Prisoner of Past

Humans and elephants are regarded as very intelligent species, but that same intelligence is responsible for making us – humans and elephants – a prisoner of past, because we remember past events. And very often than not, this makes us losers!

What is so unique about humans and elephants? Is it their dominant position? No. Is it their social behavior? No. Then what? Ethology is the branch of science that studies animal behaviour and elephant ethology is a very interesting subject. When an elephant calf is born, the mother and other elephants kick the baby. Before it could stand on its four legs and balance the body, another elephant would kick it and the baby would fall down again. This struggle, though seems cruel, is not out of any hatred for the new member of the family, but is a basic survival lesson. Often, baby elephants are the soft targets of predators like tigers, lions, leopards, etc. So, if a baby could not stand on its feet straightaway after birth than it has a less chance of running and much lesser chance of surviving in the wild. Hence, all these kicking by the mother and other elephants are not to hurt the baby but to make him fit for survival. Basic adaptation, you know.

However, things become more interesting when a baby elephant is captured and tamed by humans. Because the baby, by now, has understood that kicks and struggles are not bad; hence, when he is tied to a strong tree trunk by chain, he begins to struggle to break free. But soon, he finds out that the chain and the trunk are too strong for him. After another break, the baby elephant again fights to break free, he kicks and roars but to no avail. Another break, and the same story, but because babies are all alike; they try to find out something instead of believing in something what others say, so he would keep on trying for many more days. But the baby has a limitation of strength and soon his heart breaks and he retreats to a more docile behavior. After many fruitless attempts, he accepts his destiny and forgets everything about what he had learned on the day he was born from his mother and aunts about struggle and survival. And freedom. Slowly his days would roll by and he becomes a giant adult. But he is oblivious of the fact that now he has also become a giant elephant with immense physical strength that can tear apart anything, forget about a mere chain. However, the story does not play in this way. That young and super strong elephant is still tied to a chain by a weak tree trunk; similar to what he was tied to, when he was a baby. And because, in some distant past, the young elephant gave up to fight, to struggle, to break free of shackles; he has to live his entire life in captivity.

Now, take a break and think. What made the young elephant not to try to break free from his shackles once he grew up? Why was he unaware that he has become much more powerful then he was few years back? What made him such a loser? The only correct answer is, that young elephant became the prisoner of its past. The past where, despite immense efforts, he lost his battle and zeal to fight. The past where he lost believing in himself and his potentials. The past where he accepted his destiny unknown to the fact that destinies are built, not merely lived.

How many, among us can say that they are not a prisoner of past? Yes, I am asking you. Humans and elephants are regarded as very intelligent species, but that same intelligence is responsible for making us – humans and elephants – a prisoner of past, because we remember past events. And very often than not, this makes us losers!

Most of us are prisoners of past. A person, who has been heartbroken, is fearful of getting in love again, fearing that he might be left heartbroken again. An entrepreneur who has lost his money on his first venture is fearful of starting another startup. A student who has failed to clear an entrance examination fears to appear for the same examination again. So what goes wrong when we become a prisoner of past? We stop looking at things rationally and start looking emotionally. We fail to stop the series of thoughts that makes a small chain tied to a tree formidable and impossible to break free. Those chains of thoughts make our potentials dwarf and obstacles formidable. And we eventually stop believing in our capabilities and start believing in our fears. There is a name for this condition— Broken Window. Although, the Broken Window Theory is a criminological theory, but funnily enough is equally applicable to our thought processes. Put forwarded by James Wilson and George Kelling, the theory says that if a broken window is left unrepaired; all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. Why? Because a broken window represents that it is all right to break it. This encourages trouble makers to tear down not just other windows but the entire house!     Thoughts are very powerful. If we cannot control our negative thoughts then pretty soon our body would become a storehouse of negativity. And that would be such a waste of life?

In hindsight, we always talk sense and wisdom and can see the wrong steps that we took. But what separates successful and happy people from the rest of the humanity is that they never become emotional when being rational is the right approach and never become rational when being emotional is the need of the hour. They know the significance of emotional and rational thinking at the right time. And in a funny way, these successful people learned about this wisdom from their respective past failures. They were just wise enough not to become prisoner of past!

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