What Avoiding Pain Cost the Emperor Moth

Story adapted from “The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety”

By John P. Forsyth, PH.D & Georg H. Eifert. PH.D

“A man found a cocoon of an emperor moth.  He took it home so that he could watch the moth come out of the cocoon.

On the day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the moth for several hours, just watching as the moth struggled to force its body through that little hole.  Then it seemed to stop making any progress.  It appeared to have gotten as far as it could.  It seemed stuck.

Then the man, in his kindness, decided to help the moth.  So he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.  The moth emerged easily, but it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.  The man continued to watch.  He expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and open out to be able to support the body.  Neither happened!  The little moth spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.  It never was able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste didn’t understand was this: In order for the moth to fly, it needed to experience the restricting cocoon and the painful struggle as it emerged through the tiny opening.  This was a necessary part of a process to force fluid from the body and into the wings so that the moth would be ready for flight once it achieved freedom from the cocoon.  Freedom and flight would only come after allowing painful struggle.  By depriving the moth of struggle, the man deprived the moth of health.”

As for me, the small wisdoms I have acquired have never come from someone else doing my work.  The mistakes I have made in my life are not a tragedy.  Tragedy would only occur if I were deprived of learning from them.

Bree Emery MSW, LCSW

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