You know those nasty little thoughts that pop into your head with negative messages. You know the ones I’m talking about…
What you want isn’t possible. Who do you think you are to think you can do that? You’re not good enough. You’re bad. You’re a fraud. You’re selfish. You need to stay under the radar to be safe. No one will ever love you. You’ll never be successful.
While you may believe these thoughts to be true on either a conscious or subconscious level, in truth they are not. Yet, they limit what’s possible for your life.
I recently read a parable about an elephant and a rope that paints a striking picture of just how much these limiting beliefs can affect our lives.
Here’s how the parable goes…
A group of large elephants were each tied to a post by a small rope attached to one of their legs. A person passing by noticed them and was surprised that the elephants stood there next to the post, without chains or cages to keep them there. It was obvious to the person passing by that the elephants could easily break away from the small rope wrapped around one of their legs but for some reason, they did not.
He noticed one of their trainers nearby and asked why these beautiful magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.
“Well,” the trainer replied “when they were very young and much smaller, the same size rope was used to tie them to the post. At that age, it was enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”
If you are having an aha moment right now, you are not alone. While we may know that our limiting beliefs have a strong hold on us, we may not realize that they are only as strong as the small rope tied around the massive elephant’s leg.
Why is it that we hold onto our beliefs from a very young age? Why do we allow those beliefs to limit what’s possible and to shape our reality?
The answer to these perplexing questions is quite simple.
The beliefs that limit our reality are tied to our survival instinct. The problem is this instinct is based in fear and is not necessarily based in reality.
In the parable, when the elephants were babies, they were reliant on their trainers for survival. The trainers fed them and provided them with shelter. They may even have shown them love and affection.
When the ropes were placed on them at a very young age, they may have tried to break free and received punishment from their trainer. The punishment triggers a survival fear and the stress (fight or flight) response is triggered. Because they were reliant on their trainers, fighting would put them more at risk of not being able to survive. They therefore became docile, which is in effect a form of fleeing from the situation that caused the punishment.
Alternatively, the baby elephants may not have tried to break free of the ropes out of fear that they would not survive without their trainers. They may have learned that by pleasing their trainers, they are more certain to receive food, shelter, love and affection.
These experiences at a very young age shape the elephant’s reality when it grows up. The elephant does not realize that it has the ability to break free of the small rope wrapped around it’s leg. As a result, the elephant’s world is very small, only as far as it can go while being attached to the pole.
Are you able to see how the elephant’s reality is shaped by it’s circumstances and their effect on it’s survival instinct at a very young age?
If we apply this same concept to our own lives, we can see how our survival fears from childhood similarly shape our reality today. Here are just a few examples…
Robin’s mother was generally unhappy. She had never addressed her unhappiness in therapy or otherwise. Unknowingly and unintentionally, she was critical of Robin because of the unhappiness she felt within herself. Robin did everything she could to please her mother even if it meant that she sacrificed her true self and her own needs. She took on the responsibility of trying to make her mother happy as a means of her own survival. If mom wasn’t happy, she would either neglect or criticize Robin which caused Robin to be on high alert all the time and fear that she wouldn’t survive.
This shaped Robin’s reality and affected her relationships and what was possible for herself. Robin grew up feeling responsible for how other people felt and continued her people pleasing ways as a result. This kept her reality limited and small and she was unable to see the options and opportunities available to her.
Trey’s parents were divorced when he was five years old. One day he came home and his dad was gone. Even though his parents fought all the time, this was the reality that he knew so a different reality was scary to him. Trey had no control over the new situation and he was terrified his mom would leave too. In order to feel like he had control in a situation in which he had no control, Trey blamed himself for his dad leaving. If only he had been good enough, dad wouldn’t have left.
He carried that into his relationship with mom and as he got older, this became his reality. It was less scary for him to believe that he wasn’t good enough than to not have control over the people in his life. Trey’s world was viewed through a lens of him not being good enough. This caused him to sabotage relationships and potential opportunities into adulthood.
Awareness of these limiting beliefs that shape our reality stem from our reliance on our caregivers in order to survive when we are very young is the first step. Many people have an awareness of how their childhood has affected them today. Yet, they don’t seem to be able to do anything about it.
There’s a logical reason for this. Our survival experiences from childhood are stored in our very powerful subconscious memory bank in order to keep us safe both then and going forward. When we encounter a situation that even slightly resembles that previous situation from childhood, our stress response is triggered. When that happens, hormones that allow us to fight or flee the situation take over and we no longer have the ability to use rational analytical thought to solve our problems or to do anything different.
In order to address the limiting beliefs that we carry, we need to use tools that get to the root cause of our stress response and update the subconscious memory bank. Talking or thinking about our limiting beliefs will not work. Trying to force your way to a different outcome is not helpful because your subconscious memory bank and the stress response is stronger than your conscious mind or actions.
I use a process that allows us to get to the root cause that may or may not be on your conscious radar. We are able to confirm that information with muscle testing which taps into the muscle memory you are carrying in regards to the root cause. We can then use energy work to update the subconscious memory bank so that the stress response isn’t triggered so easily going forward. All of this is then anchored with different action steps.
While this may sound like a difficult process, I’d rather use a process that works even if it’s difficult rather than continue in the same loop of self-sabotage.
How about you?