The Butterfly Effect

Prairie Doc® Perspectives for week of July 11, 2021


My daughter recently brought home a monarch caterpillar. We cared for it in a container making sure it had a supply of fresh milkweed leaves and kept its cage clean. It seemed perfectly content to munch on leaves all day. After a few days it hung upside-down from the lid of the cage and we waited for it to form a chrysalis, and eventually convert to a butterfly.

We used the time lapse video capability of our cell phone to capture the transformation. Watching the video, the change seems easy, quick, and effortless. There does not appear to be any major effort or pain involved for the caterpillar. However, after researching the subject, we came to appreciate the significant process the caterpillar undergoes which is not apparent to the naked eye of the observer.

Unless we take time to learn about the butterfly’s makeover, we may tend to minimize it as an uncomplicated process. Literally everything about the caterpillar changes. Its old body is completely broken down for the new one to form. Enzymes are released to break down the caterpillar skin and hormones allow new body parts to be formed. To the spectator, it looks easy, to the caterpillar, it is a monumental task.

This got me thinking about how change is difficult for people, and how important it is for us to support each other as we attempt it. Many changes in life are painful and complicated, especially those we make to improve our health, or our physical, emotional, or spiritual wellbeing.

Breaking old habits and creating new, healthier behaviors involves a transformation. It requires that we learn new ways of thinking and practice positive self-talk which is sometimes uncomfortable and challenging work. Quitting smoking, walking every day, choosing different healthier foods, and avoiding junk food are changes that offer long-term benefits. The work may not seem worth it in the short-term. You may want to give up, especially when others do not seem to notice your struggles or understand how you are feeling inside. You may miss the way things were before you embarked upon your journey.

Look to the butterfly for encouragement to continue your transformation. Change may feel like a struggle, but when your wings emerge and you take flight thanks to your healthier habits, the change will be its own reward.

Jill Kruse, D.O. is part of The Prairie Doc® team of physicians and currently practices family medicine in Brookings, South Dakota. For free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc® library, visit and follow Prairie Doc® on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show streaming most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.


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