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You Are a Trained Elephant

Earlier this week I saw something clearer than I remember having ever seen it.

Think about this for a moment. We do we do things that are not in our best interests?

For example, why do some people gamble themselves to death? Why do some people pair up with abuser after abuser?

Or, in my case, why would I have starved myself day after day for years?

My answer: because we’re trained elephants.

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There’s a story about training an elephant. I don’t know if it is it true. But it is a useful story in this case.

The story states that if one tethers a baby elephant to post using a heavy chain, the baby elephant soon learns that it cannot escape.

The story goes on that as the elephant grows, one can use rope, then twine, then eventually nothing. The elephant will remain close to the post. The elephant doesn’t try to escape.

What on earth do I mean by all of this?

Here’s what I saw: I work hard most of the time to generate and maintain habitual states.

These states are rarely actually desirable in any meaningful sense. They are often unpleasant, in fact.

But I am trained to stay in these states.

I will go to great lengths to stay in these states. Even if it requires starving myself.

Even if it means believing a great big lie: the lie that such a state even exists in the first place.

It was all a lie.

We all got so mixed up. Confused. Disoriented.

We don’t even know what we’re doing.

But take a look. Pay attention. You’ll see.

You’re working hard to create and maintain states.

And that requires so much effort and strain all the time.

Worst of all, it doesn’t produce the benefits we hoped it would.

Like safety. Or okayness.

You can try to use this insight for self-help if you want.

But there’s a problem. That problem is that the big side effect of being a trained elephant is that you view everything that is not your “safe zone” as a threat. Anything more than a few feet away from the (non-existent) post your mind is tethered to – to you that is the danger zone.

You work hard to maintain states because you think you want to avoid the danger zone.

You’re completely blind to what is in the danger zone. And self-help requires that you can see where you’re headed and know whether that is correct or not.

There’s another option that is not self-help, though.

That option is this: LET GO.

Letting go means you’ll drift into the danger zone.

Don’t grasp.

Allow the states to come and go. Allow the fear to ebb and flow.

joeylott

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