From symbolic point of view, psychological transformation is not only about growth, changing form but developing the capacity to thrive in a different element.

The butterfly’s caterpillar – chrysalis – complete makeover is the symbol used most often to signify a process of psychological transformation. It’s a single transition. All the good stuff happens unseen, in the chrysalis.

A close second comes the snake that sheds it’s skin as a symbol of renewal. But I find the dragonfly to be a more apt metaphor.

They undergo incomplete metamorphosis; and it’s a series of moulting that brings the dragonfly closer and closer to becoming an adult.

The process of psychological growth is this path of many transitions. Many iterations of awareness, integration and application. Often slow and painstaking, each step revealing the next, and not before the previous stage is fully integrated.

In psychoanalyst James Hollis’s words; The chief disorders of our times are the fear of loneliness and the fear of growing up. 

One of the most disconcerting truths is that ‘adulting’ has nothing to do with age; each of the Child Archetypes reveal a particular nuance of these hidden dynamics, and also the real challenges associated with bringing these into conscious awareness.









The key to developing emotional maturity of course is to become scrupulously honest with yourself.

Easier said than done I know! It takes a lot of courage (and a healthy dose of humility).

Often what you’ll find looking in this particular mirror is just how much you’ve used others around you as a dumping ground for what you are unwilling to acknowledge. It gives a stark view of your personal cop out zone…in psychoanalytic parlance, projections.

Seeing through to the simple fact that this is not a loving way to treat those you do love, completely changed the way I related to people in my world. But integrating the two worlds of self and other is delicate work…

In the last stages of transformation the yet-to-be dragonfly sits in shallow water in the margins, preparing for the next stage. It’s in two worlds, in the water but breathing air.

A strange thing happens when you actively work to see the holograms of projections. You see yourself very clearly. When you act from that place, that new person, a natural sifting process sets in motion. People fall away from your life. But those who remain will walk though anything with you, and you them. You’ve found the true companions, drama-free, nourishing relationships that are the keepers, and you have finally become trustworthy.

This pulling back the attention one directs outwards to others; it is lonely work, but the good kind of loneliness without which one can’t access one’s own inner companion.

The dragonfly’s final moulting is completely out of the known world of the water.

The body is still soft and needs to harden. It is vulnerable to predators and weather. The maiden flight is weak. This is when you go back into the world on shaky new legs, and put into practice all that you’ve learnt through inner work. Now, without projections overlaid on others, you develop a heightened sense of who they really are, you understand their truth and learn to honour it. This is the capacity to live in two worlds.

When mature, dragonfly adults move back to the water to breed. True intimacy with the inner self allows intimacy with others because of transparency that is no longer a threat. When there is nothing to hide, it is possible to trust yourself and others. You thrive in a different element.


© 2021 Amali Gunasekera. All rights reserved.

(Photo by Dorothea Oldani on Unsplash)