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How a Twig can stop an Elephant

January 22nd, 2009

In India young elephants are tied to a tree to be taught obedience.  They pull and pull but cannot break free.  The elephant is still not strong enough to pull the tree out, and in time, after many attempts, it becomes to believe that it will not break free.  No matter how large and strong it grows, it believes that it will never pull the tree out.  At this point, an elephant can be tied to a twig and it will not attempt to break free.  It will always believe that the twig is stronger than it.  Do you ever feel like your stuck?  But, inside you, you know there is a better way of life?  And you just don’t know how?  The elephant and the twig is a perfect parallel to the human condition known as “learned helplessness.”  Realistically an elephant and a human have very different traits to consider this a comparison.  But this particular pattern of the elephant is symbolic to how the human can be subjected to the same condition.  Unlike the elephant, a human has his own will; therefore, the cycle can be broken.  As a human, you were given a great power.  Your mind, the mind has endless possibilities.  Unfortunately, instead of living our lives freely, we have succumbed to living in environments run by systems.  Sure it does make some things easier and helps keep some kind of order.  On some part systems help keep things running, which is not a bad thing.  The only problem with a system is that it keeps things running in one direction.  It does not allow much room for change, for that would disrupt the system.  As humans we are always evolving and need room to grow and change.  With these systems we have been subjected to this “learned helplessness” and have become stuck living in the system.  These systems reside in a family unit, a community, in professions, by traditions, and in cultures.  Don’t get me wrong a system provides support to function, but the original purpose gets lost in the upkeep of the system.  In other words, we are the elephants and the systems are the twigs.   We must not forget our true purpose and not be afraid to disrupt the system in order for it to be re-evaluated and adjusted.  Just like a computer, it is always being updated and changed to bring us better service.  Imagine how far you could advance if you were to upgrade the system.  Now, maintain respect to the systems but don’t be afraid to ask for upgrades.

“Learned Helplessness”

What is “learned helplessness” and how do you know if you got it?  Well after reading the analogy of the elephant and you thought; wow, I feel like that elephant, then that is a good sign that you are being held back somewhere in your life.  But don’t worry there is a way to break free.  “Learned helplessness” just means that you were trained to function in one way.  Usually the systems are how our families, cultures, and sometimes our religions teach us, which have distorted ways of approaching life.  I don’t mean any disrespect here.  We just have to be honest.  And I know we all think it but dare not to speak it.  If the system isn’t working for you, you shouldn’t be afraid to try something new.  Sure we take a lot of slack for changing what seems to be a good system, but the systems is supposed to support you life not control your life.

ele-twig-copy

Living through “learned helplessness” one becomes passive in order not to disrupt the system.  Passivity is only the beginning.  It is only natural for a person to sometimes step out of the system.  When this happens it is often seen as a treat to the system and is afforded punishment.  The punishment usually involves being treated with disdain, ultimatums, and or trepidation.  This can lead to all kind of abuse.  Yes, it is considered abuse.  The abuse stems into the emotional, spiritual and sometimes physical.  This abuse allows a relation to be created as the abused and the abuser.  In both cases “learned helplessness” is being taught.  Both are succumbing to the system.  And neither understands how to break free.  Therefore, the dreadful cycle continues taking away all the wonderful aspects of life.  Being stuck in the abuse cycle obviously limits one from the vital nurturing anyone needs to survive.   Leaving, you the only means of survival as the abuser or the victim that will affect your mental and physical state; mentally you may suffer from extreme stress, anxiety, and possibly depression.  When you are under these pressures continuously, your body will start to break down.  Your very life force is being stifled.  If you feel you are suffering from any of these condition and you are tired of being stuck?  Realize it doesn’t have to be this way; there are many out there that are living proof and living fulfilling lives.  You were created with a purpose and you deserve to live and be happy.   You are not the system.

“Helpless No More”

With clear and strong motivation you can break from the cycle of “learned helplessness.” I won’t sugar coat it for you.  It will take real effort.  But the effort it takes to make this change is far easier then the toll of the abuse of continuing an unhealthy cycle.  Your goal should be to know who you really are and what purpose can you serve to bring life to this world.  In turn, this will bring you life.  So the first thing is to get to know your-self.  This does not happen easily.  Our minds are clever things.  And our egos like to play tricks on our mind to keep us from finding our true purpose.  Once, you can allow yourself to come forward you are not going to like what you find.  But don’t be afraid.  As you crawl towards the light, that limited and dark will die away and you may think great!  But it is not that easy.  You will actually become sad and uncertain.  You will feel like something is missing.  And yes, something is missing, it is that person you were.  You will have a moment of grieving.  Allow your-self to go through this process.  Then you will be bare and new.  At this point you will see your own faults and weaknesses.  Don’t feel ashamed.  We are all given our challenges.  Embrace them and nurture them into the greatness you know you are and were meant to be.  It will take time to practice and learn.  Be committed to your-self.  It is a day by day and sometimes a moment by moment process.  You will struggle.  But you will overcome.  You will need to rebuild in every area of your life.  This can be a scary but energizing process.  That means you are on the right track.  Just as when a baby is born.  Sure, there is the wonderful idea of brining life into the world but the reality of the nature and pain is still there.  It will be painful at time but it will be invigorating finding your-self.  After all that you will have to be real because you will always be subject to being sucked back into a system.  You must set up a defense.  You will have to prepare yourself to deal with abusers and victims.  Don’t allow them to infect your new self.

Overcoming “Learned Helplessness

The prescription for this condition is described in three phrases, they are:

  • Be conscious of the problem that is blocking you.
  • Learn and build the skill needed to remove the block.
  • Practice, train, and practice until you get results.
  • And never stop.

Make notes of these phrases and post them everywhere.  Take it as your mission.  Do it for your-self.  It will take time walking on new ground.  You will make mistakes and fall back into old patterns.  But there is always tomorrow when you can try again.  Never give up on yourself.  Despite setbacks stay constant in the goal to overcome this.  Then, one day or in one moment you will realize something is different.  And yes, that something is you.  It is gradual.  Live day by day.  Let your awakened spirit guide you.  Realize that whatever you choose to do, you are in the drivers seat.  And you can go wherever you want to go.  Of course, I recommend the highway of life.

Positive Reinforcement

Once you are in the drivers seat, wherever you go you want to bring life with you.  No matter what, we are connected to a bigger world, no matter what distortions lie within.  You want to support your new life with positive enforcement.  This will ensure that the universe will support you and bring back to you continuous support.  Unfortunately, there will always be things trying to draw you back.  Those dark forces never cease to make their attempts.  The best way to detour them is to keep positive thoughts.  Never underestimate the power of positive thought.  I am sure you have heard of it and think well just thinking positive doesn’t change my life.  Well it is not meant to.  Only you can change your life.  What it is meant for is to keep away the dark forces.  It is your weapon against those negative thoughts that allow you to be sucked back in.  Your mind is where it all starts.  It is the key to worlds unknown.  The key to the treasures of the universe, are just waiting for you.  Every person exists for a purpose.  Although, the purpose may seem big or small, it is very important to the plan of the universe.  No matter what you look like on the outside or what level of education you have, you have a purpose.  You should realize it and live it to its fullest potential.  Inside we know we are unique.  And each one of use feels we were meant for something bigger.  Well, you are.  Your purpose.  What ever makes you feel alive is the signal as to where to seek your purpose.   Think positive about your-self and others.  Then learn and practice how to speak in a positive manner.  Let those positive words turn into positive action.  Keep in mind that there is no ideal here.  Day by day you will be faced with life and people that may not fit an ideal.  The idea is to stay positive and put out positive.  You will receive positive.  In time you will find that you have the things in your life that you wanted and needed.  Positive truly manifest positive, it is your key to the car you want to drive in life.

Unleash the Elephant

The elephant is an amazingly intelligent and strong animal.  They can be trained and have been known to show human like qualities.  But left in the wild the animal will adapt to its wild nature.  And if you study some of the traits of elephants you will understand that it is an animal, an animal that has the ability to learn to an extent.

As a human, our existence is a miracle.  As humans we have figured out how to tie an elephant to a twig.  The big and mighty elephant can’t tie us to a tree.  We have evolved and overcome great things in this world.  Stop and think, why would we tie ourselves to a twig?  Who would tie you to a twig?  Why do you allow yourself to be tied to a twig?

Our mind makes us different than the elephant.  So, Don’t be stopped by a twig.  Your mind has the ability to break you free.

  1. January 22nd, 2009 at 20:45 | #1

    What a great article.

    Over 40% of our population do not pay taxes. Can you imagine what our society will be like when that number passes 50%?

    Almost half of the non-payers are on (or near) chronic welfare/government dependence. Our entire ‘system’ seems to be built to teach people how to be helpless and yet survive.

    Rather than moving people toward independence, we are moving them toward the learned helplessness you describe.

    Thanks

  2. Joker
    January 23rd, 2009 at 09:25 | #2

    WoW what an article, loved the starting line about india and an elephant its so true.

  3. Raph
    January 23rd, 2009 at 09:26 | #3

    ya we have all developed learned helplessness..damn

  4. Mark B
    January 23rd, 2009 at 09:27 | #4

    I read similar piece of work in a book i dont remember the name but it was something same.

  5. Junker
    January 23rd, 2009 at 13:38 | #5

    I need some of this obedience.

  6. Richard
    January 23rd, 2009 at 13:43 | #6

    Valuable information, I will be sharing it on my blog.
    thanks

  7. February 5th, 2009 at 08:34 | #7

    Some times religions teach how to be helpless.
    Some religions say “wish of god”
    Budhists say “result of Karma ( because you did a sin in previous incarnation now this happens to you)

  8. S
    February 23rd, 2009 at 17:39 | #8

    Excellent article. Please read Elephant and the twig – Geoff Thompson.

    Once a friend who has moved mountains with his work, truely inspirational and just made the film “Clubbed”. I have passed this book on to SO many people, all his books are out of this world and helped me immensely!

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