venerdì 11 ottobre 2013

The Mystery of the Circus Elephant: About Being Nervous and Unsociable

Source: New City Philippines
I find it difficult to be kind to people because I’m nervous around others. Why am I like this? (Kiko Guillermo)
To explain how a person may become nervous and tense, I would like to tell you a story from the circus.
When I was small, I enjoyed going to the circus and in particular I loved watching the elephant in action. While performing before an audience, the elephant seemed so strong, but later and in between performance, the elephant remained chained with one foot to an iron nail buried in the ground.
I knew that an elephant is a strong animal capable of uprooting trees and that it could easily pull out the iron nail from the ground and free itself. But why didn’t it do so and escape? When I was five, I asked my teachers, as well as my father and my uncle, this question. Their common answer was that the elephant had been trained and tamed. Then I asked, if it had been trained, why did they have to chain it? I don’t remember ever receiving an answer that satisfied me and so it remained a mystery.

In time, as I grew up, I forgot about it. Some years ago, as I began studying the subject of nervousness, I managed to find the answer by myself. The circus elephant did not escape because it had been chained to the same iron nail since it was small. You may close your eyes and imagine the small elephant right after it was born, as soon as it was born, being chained to that nail. I am sure that the small elephant tried to pull in vain, because the iron nail was without doubt stronger than he was. I guess the elephant had fallen asleep many nights trying and trying again to break away from its chain but to no avail.
Then the day came – a terrible day in its life – when it accepted its own weakness and incapability and surrendered to its own destiny. This adult elephant, which is today enormous and powerful, does not escape because it still believes itself to be an incapacitated, weak baby elephant.
This is how it is for those who are nervous. Like the elephant, they confront the world convinced that they are chained to a nail that prevents their flight. They live as if they cannot “do things,” simply because, a long time ago, when they were small, they tried and were not able to, and so they think, “I can’t do it … I will never be able to do it…”
There is a saying that goes: “A journey begins with the first step…” Overcoming nervousness requires that a first step be made – a step to go outside of oneself and towards the others. It may just be a small step, a simple smile, but it could start us on a journey to discover how nervousness can be overcome when we stop looking at ourselves and instead look outwards and focus on the other persons around us.
Pasquale Ionata with Ting Nolasco

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