Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Elephant and the Rider

"Rider and Elephant" morning pages collage by Lani
For the past couple of days, in Breaking the Habit Code eCourse, we have been working with one of my favorite metaphors of the human condition, that is the rider and the elephant.   Jonathan Haidt used it in The Happiness Hypothesis, and it is featured in the book "Switch." (The first reference I could find for this wonderful metaphor is in The Dhammapada, a teaching poem traditionally attributed to Gautama Buddha.)  Haidt describes it this way; our minds are like a small rider on the back of an elephant. The rider doesn’t have as much control over the elephant as she would like to have.  We  can’t just resolve to be happy.  We can’t just resolve to quit eating chocolate, we can’t just resolve to be more mindful – because the rider does the resolving but it’s the elephant that does the behaving.  (Brilliant, no?  And the elephant is so darned BIG!) 

Thankfully, though, we can train the elephant, we can learn when and why the rider gets tired and falls asleep at the job, letting the elephant have her way.  We can learn to guide the elephant, and remove distractions and "carrots" from her path.  We can also use small rewards that are good for her.

So what sort of rewards might be good for your elephant?


1 comment:

Bill said...

As always, this collage is so wonderful! I've been reading all your posts about Breaking the Habit Code, and they have all been fascinating. Now I know I can blame everything on that elephant I can't figure out how to get off yet.