Let Me Out: Unlock Your Mind and Bring Your Ideas to Life is all about making your dreams take shape in the real world. More often than not, it’s the critical voice in our heads that interferes with that happening—a voice that’s well-rehearsed at reminding us of the many ways we can fail. I call this voice MARV, an acronym for Majorly Afraid of Revealing Vulnerability. One of Marv’s favorite tactics is to use the “Elephant Rope,” a painful memory from our childhood that chains us to our fears. Find out more about these ropes, and how we can slip out of them before MARV gets a chance to really take hold.
In India, elephant handlers train baby elephants to be submissive by chaining them to a post. The baby elephants fight with all their will to break free. Day in and day out they try, but eventually they just give up. When the baby elephants become adults they no longer need chains to be tied in place; just a thin rope will do. Of course an adult elephant with its tremendous strength is perfectly capable of breaking the rope, but since its experiences as a baby had convinced it otherwise, it never tries. This is how some circus trainers keep elephants captive.
In many ways we’re not much different from those elephants. Our own painful past experiences are capable of limiting us in a similar fashion, and it’s worth taking a look at some of the ropes each of us has tied around our own ankles. Being aware of what these look like and feel like is important. The more we know about the causes of our own fear, the less ground Marv has to stand on and the less convincing his arguments will be. But looking at a memory that has created our “Elephant Ropes” can be frightening, especially in cases where people have suffered crippling emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.
When I think back on the “Elephant Rope” breakthroughs I’ve made over the years—moments of discovery when I realized just how I’d been fooling myself into thinking I was trapped or chained—I’m always amazed at the innocence behind the experiences. I mean, we’ve all had traumatic moments in our lives of some sort, and yes, those moments can certainly become Elephant Ropes, but more often than not, the ropes that are the most constraining and damaging are ridiculously subtle. They stay just under the radar, and they have to or else we’d recognize the illusion and they’d lose their power.
ELEPHANT ROPES EXERCISE
Take five minutes to discover and write about one of your own Elephant Ropes. The more you know about the causes of your own fear, the less ground Marv has to stand on, and the less his arguments will remain convincing.
An Elephant Rope could be something as seemingly insignificant as your father telling you to stop making so much “goddamn noise” when you were singing in the back seat of the car. (A note to parents: it only takes one incident like that to shut down a lifetime of singing.)
Describe this experience with as much detail as five minutes will allow (the more particulars, the better). Sights, sounds, smells, dates, times… All of it. Be as descriptive as possible.
Excerpted from LET ME OUT: Unlock Your Mind and Bring Your Ideas to Life by Peter Himmelman. © 2016 by Peter Himmelman. TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
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