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The Story of the Elephant: Making peace with our past

Elephants are truly majestic creatures. They are the largest mammals to walk the earth, they are herbivorous, and can display a wide range of emotions that are most often attributed to humans. Even more fascinating is the elephant’s memory, which has been found to be truly remarkable.

I am of the belief that we all have our own personal elephants in our lives, and that these elephants live in the sacred spaces of our minds and hearts. We hardly ever talk to them or about them. They stand there as a reminder of pacts that we made long ago, some in our formative years. The thing about these elephants is that they take up space and energy; it is hard work living with them. They require nourishment for sustenance, which we provide through our energy, emotions, longings, desires and hopes. Such is the task of caring for them, that we are bound to this daily routine, unable to leave or take reprieve.

It is as if our own existence is tied to that of the Elephant—we walk around them all the time for fear of running into them. For some, the elephant is rejection, shame, and fear. Maybe fear of things that you have come to believe are inevitable and beyond your control. Fear that you are that helpless child who you are so ashamed of. Fear that you will be ridiculed and rejected as you were in the past. Fear that you will never fit in. Fear that what they said about you was true. Or maybe it is shame for all that which you have endured, some of which you have taken on blame for. Or shame for not measuring up to some standard which has been imposed on you.

The thing is, this Elephant has no place in the lives of well-adjusted adults. This Elephant is a series of memories as formidable as its own. Freeing that elephant would mean venturing back into the past to make peace with the experiences which brought them to you in the first place. Letting it return to its natural habitat would mean placing those memories in their proper perspective and moving boldly into the present, while looking hopefully into the future.

That work often means telling the little boy or girl inside you that everything will be OK, that there is nothing wrong with them, that it is not their fault. It means listening to that child with the heart of an adult, and offering the compassion and tenderness which was withheld from them. It takes reconciling with the hurtful past and accepting oneself completely.

What would it take for you to set your Elephant free?

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