Taming Your Elephant: Learning Control of Your Inner Beast

March 05, 2007

Taming Your Elephant: Learning Control of Your Inner Beast 

 Competency # All 25 Competencies in Personal Nutrition and Wellness Reference:  The How of Happiness by Sonja Luybomirsky 

 It’s the beast that’s in control.  This is THE BEST book on happiness research I’ve ever read.  It takes the ideas of our great religious traditions and compares them to the best of current research in psychology.  Our religions and great leaders come out pretty well. Here’s what I learned that’s helping me a lot.  

Consider that we, as a human species, have been evolving for millions of years.  However you believe we were created, the human brain is relatively recent.  Our bodies, though, have 300 million years of evolution and practice to become perfect at blood pressure, temperature, motor motion, sex, appetite, sleep, and all the rest of that which composes our tiny little brain stem.  So, our bodies are pretty good at that stuff.  It’s on autopilot. 

 Now, along comes our brains and our ability to plan, think, worship, feel awe and reverence, know what we should do and shouldn’t do.  That’s all pretty recent.  So, to make an analogy, think of yourself as being a mahout, an elephant trainer sitting on an elephant.  If you are really good and patient, you can train your elephant to do what you want it to do.  But it takes training and practice.  And you need to know where you are going, what you want to achieve and have goals, standards, and definitions of excellence.  

You need to tame your elephant.  And your elephant is not really all that interested in being tamed.  It will comply only if you lead it gently, carefully, lovingly, and patiently.  If you try and starve your elephant, and it sees a jar of peanut butter, guess who wins? The goal here is practice, training, patience, values.  Those are spiritual values too.  I want to be a patient person.  I want to be honest.  I want to be humble, grateful, and reverent.  I can’t be any of those if those things conflict with an untrained elephant.  Nor can I lose weight, get in shape or be in optimal health. Read this book.  It’s one of the best I’ve read on happiness.  It sets the stage for learning the values of sacredness I hold most dear.  I want do those values.  My flesh tempts me to eat the peanut butter.  As we understand our frailties, we can improve. 

 What Will Work For Me.  It’s Easter/Passover.  Let’s practice, reverence and awe and patience this week of scared traditions.  Train your elephant.  Take a walk and enjoy the daffodils.  Celebrate the sunrise.  

This column is written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI, (262-784-5300)