Sometimes the Elephant Forgets

One of my favorite books, Water for Elephants, is about an elephant who forgets her training; reading it taught me a lot about the power of belief.
 
When you want to train a baby elephant to work with humans, it’s common practice to chain her by the front leg to a post.  When you put a huge chain around a baby elephant’s leg,  it’s impossible to break free from the spot to which she’s bound. Once the elephant is grown, she can crush a human the way we would a grape; this practice is meant to keep humans and elephants in a safe and proper relationship to work together for life.
 
Being chained as a baby is like getting a chip hard-wired into the brain that programs each elephant to believe that humans are more powerful. This translates to the belief that, once tied by a human, it’s impossible to get away. This is potent training that works very well.
 
Everyone knows that elephants never forget; this makes the hard-wiring even more effective. Once a baby elephant is subdued by the chain, she will always believe that being tied means being bound. As the elephant grows, this belief is so strong that a full grown elephant can be subdued by a length of rope.
 
It’s easy to see that any elephant could flick that rope off like a piece of lint; this information is invisible to most elephants because of their training.
 
Sometimes people are just like elephants. We get tied to some belief about ourselves that we learned as children and we think it’s true for the rest of our lives. As adults we can get trapped by some old belief that’s lodged in our brains like one of those elephant chips. Although this information might be invisible to us, it shows up in our presence when we interact with the world.
 
When an elephant forgets her training, it’s because some extreme circumstance shorts out that chip and overrides what has become instinct. It may be survival, it may be to protect someone she loves. When she forgets, she has the full power of her size, her strength and her unique Powerful Presence.
 
We can forget our training, too. We can access the full power of our size, our strength and our unique Powerful Presence when we are willing to examine the beliefs that keep us chained and powerless in certain circumstances or with certain kinds of people.
 
Luckily, it doesn’t require extreme circumstances. It only requires that we be willing to see the rope.

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