and compassionate to myself and others. I’ve always been independent and strong because I was raised in a hands off way … yet I have come to realize that this created a veneer that keeps my safe from being vulnerable.
One of the draw backs of struggling to emerge by ourselves – and succeeding – may be that we are too ready to dismiss warm and comfort.
Val x

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

Good point, Val. Either extreme ~ too self reliant OR too dependent ~ is not ideal. As in all things ~> Balance!

4. livelytwist - January 4, 2015

Good one Nancy. We should help people grow up by not doing all the growing up for them. 🙂

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

Sometimes “help” is a hindrance and “hindrance” is a help ~ we want to build enough inner strength to do our own heavy lifting.

5. NancyTex - January 4, 2015

Having someone in your life who constantly has something dramatic going on, whether it’s a slight ailment health-wise, or a frustrations with technology or work, or the need to share every single success… it boils down to the same thing: LOOK AT ME. LOOK AT ME. LOOK AT ME.
And it’s exhausting.

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

Yes x 3!!! Those folks tend to be the ones who update us on FB every 15 minutes about where they are, what they’re doing, who’s with them, what they plan to do next, etc.

Watching them is like watching a Merry-Go-Round on speed!

I enjoy being around people with inner balance ~> willing to share successes (and set-backs) without feeling the need to share every single excruciating detail of their lives with each and every passer-by.

NancyTex - January 4, 2015

I wonder how much of the blame should land on the shoulders of the sycophants that feed the beast. I know I’ve been guilty of this behaviour for fear of seeming unsupportive…

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

That’s a great thought to ponder, NT. If “they” are seeking attention for the wrong reasons and “we” give them attention, we are encouraging their “bad behavior.”

Kind of like giving a screaming toddler a candy bar every time he or she throws a tantrum.

And drama queens may lash out when we don’t give them what they want when they want it. We have to decide whether we’re willing to weather that stormy backlash by choosing our battles.

I opt for being kindly honest. And not worrying overly much about what “they” think of me.

6. Valleygrail - January 4, 2015

Constantly doing for someone else has the negative effect of teaching them they are inadequate, helpless, and definitely lacking in ability. Not the best way to nudge anyone to be a better version of themselves. Great post!

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

Yes!!! It’s not a compliment when we jump in to “fix things” for others . . . because the overriding implication is that they are inadequate to the task at hand. And that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy in time.

When my nieces and nephews were young and asked me how to spell certain words, I told them. As they got a bit older, I would say, “How do YOU spell it?” If they were right, I gave them a thumbs up. If they were wrong, I handed them the dictionary.

7. Hariod Brawn - January 4, 2015

The thin line between support and control: not always an easy one to walk as a parent. We all do our best, usually getting blown off course now and again. I do agree Nancy, that an over-weaning approach to ‘helping’, ‘offering advice’, ‘providing support’ and so forth, almost invariably results in the creation of an emotional dependency.

Val makes a very valid point though, in that if we persistently veer too far in the direction of withholding support, we risk inculcating an unnecessary sense of wilful self-determination within the child, one which may present as brusqueness and emotional retention; and possibly also the adoption of a pernicious autocratic tendency.

Hariod. ❤

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

You’ve described me to a “T” ~> brusque, willful, self-determined with pernicious autocratic tendencies.

Is that a bad way to be? 😛

From my perspective, being an inner-directed autonomous decision maker is better than being a dependent drama queen (or, worse still, a lump of play*doh).

But maybe that’s just my vantage point talking. :mrgreen:

Hariod Brawn - January 4, 2015

Come now Nancy, you don’t strike me as being that way – or am I missing something due to the newness of our acquaintance? I’m not so perceptive that I could read your character from viewing a mere dozen or so of your posts, so please don’t imagine there was anything pointed in my comment; there wasn’t. On the other hand, you may merely be making an admission, and if so, it seems not such a terrible one in any case; and I would applaud you for your candour. Drama queens are altogether less tolerable than autocrats – I think we can at least agree on that.

Still, I can’t really comment usefully on the character types you suggest; they seem atypical to what we encounter in the normal run of things. As you say above in your response to Val, ‘balance’ is the ideal. Val might call it the ‘middle ground’; and as a lifelong Buddhist I would always advocate ‘the middle way’. None of these are readily realised of course, and we all have work to do. I tended to the autocratic myself in the past, then realised I knew nothing and so listened to others for 20 years, then I came back to a more self-determined approach, only perhaps with not so much of the ‘self’ in tow. As long as the trajectory is positive, all is well.

Hariod. ❤

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

No worries. I didn’t think you were pointing in my direction, but as I considered your words, I acknowledged that I have been called “bossy” a time or two (hundred).

These days, I’m more mellow ~ with a “let it be” and “live and let live” philosophy to most of my interactions with fellow beings.

And I agree with you 100% about the trajectory ~ progress, not perfection.

Hariod Brawn - January 4, 2015

That’s interesting Nancy; do you have any idea as to how this alleged former bossiness originated?

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

Sure. But I don’t think it matters.

As I see it:

The more we look within for guidance about what we want, the more clarity we gain about who we are.

I am that I am. (NOT I am who I was).

Once we know who we are TODAY, we no longer need to analyze who we were YESTERDAY.

Step by step, the past loosens its hold on us.

By embracing this moment, we find that we no longer need to rewrite or overcome the past to move forward in life.

All we have to do is let it go.

8. suzicate - January 4, 2015

I totally agree!

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

Yay! Here’s to promoting an “I Can Do It!” attitude in others.

9. Jill Weatherholt - January 4, 2015

Well said, Nancy! I can’t stand to be around people who share every little problem or obstacle. I’m a compassionate person, but these people make me want to shake them and say, “Get over it, life is tough, but it’s such a gift.”

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

I’m with you. There are not enough hours in the day to deal with Eeyore’s multitude of issues.

And we shouldn’t feel bad about shooing Eeyore away since others find “life purpose” in helping those who COULD help themselves.

10. thecontentedcrafter - January 4, 2015

Well said Nancy. I once had a client who equated ‘worrying about someone’ with ‘proving I love them.’ It was astounding how strongly embedded this view was and despite intellectually understanding that worrying changed nothing for the person found it a difficult pattern to release. In the end I talked her through the butterflies emerging process.

I think helicopter parents operate out of the same mistaken assumption. The only way to change their view is to give them a cocoon.

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

Encouraging others to develop life skills (like learning how to tie their own shoes) is so valuable. Much better than constantly stopping what we are doing to tie their shoes for them.

Or worse . . . to worry about whether they are tied properly. 😉

But teaching kids to tie their own shoes is time consuming. That may be why helicopter parents, pressed for time, just tie them. And why their kids seem to be dangling from the ends of apron strings.

11. Eric Tonningsen - January 4, 2015

Attention seekers and needy people… ain’t nobody got time for that. Well, perhaps nobody is stretching it but in/with these matters, I am part of the nobody. Emergence is a beautiful thing. It does foster growth, self-reliance and confidence to know and act on your own needs. Put your big girl or boy pants on. 🙂

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

Yes! It’s so great to watch fledglings as they spread their wings for the first time, scrunch up their foreheads in concentration, muster up courage to step into the unknown and . . . SOAR!

12. jannatwrites - January 4, 2015

I have some distant friends who always seem to have something going on… this is one reason, contact is limited… it’s exhausting!

nrhatch - January 4, 2015

If someone has an “issue,” I am happy to share what I’ve learned with them to get them pointed in the right direction while encouraging them to do the heavy lifting.

If they come back with the “same issue” (because they would rather have me tie their laces for them, rather than learn to tie them for themselves), I am less patient.

If they come back with the “same issue” a third time, complimenting me on my ability to deal with their issues, I point out . . . “It is NOT my job to be there for you. That’s YOUR job.”

Some people never learn so I keep repeating Lesson #3. :mrgreen:

13. uju - January 5, 2015

I get really flustered when people jump to help me out all the time. Problem was, i really wanted to learn to fix things for myself….that’s important.

Thanks for the reminder, N 🙂 And that quote is priceless. I’m bookmarking this page.

nrhatch - January 5, 2015

I feel the same, uju. It’s not a compliment when someone jumps in to “fix things” for us because the overriding implication is that we are inadequate to the task at hand. In time, our perceived ineptness can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and we may begin to emulate those “blobs of Play*Doh” (i.e., couch potatoes) in Wall*E. ACK!

What most of us need to be happy is a reason to get up and get going!

14. Bridgesburning Chris King - January 5, 2015

I love the discussion this post generated. Wonderful!

nrhatch - January 5, 2015

Glad you enjoyed the comment thread, Chris. Balance between extremes may yield the strongest butterflies.

15. Tiny - January 5, 2015

I fully agree with you Nancy. I’ve had to learn that lesson myself.

nrhatch - January 5, 2015

The line between helping someone and crippling them with kindness is a fine one at times.

16. Anne Lene - January 5, 2015

Oh, how very true!!! Balance, balance is the key 😉

nrhatch - January 5, 2015

Thanks, Anne. Here’s to maintaining Life Balance in all things.

17. Barb - January 5, 2015

Oooohhhh, just the title alone of this blog makes me cringe. What a great reminder during the gloom of January, to get out and help, but be aware of how we’re doing it. Thanks.

nrhatch - January 5, 2015

Thanks, Barb. Most of us learn better by doing than by watching someone else do it for us. Here’s to finding right balance in our efforts to assist.

18. elizabeth2560 - January 5, 2015

When I was younger my mother worked for a church with a charity arm. She had a reputation that if anyone came in for vouchers and other hand-outs she would spend a considerable amount of time with them. One day I asked her why she took so long (when others did not), and she replied that it actually took quite a while to teach someone how to budget their money. While she always helped them, she firmly believed that the best way to help them was to teach them to help themselves.

nrhatch - January 5, 2015

That’s an awesome example, Elizabeth. It does take longer, but it’s a Win-Win for everyone if we take the time to teach others what they need to know to survive and thrive.

19. anotherday2paradise - January 6, 2015

You’re absolutely right, Nancy. I once had a friend who worked as a ‘care pastor’ for a church in Johannesburg. Her phone never stopped ringing, and the people she rushed to help on a daily basis, remained copeless, because they never learned to stand on their own two feet. She ended up having a nervous breakdown and moving away.

nrhatch - January 6, 2015

Wow! That’s a powerful example of why it’s not good for US or for THEM to try to paddle their canoes. Thanks, Sylvia.

20. Three Well Beings - January 13, 2015

This can feel like a harsh truth, but it is a truth! I have experienced this multiple times by “rushing in” to save a friend in need. At the time I thought of the effort as “empowerment” but it was the exact opposite. I crippled the butterflies. I had a few lessons to learn in this concept myself!

nrhatch - January 13, 2015

We are encouraged to give ourselves a pat on the back every time we “help” others (even if that “help” hinders their progress)

Sometimes the best way to “help” is to encourage them to do the “heavy lifting.” It build muscles.

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