I have a simple yet profound story I'd like to share with you. Perhaps it will shed some light on this illustration...
One day a young woman was making her way through the streets of Bangkok when she felt a pair of eyes on her. She turned around and noticed an adult elephant watching her closely from one of the alleyways. She saw that the elephant was not locked in an enclosure but rather tied, with a flimsy rope, to a small peg in the ground. She froze and closed her eyes, terrified she'd be trampled by this gigantic animal. The elephant's minder shouted out for her not to worry as the elephant was tied up and couldn't escape. Couldn't or wouldn't? One glance at the loose slipped knot and the woman knew that the elephant had only to gently pull on the rope and it would be free.
The elephant minder explained that while the elephant could break free if it wanted to, it wouldn't attempt it. The young lady was curious and asked why. He replied, "When they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them. It’s strong enough to hold them because they are still small." He added, "As they grow up, we continue using the same rope to tie them and so they believe they cannot break away. It then becomes easy to keep them."
The young woman was amazed. "Are beliefs really that powerful?" she wondered to herself. "These giant animals could, at any time, break free. The mere fact that they BELIEVE they can't means they are forever trapped and stuck in a life of obedience and captivity." She walked away reassured yet saddened by what she had witnessed...
I've shared this story with you because it's not only these beautiful animals that are destined to live their lives in the illusion of captivity through the belief that they're unable to break free from a small rope.
Most of us are living with the same kind of self imposed bondage and we're not even aware of it.
You may be wondering why I suggest our imprisonment is 'self imposed'? Surely no one in their right mind would take on a belief that stands in the way of them thriving and living a free, purposeful life?Well, if we were aware of these beliefs of course we wouldn't, but we're not, because they originate from our subconscious mind. We then unconsciously construct a story about ourselves, other people and the world using these beliefs as the driving force.
Sadly, just like the elephant doesn't tug on the rope and realise how capable it is of breaking free, so too many of us have never paused and considered whether our 'story' is actually true.
You see, our mind is as powerful as the elephant is physically daunting. It is simply a matter of realising that we have this power and learning to harness it in order to break free.
How Are Our Foundational Beliefs Formed?
Our belief system is formed at a young age when we are not yet emotionally mature and able to process events properly, eg:
Perhaps when you were little, one of your parents became annoyed when you dropped a plate of noodles on the ground, creating a slippery mess. You were rather excited about the mushy heap and started to play with it until you looked up and saw your mother's face. It had turned red, she was frowning and speaking in a louder volume. You began to experience sensations in your little body that made you feel uncomfortable. Was it Fear? Sadness? Confusion? You thought you had done something wrong and didn't realise that your mother's angry tone of voice and scary facial expression wasn't because she no longer loved you. Perhaps she was simply in a rush and was frustrated she had to clean up the food. However, your way of making sense of what happened was to internalise why YOU caused your mother to become angry and so you made it about yourself. At this point unconscious thoughts like "I did something wrong. I am not lovable", ''There is something wrong with me' or "I am not good enough" became a part of your foundational belief system.
Add to this the fact that throughout our lives we listen to others and their perceived understandings of the world and then you get to see that most of the beliefs we hold are not even ours. They've been observed, mirrored and adopted from pivotal people around us. However, if you break it down, our beliefs are simply thoughts which created a feeling inside of us and then we believed them to be true. Over time our mind became conditioned and beliefs about money, our bodies, sex and realtionships become deeply ingrained. We then grew up in a type of 'reaction' mode, oblivious to why we get triggered and have feelings of fear, guilt, shame and anxiety.
So How Do We Break Free From Our Unconscious Conditioning?
1. We're required to become more mindful of our triggers, default reactions and patterned behaviours. The objective is to catch ourselves (as we're being triggered) in order to identify the thoughts and beliefs going through our mind in that moment.
2. Once you have distilled your thoughts, write them down.
3. Take these thoughts and hold them up to a few questions. Remember - a belief is just a thought that we have attached ourselves to and identified with. Just because we believe it, doesn't mean it's true...
So, every time a self limiting belief pops up and gets in the way of you doing, achieving or saying something, ask yourself, "Is it true?"
"Is it true?" Asking yourself this question is like the elephant tugging on the rope and realising that it's not actually shackled to the peg.
"Is it true there is something wrong with me?"
"Is it true that I'm not lovable?"
"Is it true I need people to like me in order for me to be ok?"
"Is it true I have to be the best?"
"Is it true I'm incapable?"
"Is it true I need their approval?"
Notice how these beliefs make you feel and act in the moment. How do you treat yourself and others? How do you allow others to treat you? Then ask yourself one of the most important questions of all - "Who would I be without this thought?"
Then ask yourself one of the most important questions of all, "Who would I be without this thought?"
"What would I do, right now, if I didn't belief there was something wrong with me? Is it possible that there's nothing wrong with me?"
"How would I interact, right now, if I didn't believe I was unlovable?"
"How would I act, in this moment, if I didn't believe I needed these people to like me? Is it possible I'd be just fine if they didn't like me?"
"Who would I be, in this moment, if I didn't believe I had to be the best?"
"What if I believed that there was so much right with me? How would I act and behave differently?"
"Who would I be, right now, if I believed I was capable? Is it possible that, actually, I'm more than capable and can do and achieving anything?"
Notice how your physiology begins to shift when you open yourself up to new possibilities. When you give your mind another neural pathway to explore. You see, if the elephant just tugged on the rope and realised it could break free, it could never be tied with a small rope again. Once the belief has been dissolved, it can no longer have the same impact and create the same story.
"You see, if the elephant just tugged on the rope and realised it could break free, it could never be tied with a small rope again."
So, when you begin to clear your mind of these limiting thoughts, you get a taste of who you are outside of your story. You're then able to get in touch with the brilliance and perfection that is you. You start to walk this earth differently - with a different gait and a newfound poise and confidence because you are no longer bound by your beliefs of lack, inadequacy and fear. You're free!
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