It is known that crustaceans molt many times during their lifetime. In fact, the growth of the animal can only occur through the process of shedding their old exoskeleton in order to form a new exoskeleton. Younger crabs are known to molt more frequently, while older crabs will shed their exoskeleton less often. For example, when a crab is a baby they are often molting around five to six times until they reach adulthood. Furthermore, a king crab has the potential to molt up to 20 times. Their age can be measured by counting the number of times a crustacean molts.
While a male crab may continue molting for their entire life, a female crab will stop molting once they finish spawning. With every old exoskeleton that is being shed, the crab grows bigger and bigger. Their old exoskeleton resembles a tight bodysuit that covered their eyes, pincers, and legs.
Scientists have previously explained the process of molting. From the start, the body produces an enzyme that slightly expands towards the outer shell. Once this process begins, we can assume that the crab may feel uneasy since the shell begins to tighten around them. Due to the pressure from the inside, the outer shell will begin to expand. Then, ocean water will begin to fill the space between their body and shell.
Eventually the outer shell will break, and their new exoskeleton will begin to form. This transition stage can be a vulnerable stage for the crab since their outer shell is now soft. On the other hand, without a hard shell restricting the crab, the body begins to develop at a rapid speed. These vulnerable stages are necessary for crab in order to grow bigger and stronger to produce offspring.
I find the molting story of crustaceans to be a favorite. The uncomfortable process of renewal and growth often reminds me of the psychological development process of many of my clients. At first glance, they often feel uneasy when it comes to sharing personal stories. The discomfort they are feeling can often be a sign that they are moving towards the next stage of their life. During our sessions they might say the following phrases,
“Everything is fine, but it seems something is missing.”
“I have not done what I am supposed to do in life but I don’t even know what that is.”
I make a point out of congratulating them for reaching that point. Similar to the story, it is almost as if their soul is pushing toward the next molting stage. Although this process may feel quite scary and vulnerable, growth is necessary during these difficult times. Psychologically, we are shedding our outer shells experiencing uncertainty to bring forth growth.