Consider The Lobster

Lobsters are very intelligent creatures. In fact, they’re very wise.

Did you know that the thing we see when we look at the lobster is not technically the actual lobster? In fact what we see is the shell or exoskeleton, that protects the soft, vulnerable flesh beneath. A lobster is actually a mushy little ball that wouldn’t stand a chance in a fight with any other living thing under the sea. This is why it has its shell.

But what’s very interesting about the lobster is that it does not stay with the same shell its entire life. As the body within grows, it sheds, or moults, its exoskeleton so as to grow a new one that will fit it. When young it changes shells twenty-five times a year, and by the time it’s an adult it only change shells about once every four years. Doing this it can live for up to seventy years.

So as the lobster grows, its shell becomes very confining. In order to continue growing it therefore has to break out of the old shell and grow a new one. This is a scary thing for it to do, because straight after moulting it is exceptionally vulnerable to prey. It can take up to 8 weeks for the new shell to be strong enough for it come out of hiding and resume its normal life.

But here’s an interesting thing: if that lobster had a doctor, I don’t think it would ever grow. That’s because when it got to a certain size, and it started finding its shell very restrictive and uncomfortable, it would go to the lobster doctor and say: ‘Doctor, I feel terrible. I feel trapped and confined. It’s making me extremely anxious. Please help me!’

And the lobster doctor would lean back in her chair and stroke her clammy lobster chin with her big claw (or would it use the small one?), and then lean over her lobster desk and look very sincerely in her patient’s eye. And she would say: ‘I think what you need is a lobster valium. Here’s a whole clam full of them. Take two a day, and make sure you eat your sea urchins and get plenty of exercise (I recommend swimming).’

And the lobster would take a lobster valium and feel pretty chilled out about the fact that it can’t move properly. Yes, the shell is still restrictive, but it feels less anxious about it, so why worry? And yet the sense of being trapped would still be present no matter what it took.

You see, there is a reason there is no such thing as a lobster valium. Lobsters respond to stress by shedding the thing that was restricting them and growing. If lobsters had doctors, they would not act as they surely should. They would remain packed into their shells unbearably for the remainder of their days.

And, in exactly the same way, this is what humans must learn to do in response to stress. If you are anxious, if you are depressed, or sad, lonely or discontent, then you have outgrown your shell and you need a new one. Depression is your body telling you that something needs to change.

And it is always possible to change. The world is like the wind, with the air constantly moving around us all the time. The question is not whether the air is moving, but whether we put our sails up to go where the wind is taking us.

So when you feel anxious, consider the lobster. It’s probably wiser than you are.

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