There is a name for the process I am engaged in – Cocooning. The name comes from Frederick Hudson’s cycle of renewal. His theory is that we all go through a process of four phases. The first phase is called Go for it, when you dig in with high energy to a new definition of success after a new beginning. You are learning new things, meeting new people, focused on achievement, know who you are and have a relatively high sense of self confidence. After some period of time in phase one, you move onto a plateau, where you have a high level of competence in your new domain, you are better able to have life balance, and can rest a bit more in place because things require less effort. The second phase, called the doldrums, occurs when something changes. The impetus can be either internal or external – regardless, it initiates a time of frustration, dissatisfaction, uncertainty, feeling out of sorts and erosion of confidence. These first two phases make up what Hudson calls a Life Chapter, and they tend to last 7 to 10 years. The Life Transitions part of the cycle occur between chapters, typically last one to three years, and are made up of the third phase and fourth phases, Cocooning and Getting Ready. Transitions start with a loss – a little death. This is where I am now on this map of human growth.
I felt a bit lost when I started – adrift, a bit fearful. But I was blessed to connect with a coach who knows this map well and can serve as a wise guide – Nancy McCaughey. As soon as I started working with her, I felt reassured and more at ease. As she explained the cycle of renewal, I realized that while I recognized many times when I had been in the other three phases over the course of my life, I could not remember ever spending any significant time Cocooning. In fact, I am not sure I have ever done it at all, definitely not intentionally. Nancy suggested that without giving this phase the time and attention it deserves, there is a tendency to repeat, to go back to old patterns that may be dissatisfying, rather than to move forward. I have a very strong sense of that, and of the importance of giving myself time to be in this phase. It is characterized initially by grieving what is lost, letting go, and acceptance. Then comes a focus on going inward, listening to and reclaiming your own voice, a time of resting, reconnecting with what brings you joy, and self-nurturing. I like the analogy – caterpillars actually dissolve their structure completely while in their cocoons and reform as a completely new being, and yet made of the same material and DNA. The process takes time, cannot be rushed.
So I have given myself through the end of the summer to cocoon. I don’t know if that is the right amount of time – we shall see. It feels like a real gift, and I seem to be able to relax into this space, thanks to Nancy, my coach and guide.