The Five Blind Men and the Elephant

blindmen & elephant

Have you heard the Asian tale of the five blind men and the elephant? Five blind men come upon an elephant. They have never heard of an elephant. The first man feels a leg of the elephant. He says, “Ah, I know what this is! An elephant is a pillar!” The second man grabs the tail. “Ah,” he concludes, “an elephant is a rope.” The third man touches the trunk and decides an elephant is a snake. The fourth one happens to touch the ear and decides an elephant must be a hand fan. And the fifth one upon touching the tusk is convinced an elephant is a spear.

All five of them have only perceived part of the truth. All five of them have also interpreted their perception based on their old subjective experiences and beliefs about the world. They are only able to interpret what their functioning sense of touch picks up based on the individual “bucket” of beliefs and experiences they come from.

One of the hardest things for us humans seems to be not to jump to conclusions, to remember that our perception is limited and that facts only become a story based on our interpretations. In her book, “My Stroke of Insight”, Jill Bolte-Taylor describes well how our left brain, which she calls our “story teller”, perceives certain facts and how it fills in the gaps between these facts with an interpretation or meaning. We create our story based on those facts. When we come across more facts, we need to revise our interpretation, as the original story otherwise doesn’t match all the facts.

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James N Miller is certainly not alone. Even though I am aware of how our brain functions, it still happens to me that I jump to conclusions. The other day, I sent an email to somebody asking the person for a favour and I did not hear back. I assumed she was reluctant to meet my request. A couple of weeks later, I found out I had sent the email to one of her e-mail addresses which she doesn’t use much. Instead of jumping to a conclusion based on a fear that my request would not be met, I should have followed up again by phone.

blindmen & elephant trunk QUOTEWhen we have children and they come home from school with a story about their day, we sometimes as parents tend to jump to conclusions because we only hear their side of the story. We are convinced the teacher or another child has not treated our child well. As a mother, I had to remind myself several times over the past twenty plus years of the “in dubio pro reo” principle. If there is any doubt or possibility that I have not gathered all the Intel, I should not judge, yet.

Thankfully, I was a teacher for many years and have seen parents show up in school with only part of the story, or with a misinterpretation based either on limited facts or on their own expectations or beliefs about school, or both. Yet, my first response as a mother still was to feel protective of my daughter and want to call up the school to defend her. The reminder that I need to gather more facts before I jump to the conclusion that somebody has treated my child unfairly saved me from making a fool of myself a few times.

Teachers also appreciate when they are approached calmly by a concerned parent. As parents, we can be strong advocates for our children without getting angry and accusing anybody. Having been on both ends of the table, I know that non-violent communication works best and teaches our children that we can talk about any problems.

My mother was passionate and expressive. Even though she wasn’t Italian, she could easily have passed as the proverbial Italian. Happiness was loud, she had the greatest laugh, and so was anger. She was often jumping to conclusions and getting angry at my teachers. Part of me understood she wanted to protect me, another part was really embarrassed by her response. It wasn’t productive. The older I became, I told my mother less and less about school, because I was afraid she would create problems where there were none. Whenever I feel the impulse to defend my children, I remind myself what it was like to have a mother who acts impulsively.

With all our interactions, let’s remember that everybody perceives a situation through their own filters. There is no absolute truth. We are only capable of perceiving an aspect of the truth based on the facts we have access to, our beliefs and our previous experiences. Next time we feel ready to judge a person or situation, let’s keep in mind that we might not have the whole picture, just like the five blind men with the elephant.

blindmen & elephant tusk QUOTE

Angelika

Belief Change Coaching

Hypnosis & PSYCH-K®

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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How to Examine Our Stories for the Truth

“One of the most prominent characteristics of our left brain is its ability to weave stories. … It functions by taking whatever details it has to work with, and then weaves them together in the form of a story. Most impressively, our left brain is brilliant in its ability to make stuff up, and fill in the blanks when there are gaps in its factual data.” (Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight, 143)

Our logical analytical left brain takes facts A, B and C and connects them into a story by filling in the blanks in a way that seems logical based on what we believe. The more emotional charge there is around a subject because of our belief systems and past experiences, the more convincing the story appears.

For example, someone who has rejection issues will have a tendency to interpret other people’s actions as rejection. That is in perfect line with their learned belief system of “The people I love always reject and abandon me”. A belief like that can originate from childhood when the little girl was left by her father. Each time a situation even looks remotely like a rejection, the little girl part inside pops up in fear, and the left brain weaves exactly that old story of rejection.

 

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
(Socrates)

From a metaphysical standpoint, it indeed is not. If we don’t examine our stories for the truth and learn to choose consciously which stories to run and which to let go of, there is not much personal or spiritual growth for us in this life.

 

But how do we examine our life – or in other words our stories – for the truth?

Byron Katie gives us four simple questions to ask ourselves:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do I react when I believe the thought?
  4. Who would I be without the thought?

She also suggests trying turnarounds to see if a turnaround is as true as the original story.

The woman in our example notices that her boyfriend is flirting with someone. She deducts that he is rejecting her with this action and projects into the future that he is going to leave and abandon her like her dad.

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can she absolutely know this is true?
    Neither is it necessarily true that he is even flirting at all, nor is it true that his behaviour is a rejection of her. Maybe he is just being friendly, or enjoying the attention of somebody else. And it certainly is not true to assume he is rejecting her, or even remotely thinking about leaving her.
  3. How does she react?
    She feels like rejecting him in turn. Maybe it occurs to her to punish him by withholding sex or being unloving in another way. She might provoke a fight. As she projects her fear of abandonment into the future, she might even be thinking about breaking up with him before he can leave her like her dad did.
  4. Who would she be without the poisonous thought?
    She would be relaxed, could join in the light banter, or have a good time herself. She would signal to her partner through this that she is confident and trusts him. Feeling that trust he would be reminded how lucky he is to have such an amazing girlfriend. In that moment in time, nothing would be further from his mind than leaving this beautiful and self-assured girlfriend.

If the woman in our example continues to examine her story, she would have to try a turnaround as well, by asking herself if she has ever done the same. If someone triggers us with their behaviour, it is because the person is mirroring something for us.

Is it as true to say…

… I flirt and exclude, or reject my partner?

Being really honest with herself, she would probably find an occasion where she has acted in a way that could be interpreted as a rejection. Has she for example really committed 100% to her partner? When he suggested moving in together, did she not reject that for now?

… I reject or abandon myself in any way? Or I am not always true to myself and my needs?

If she is absolutely honest with herself, she might remember an incident when she let herself down, abandoning herself or her inner child in some way.

 

Examining her stories for the truth, allows her to take facts A (he is making eye contact with a beautiful woman), B (he is talking and laughing with her), C (the woman is single and looking for a partner) and weave a completely different story out of exactly the same facts.

She might now look at him and think. “I am so fortunate to have such a handsome boyfriend who other women are attracted to as well. I am proud of how relaxed he is in this social situation. I trust in our love and connection. I should let him know how much I love him later, maybe even suggest to move in together soon.”

 

What are your stories that your left brain is running?

For coaching and to clear our old fears and limiting beliefs give me a call for a free consultation:

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca